Friday, March 28, 2003

SOMALIA: Women peace delegates lobby for their rights
NAIROBI, 28 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - Somali women attending the ongoing peace conference in Nairobi, Kenya, have called for women's rights to be included in all stages of the peace process.

Their call came at a three-day workshop for women delegates, supported by the regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The workshop ends on Friday.

On Thursday, the women met the mediator, Bethwel Kiplagat of Kenya, to urge his support for their cause. Somali women delegates have agreed to advocate for at least 25 percent representation in the new institutions, including parliament.

"We will start our effective lobbying soon after we finish this workshop," Somali women's activist Asha Haji Elmi told IRIN. "We are not lobbying for only the 25 percent, but we are advocating a package for women's inclusion in this process, and women's inclusion in every document of this process."

The women's workshop has been reviewing draft reports from six technical committees on core issues of the conflict. Drafts from the key federalism committee recommend only a 10 percent quota for women's representation in the new Somali institutions.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Somalia: Rocky Road to Peace
NEW YORK, 28 MARCH 2003--Peace talks involving hundreds of warlords are taking place for the 14th time since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991. The talks in Nairobi, Kenya, aimed at re-establishing a central government in the factionalized nation, have been dragging on for five months with little progress to date. Yet the current attempt at peace has generated more hope for a settlement than any of its predecessors, because of one significant factor: With Somalia now labeled as one of the world’s most likely havens for terrorists, the United States is taking an active interest.

The talks, which began in October 2002, have been troubled from the start. At the outset, hundreds showed up without invitations, and hotels threatened to evict delegates over unpaid bills. The talks themselves have been characterized as chaotic, with delegates criticized for turning the forum into a talking shop. Changing the venue from the Kenyan resort area of Eldoret to a college compound outside Nairobi didn’t help matters, as shouting matches, fistfights, and walkouts continued. While notorious Mogadishu warlords such as Musa Sudi Yalahow and Mohamed Qanyare Afrah boycotted the talks, others, frustrated by the conference’s slow progress, returned to Somalia. Meanwhile, interim agreements to cease hostilities have been violated repeatedly.

“The talks have been characterized by...the delegates' inability to agree on almost everything,” commented Adan Mohamed of Nairobi’s independent Daily Nation (March 7). Such a lack of cooperation cast a poor light on delegates’ commitment, wrote Mohamed. “There must be a lot of reasons why there is no progress, the obvious one being that there is actually no talking, just accusations, demands, stonewalling, and unwillingness on the part of most factions.” MORE

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Somaliland's Election Commission appeals for international funding of Presidential elections
HARGEYSA, 26 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - Somaliland's Electoral Commission has urged international donors to plug a gap of about half a million US dollars it says it needs to organise the self-declared republic's first multiparty presidential polls on 14 April.

The Electoral Commission, which was set up in December 2001 ahead of Somaliland's first multiparty local elections, says the extra money is needed for election logistics and voter education.


"We had a lot of experience from that election," Commission chairman Ahmed Haji Ali Adami told IRIN. "There were some difficulties, we learned a lot of lessons, we put them on a very long list and we are trying to improve according to our ability and according to the finance we receive."

For the presidential poll, the Commission says it submitted a budget request to the Somaliland government of $1.5 million, but was granted only about $1 million. Although it has received some financial pledges and training support from the international community, Commission members told IRIN that donors had been less forthcoming this time.

For example, the European Union (EU) provided support for voter education in the local elections but has not extended funding this time.

"The reason is political," said Commission member Mohammed Sheikh Abdillahi. "Supporting a presidential election in a country that is not recognised would be construed as a political act."

The Electoral Commission nevertheless hopes to receive support from individual countries, notably Britain, Norway and Switzerland.

The Electoral Commission has seven members. Three were selected by the government, two by the House of Elders and two by opposition parties. Two opposition candidates are running against incumbent president Dahir Riyale Kahin. There will be only one round of voting, with the winner requiring a simple majority.

The lack of a proper census means that there is no voter list. The Commission says it abandoned attempts to register voters in advance of the local elections, because it did not have the means. Read more

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Somali leader 'seeks Iraq victory'
LONDON, 25 MARCH 2003--The president of Somalia's transitional government has condemned the United States-led attack on Iraq as naked aggression. Abdulkassim Salat Hassan said he was praying for an Iraqi victory.

Somalia has denied repeated accusations that it is harbouring members of the al-Qaeda network.

Elsewhere in Africa, anti-war demonstrations have continued:

In the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, at least 20,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate outside the United States embassy.
In Tunisia and Mozambique, thousands attended peaceful rallies against the war.
Police in the Senegalese capital, Dakar used tear gas to disperse students from outside the US embassy.
The leader of Djibouti, where the US has set up an anti-terror base, has also condemned the war, saying a pre-planned war cannot be justified by self-defence.
Students in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, have held three days of protests.
Since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Somali leader has strenuously denied accusations that his government has links to Islamic radicals.

He said the US was free to look for al-Qaeda members in Somalia.

Last week, an alleged al-Qaeda operative was taken from Somalia to Kenya, reportedly with help from the FBI, in connection with recent terror attacks in East Africa.

SOMALIA: Peace talks have achieved little, civil society says
NAIROBI, 25 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - The Somali peace talks currently underway in Kenya have achieved very few tangible results, members of Somali civil society said on Tuesday.

According to a statement, received by IRIN, the group listed a range of objectives it said had not been met. These included "peace and national reconciliation, agreement on a provisional charter and other core issues, as well as the establishment of a national government".

"The organisation of the process is poor and should it continue in this manner, very little can be expected," the statement warned.

The talks - which began last October - are being held under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development's (IGAD) technical committee, made up of Somalia's neighbours or so-called frontline states - Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Read more

Monday, March 24, 2003

ETHIOPIA: African Union urged to back women's rights
ADDIS ABABA, 24 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - The human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has called on the African Union (AU) to back plans to boost and protect the rights of women on the continent.

The call comes as a high level AU ministerial conference meets in Addis Ababa on Monday to discuss plans for strengthening women’s rights.

“The meeting must send an important message to African governments that the human rights of women are an inalienable, integral, and indivisible part of internationally recognised human rights,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

A draft protocol on women's rights is expected to be adopted by the Assembly of Heads of the African Union in Maputo, Mozambique, in July.

Amnesty said that many women still face appalling abuse on a daily basis such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, domestic violence and rape.

Continuity or change in Somaliland?
HARGEYSA, 24 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin faces a strong opposition challenge in the self-declared republic's first multiparty presidential elections on 14 April. His challengers are Ahmed Muhammad "Silaanyo" of the Kulmiye party and Faisal Ali "Warabe" of the Justice and Welfare party (UCID).

The government believes Kahin will win on merit. But the opposition fears the poll may not be fair, and there is some concern that logistics may not be ready in time for polling.

Information Minister Abdillahi Duale stressed that local elections in December had gone smoothly. "Now that we are going ahead with the presidential elections, everything is in place," he told IRIN. "The electoral process has been tested. The government has already passed the budget for the Electoral Commission."

The Electoral Commission was set up in December 2001, before the local elections. It has seven members, of whom three are selected by the government, two by the House of Elders and two by opposition parties.

Duale also invited the international community to send observers.

"Our main objective today is to make sure that the democratisation process is in place, that elections are held in a fair manner," he said. "And I would like on behalf of the government and on behalf of the nation to invite international observers to come, as they did for the local government elections and the constitutional referendum."

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Ban planned for 'vile practice'
LONDON, 23 MARCH 2003-- Parents who take their daughters out of the country to undergo circumcision will face 14 years imprisonment under plans backed by the government.
Home Secretary David Blunkett says he is determined to outlaw "this vile practice" by closing a loophole in the law that would have banned it 17 years ago
Editor's pick:How media's war coverage is tinted
NAIROBI, 24 MARCH 2003--A clap of thunder and a flash of light, is all you see on TV nowadays as US warships bomb Iraq. This is interspersed with speeches from a fire-breathing President George Bush. It is great entertainment to the uncritical media: a local FM station tells listeners to expect "fireworks" from the Gulf; a BBC broadcaster alerts his audience that the bulletin might be interrupted should there be something "dramatic" in the Gulf.

The drama being played out in the Gulf war theatre has full-house attendance: several thousand international correspondents have set base in various parts of Iraq and neighbouring countries, tapes rolling to film the unfolding action.

Yet, the outcome of the Iraq conflict will be influenced by the way it is reported. From the look of things, shimmers of light have been shining on some of the targets hit by the US, mainly because journalists are determinedly hanging on in Baghdad.