Saturday, June 21, 2003

Remittance companies stiffly cautioned against status change
HARGEISA, 22 JUNE 2003 (Jamhuriya)--In a stiffly worded directive the governor of the Somaliland Bank, Abdel Rahman Dualeh broadcasted over the state-run “Radio Hargeisa” on Tuesday, June 17 and which, subsequently, the five-day state-owned Maandeeq ran on Thursday, June 19, remittance companies, some of whom arranged “running” accounts for clients, would, hitherto, be operating outside the law if they continued to carry out “banking” activities ‘above and beyond’, what their ‘remittance licences’ permitted them.

According to the statement the governor exclusively granted the two government media outlets, any remittance company found to be operating such banking activities such as current or deposit accounts, would open itself for state penalties that would certainly include withdrawal of operating licenses.

“We, furthermore, wish to inform the general public that the sole institution which can, presently, operate such accounts on their behalf is the Bank of Somaliland”, the Governor statement said.

The statement went deeper into the subject by cautioning the public to steer clear of “those who wish to mislead so to promote own interests”.

How this ‘misleading’ of public trust was discovered at this juncture of time, or who the real culprits that customers should give a wide birth were in actual fact, the statement did not say. Neither did the statement attach names to ‘certain remittance companies’ that the governor alluded to, accusing them of calling themselves ‘banks’ that were offering market shares to the public.

By not being more forthcoming on either of the above, the statement, it appears, only intended to put a scare on the money market of Somaliland, specially as the Governor did not back his blistery statement with accommodating state laws violated or the promulgation of new bills banging close, for example, strong trust Dahabshiil – the oldest and financially most tried of Somaliland remittance companies – forged with clients ever since the deposal of the former Somalia military dictator, and the re-affirmation of Somaliland Sovereignty over 12 years ago.

Mohamed Saeed Dualeh, founder/President of the giant Dahabshiil Pvt LTD Company, which runs a chain of remittance offices worldwide, told reporter Ahmed Saeed Egeh of the BBC Somali Service, Friday, that he was not particularly alarmed by the Governor’s statement. MORE
Ministerial Committee to review Somaliland Mogadishu-based livestock board
HARGEISA, 22 JUNE 2003 (Jamhuriya)--H.E. Ahmed Haji Dahir Elmi, Somaliland Minister of Planning, and a member of a newly designated Ministerial ‘Committee’ to review the proposed formation of a Mogadishu-based Somali Livestock Board, Somaliland included, which is jointly spearheaded by the UNDP, FAO and the World Bank, said, Tuesday, that the government categorically rejected any proposal that lumped Somaliland and Somalia together in what was clearly a “Somalia package” as if the two countries were still a single political entity as in earlier years.

“The government of Somaliland principally welcomes any initiative that aims to improve either the economy or living standards of our people, but, on the other hand”, the Minister said “any move that does not take Somaliland sovereignty into account is primarily suspect, and ought to be approached with caution”.

The government of Somaliland, the Minister said, communicated its view of a Mogadishu-based SLB to emissaries from the 3 UN organizations, who have held talks on matter with the government of Somaliland in the recent past.

“This latest initiative is product of a meeting some members of a so-called Somalia business community held and concluded in Dubai, UAE; last April. Neither this meeting nor the formation of Mogadishu-based Livestock Board it resolved had given the least consideration to the case of Somaliland or the kind of respect due the Somaliland Livestock Board or the Somaliland Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Livestock, which solely hold jurisdiction over issues relating to Somaliland Livestock”, Minister Elmi said.

The government, he said, put together a ministerial commission to review all the pros and cons of the proposed initiative. The commission would, he added, present its views to the cabinet soon.

One of the major stumbling blocks to a joint Somalia/Somaliland Livestock board is – apart from its outward, political ramifications – a track record that has already taken it to the Somalia peace talks of Nairobi, where a delegation representing the new Somali Livestock Board committed it to unconditional “support” of “all-inclusive government”.

Leading that delegation, according to a May 27 IRIN report, was Mohamed Jirdeh Hussayn – a Somaliland-born businessman, based in Mogadishu. Mr. Jirdeh, the report said, was an Executive member of a Dubai-based ‘Somali Business Council’, at the time of the Kenya visit. According to other reliable sources, Mr. Jirdeh and his council subsequently shed old skin for the newer Livestock Board one, which he now chaired.

Kenya suspends Somalia flights
NAIROBI, 21 JUNE 2003 (CNN) -- The office of the Kenyan president Saturday issued a directive suspending all flights to and from Somalia, Kenya Airport Authority officials told CNN Saturday.

The ban effectively grounded 10 to 15 small to medium-sized aircraft due to take off from Nairobi's private Wilson Airport Saturday morning with cargo and passengers. It also meant that flights from Somalia were not allowed to enter Kenyan air space.

It was not immediately clear whether the very few commercial carriers flying from Somalia to Nairobi's larger Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were affected by the directive, however the government statement implied all flights and overflights would be affected.

The ban on such flights appears to be connected to current fears among American officials that an aircraft could be used as a weapon to fly into a building associated with U.S. interests in Nairobi, such as the U.S. Embassy. MORE
2 dead in explosion at Somali warlord's palace
MOGADISHU, 22 JUNE 2003 (ABC)--Two people have been killed and scores more wounded in a large explosion at the former presidential palace in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown, but neighbours said it was the loudest blast heard in Mogadishu in the 11 years since US operations in the country in 1992.

The palace is now the compound of warlord Hussein Mohamed Aidid.

He was nott there at the time - he is one of 360 Somali warlords and civic groups attending ceasefire talks in Kenya.

Friday, June 20, 2003

SOMALIA: New government expected by early July - mediator
NAIROBI, 19 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat, the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee and Kenya’s special envoy to the Somali peace talks, told a press conference on Wednesday that a new Somali government should be formed by early July. Kiplagat had earlier set a target of 18 June.

The IGAD-sponsored talks on Somalia began in October 2002 in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, but were moved to the capital, Nairobi, in February this year.

Kiplagat said that Somali leaders had made substantial progress on several key issues of contention, and that outstanding matters should be resolved by 30 June.

"We will not be able as of midnight tonight to have a parliament, to have a government, as we had agreed," he said at the press conference. He stressed, however, that this did not mean that the talks were over.

"We are simply stopping the clock tonight so that we can carry on with very intensive consultations to resolve this problem, and proceed with the election of the president and the formation of the government," he said.

Kiplagat asked the participants not to give up. "My appeal will be to all the Somalis who are here, all the leaders who are here, to work, to compromise so that we can resolve the remaining small problems."

He also stressed that the failure to meet the 18 June deadline did not undo the substantial progress made so far.

Some participants in the talks, however, wondered whether an agreement reached in Nairobi would be enough to persuade militias at home to disarm. Mogadishu-based faction leader Muhammad Qanyare Afrah, of the so-called G8 alliance of factions, said that the assistance of the international community was essential. He said that if a peacemaking force was not in place before a new government was installed, everything achieved in Nairobi would crumble in Somalia.

"We need a robust peacemaking force to disarm the various militias, until a Somali force is constituted," he told IRIN.

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed by the Somali groups last October and which was to apply for the duration of the conference, violations have remained flagrant and are perpetrated largely with impunity.

Participants also made a plea for increased international involvement to help Somalia stand on its own and develop economically. "I appeal to the international community not to get tired of us," Faduma Abdullahi Muhammad said. "I hope that the international community will help to establish our government," she added.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

SOMALIA: Amnesty calls for leaders who will protect human rights
NAIROBI, 17 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - The London-based rights group Amnesty International has called on delegates attending Somali peace talks in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to choose leaders who will protect the human rights of all Somalis.

The talks, sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have been going on since October of last year, and bring together over 360 delegates, representing Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG), armed factions and civil society groups.

In a statement issued on Friday, Amnesty said that if differences on an interim charter were resolved, the delegates were likely to choose interim members of parliament, who would in turn elect an interim president. For that reason, it said, the delegates should choose leaders who "will be fully committed to protecting human rights and the rule of law during the difficult task of reconstructing the disintegrated Somali state".

The statement said it would be unacceptable for those who had committed human rights violations "to be given blanket impunity or amnesty and to be part of a new government.

"Parliamentary and presidential candidates should be asked to explain their human rights record and to pledge their personal commitment to protecting human rights and the rule of law in the future," Amnesty said. "There should be a leadership code of ethics and acceptance of a broad human-rights agenda to which leaders could be held accountable."

Amnesty called for the setting up for an independent human rights commission "to prevent any return to the abuses of the past". It also called on the United Nations and the international community to provide the new interim government and civil society with assistance in the area of human rights during the process of reconstruction.


SOMALIA: Disagreement over number and selection of future parliamentarians
NAIROBI, 17 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - After days of bargaining, Somali groups meeting in the Mbagathi suburb of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have failed to reach agreement over the number and mode of selection of the members of a future interim parliament, a source from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), close to the talks, told IRIN on Tuesday.

According to the source, the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), a grouping of southern factions opposed to the Transitional National Government (TNG), favours "a parliament of 450 members with the 361 delegates [to the peace conference] forming the basis". The TNG and donors, on the other hand, reject the figure of 450, and argue that the selection process should involve traditional leaders.

The TNG minister of information, Abdirahman Ibbi, told IRIN on Tuesday that the TNG opposed the figure of 450, because it was not economically viable. Ibbi said selection should not be made by the delegates present, but by elders. "The official position of the TNG is that traditional elders should have the final say in the selection of the MPs," he said.

Glenn Warren, the political officer for Somalia at the US Embassy in Nairobi, told IRIN that the international community felt that 450 parliamentarians for Somalia were "excessive". "It is difficult to justify and too large for decision-making," he said.

Another diplomat involved in the talks concurred, saying that a 450-member parliament "will be too large and unwieldy to make the hard decisions it needs to make in the interim period".

Warren said the selection process should involve elders and others and be "as broadly based as possible". According to second diplomat, "traditional elders must be involved in the selection process to give legitimacy to the whole process inside Somalia".

In an attempt to break the impasse, IGAD's technical [mediating] committee and the Kenyan special envoy, Bethwel Kiplagat, were meeting members of the leaders' committee, the IGAD source said. "They are trying to see if there is a possibility of bridging whatever gap may exist between the different positions, and reach a consensus. I am very optimistic that the gap can be bridged."

Another source, however, told IRIN that the gap between the TNG's position and that of the SRRC was such that "it will be very difficult to bridge".

The talks - which began last October - are being held under the auspices of IGAD's technical committee, made up of Somalia's neighbours or so-called frontline states - Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.


SOMALIA: First postwar medical college opens in Mogadishu
NAIROBI, 17 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - Somalia's first medical college in 12 years officially opened in the capital, Mogadishu, on 15 June.

The Benadir University Medical College (BUMC) is to be funded by donations from Somali physicians and an annual fee of US $1,500 per student, its rector, Dr Usman Adan Abdulle, told IRIN.

The BUMC, which is currently training 22 medical students (11 of them women), actually started classes late last year. It was officially opened on 15 June by the president of the Transitional National Government, Usman said.

It was the first time since the start of the civil war in 1991 that such an institution had come into operation, a Somali source told IRIN.

Usman, one of the most respected physicians in Somalia, said "the need for more doctors became acute, and so we had to explore ways of getting more of them into the health system". There is a general shortage of medical practitioners in Somalia, because no new doctors have entered the profession since 1990. At the same time, "former doctors left the country, got old or simply died", he noted. "Before the civil war, our university used to graduate 50 doctors per year."

Dr Abdirazzaq Ahmed Dalmar, the BUMC's director of training and international collaboration, told IRIN that the BUMC had concluded collaboration agreements with a number of foreign universities, including Kings College, London, University College London, Howard University in Washington DC, Palermo University in Italy, and Lund University in Sweden. These institutions had pledged to provide "long-distance training and equipment", Dalmar said. "Palermo university has already donated teaching material, and is offering refresher courses for the instructors and will send instructors when the security situation improves," he added.

According to Usman, BUMC will be staffed by Somali doctors based both inside and outside the country. "We have commitments from Somali doctors in the diaspora that they will come to teach in rotation," he told IRIN.

Usman said the BUMC would have an initial intake of between 50 and 60 students per year. "We have decided that is the optimum number the college can train at present," he said, pointing out that there were more applicants than the college could absorb.

The students would undergo a six-month period of intensive English-language and information technology training before starting their five-year course, Dalmar said. He said the college's language of instruction would be English.

Usman told IRIN that the university's most pressing needs were a library and teaching material. "Any donations in this regard will be highly appreciated and welcomed," he said, appealing to international donors "and those involved in the health sector in Somalia" to help make the project a success.


Monday, June 16, 2003

Chaos surrounds Somali peace talks
NAIROBI, 16 JUNE 2003 (BBC)--The speaker of Somali's interim parliament, Abdallah Derow Isaak, has declared himself the new president of Somalia.
A day after throwing a chair at his deputy in a hotel in the Kenyan capital, Mr Isaak told a news conference that his government had impeached the incumbent president, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

A transitional national government (TNG) was set up 2000 but only controls part of the capital, Mogadishu.

This latest announcement will do little to boost the credibility of the TNG as a united force at the ongoing Somali peace talks in Nairobi.

Mr Isaak said that he would head the TNG until a new president is appointed, although his claim is unlikely to be taken seriously by most Somalis. MORE