Category Archives: Somalia

Somaliland has been de facto independent for 30 years. The U.S. should recognize this and build a facts-based policy that better serves its strategic interests.

US Congressional delegation visit to Somaliland

December 14, 2021 

Joshua Meservey

Joshua MeserveySenior Policy Analyst, Africa and the Middle east

 The U.S. should recognize Somaliland as an independent country. In practice, the territory is not now, nor is likely to be, a part of Somalia. Acknowledging that reality would allow Washington to create more effective policy in an important and contested region.

A strong relationship with an independent Somaliland would hedge against the U.S. position further deteriorating in Djibouti, which is increasingly under Chinese sway.

It would demonstrate the benefits Washington confers on those who embrace representative government and would allow the U.S. to better support the territory’s tenacious, but still-consolidating, democracy.

An independent Somaliland would be a stable partner that has little risk of experiencing the tumult that frustrates American interests elsewhere in the volatile region. Somalilanders deserve the justice of having their decades-long practice of independence recognized and should be allowed to disassociate from the dysfunction of southern Somalia that hinders their development

From Somaliland to Harvard


Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

Mass. — OF the millions of young men and women settling into college dorms this month, one of the most unlikely is Abdisamad Adan, a 21-year-old beginning his freshman year at Harvard. Some of his 18 siblings are illiterate and never went even to first grade, and he was raised without electricity or indoor plumbing by an illiterate grandmother in a country that doesn’t officially exist.

Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard.

From Somaliland to Harvard: Abaarso School of Technology and Science

Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times Yet he excelled as he studied by candlelight, and he’s probably the only person in Harvard Yard who knows how to milk a camel.

Abdisamad is the first undergraduate the Harvard admissions office remembers from Somalia or its parts, at least in the last 30 years of institutional memory. He is from Somaliland, a breakaway republic that isn’t recognized by any other country (and so doesn’t have a United States embassy to grant him a visa, but that’s another story). Yet Abdisamad brims with talent and intelligence. He’s a reminder of the fundamental aphorism of our age: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Current students and alumni and a former teacher at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology on graduation day.

Credit The Abaarso School Current students and alumni and a former teacher at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology on graduation day. Credit The Abaarso School Current students and alumni and a former teacher at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology on graduation day. Credit The Abaarso School If not for a fluke, Abdisamad acknowledges, he might have joined friends to become part of the tide of migrants making a precarious journey by sea to Europe. How he came instead to Harvard is a tribute to his hard work and intellect, but also to luck, and to an American hedge fund tycoon who, bored by finance, moved to Somaliland and set up a school for brilliant kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance. The financier, Jonathan Starr, had an aunt who married a man from Somaliland, and he was charmed by stories about its deserts and nomads. So in 2008, after running his own hedge fund and burning out, Starr took a trip to Somaliland. His friends thought he was nuts for what happened next: Starr founded an English-language boarding school for the brightest boys and girls from across Somaliland. Called the Abaarso School of Science and Technology, it uses American teachers (paid a pittance) who are willing to work in a country that the State Department recommends avoiding for security reasons.

The school is surrounded by a high wall and has armed guards to foil Shabab rebels, and it has an American sensibility: There is a girls basketball team, which is so unusual in Somaliland that the team members have almost no one to play against. He says his parents divorced before he was born, so his grandmother raised him.

He spent an average of two hours a day fetching water and had no one pushing him at home, but still performed superbly at a local primary school. In national eighth grade exams, he scored second in the entire country. The problem was that while primary school tuition had been $1 a month, a good high school would be at least $40 a month. His grandmother couldn’t afford that, and in any case she didn’t really see why he needed high school. No one in his family had ever graduated from high school. But then Abdisamad was accepted at Abaarso, which is flexible about tuition: If a promising student can’t pay, Starr looks the other way. So Abdisamad began ninth grade at Abaarso, struggling at first because classes were in English, which he didn’t speak. And Abdisamad’s grandmother was displeased that he was spending his time in the classroom rather than helping the family. “She was definitely not happy in the beginning,” Abdisamad remembered. “She asked me, ‘Are you starting to hate us? Are you falling in love with Americans?’ ” He quickly learned English, however, and after three years won a scholarship to study at the Masters School, a college prep school, in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. The year in Dobbs Ferry was an adventure — it took a while for Abdisamad to figure out vending machines — but he thrived and decided to apply to Harvard. His admission to Harvard was treated as a national cause for celebration. Somaliland’s president invited him for a meeting, and Abdisamad became a local hero. His grandmother hadn’t heard of Harvard but came to be proud of her grandson and appreciate that education had its uses. On arrival at HarvardThey were teaching us things that people don’t talk about back at home.

Sexual harassment. Condoms. Consent,” he recalled, and then raised his eyebrows. “It was all very interesting.” Abdisamad plans to return to Somaliland and work with young people, and then perhaps pursue a career in politics; he hints that he’d like to be president some day. What’s indisputable is that access to a good school transformed Abdisamad’s life. Six of his brothers and sisters are getting no education at all, and some of those migrants you’ve been seeing on television drowning in their desperate struggle to get to Europe are from Somaliland.

One reason Somalia and its former parts have struggled for decades is lack of education, particularly for girls: Illiteracy correlates to huge families, to extremism, to violence and civil warfare. World leaders will be gathering this month at the United Nations to review the status of development goals, including one that by now all children would be able to complete primary school, and to approve new ones.

There has indeed been enormous progress in global education, yet even today some 59 million children around the globe aren’t enrolled even in elementary school (and tens of millions more are enrolled but learn nothing). That’s the context in which Starr’s school — and Abdisamad’s success — should offer inspiration.

And it’s not just Abdisamad. The Abaarso School has an astonishing 26 other alumni at U.S. universities, including M.I.T., George Washington University, Grinnell, Oberlin, Holy Cross and Amherst.

There aren’t many high schools in the world with 45 students in a grade that are so successful in getting alumni into top colleges, let alone one where students speak English as a foreign language and often grew up in poverty.

The Abaarso student at M.I.T., Mubarik Mohamoud, a junior studying electrical engineering, grew up as a nomadic herder raising camels, goats and sheep in an area with no schools; he began his education at a madrasa.

“Being smart is universal,” says Mubarik. “It’s just that resources are not dispersed.” source: NewYork Tmes

Author: Shakir Essa
Shakir Essa served as manager at Somali Journalist Association and PR consultant at Allafrica.com

Nimco Happy Isii Nafta ( I love you more than my life)

Nimco Happy isii

She is a little-known Somali singer without much of social media presence; fans would be hard pressed to find any information about her online. But Nimco Happy’s catchy song Isii Nafta has conquered the internet this month.The song has been used in more than 98,000 videos on TikTok in the past month and gone similarly viral on Instagram and Twitter, with the likes of the model Bella Hadid and the rapper Cardi B sharing it on their feeds.In the vast majority of clips, people are singing along to the catchy chorus, which switches between Somali, English, Arabic and Swahili. At its heart, Isii Nafta is a love song. The chorus roughly translates as:Ogsoonoo inaan ku jeclahay (Somali for “Know that I love you”)And I love you more than my lifeAna hibak yaa habiibi (Arabic for “I love you”)Nakupenda mimi sana (Swahili for “I love you”)Waa ujeedada caashaqayga (Somali for “You can see my love”)Akafi Ali, a British Somali TikTok star with more than 870,000 followers, saw that the song was being used on the app last month, then in just a few hundred videos, and instantly recognised it. A few years ago his mum would play it all the time.

A video he went on to post of him dancing to the song at a Somali wedding got more than 1m views in a day. Other notable Somali creators also used the sound and soon it was spreading like wildfire.

Nimco Happy music videoNimco Happy singing Isii Nafta. Photograph: Youtube“She’s singing about love. She’s saying, ‘I love you’ in multiple languages to let that person know that she cares deeply about them.

Sometimes communication can be very hard and it’s about overcoming that, because there’s multiple ways of saying ‘I love you’, and that person knowing that ‘I love you’ regardless,” he said.AdvertisementThe 25-year-old started making content on social media while he was in school, often comedy sketches about growing up as a British Somali.

He is overjoyed to see the song go viral. “It makes me so proud. It’s like a room is being created for us, a space is being made for us. I feel like this is what we’ve always been waiting for,” Ali said.

Nimco has yet to release the song herself and profit from its virality.

But that is expected to change soon, with BuzzFeed reporting that the singer will be posting her own link to Spotify and other streaming platforms.

TikTok’s popularity exploded during the pandemic, as it became the world’s most downloaded app in 2020. Its influence is most acutely felt in the music industry, where it has transformed the way fans first hear songs and remixes.

Songs that become viral on the app quickly lead to record number of streams on Spotify and elsewhere. It also affects the charts; the app was credited with helping the single Body by Tion Wayne and Russ Millions become the first drill song to claim the UK No 1 spot.

Ali describes Nimco’s emergence as an important moment for the Somali community. Ali was born in Somalia and moved to the UK as a young child.

He says he was bullied at school for initially only being able to speak Somali. It is wonderful to see so many people now singing happily in the Somali language, he says.“This is a cultural reset.

This is definitely a breakout moment. I would love for her to come to Britain and perform at the Brits awards,” he said. “Oh my God, everybody would get their flags out

Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Djibouti And Somalia, Says US Report

(afrika-times.com) In its recently-released annual report, Freedom in the World 2021, the watchdog said Somaliland scored 43 on the 100-point Freedom House Index, while Ethiopia scored 19, Djibouti scored 26, Eritrea scored 2 and Somalia also scored 7 on the 100-point Freedom House index.

US-based independent watchdog Freedom House has asserted it’s latest report that the Somaliland enjoys more freedom than other Horn of Africa’s countries like Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Somalia.

Ethiopia freedom score: Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti And Somalia,
Djibouti freedom score: Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti And Somalia,
Somalia freedom score: Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti And Somalia,
Eritrea freedom score: Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti And Somalia,
Somaliland freedom score: Somaliland Has More Freedom Than Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti And Somalia,

The US was rated 86 on the index, closely followed by India at 75.Germany and France scored higher than the US as Freedom House expressed concern over the state of affairs in America.Interestingly, the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir enjoys more freedom than Pakistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) contrary to allegations leveled by Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan.

Jammu & Kashmir scored 49 on the 100-point Freedom House Index, while Pakistan scored 39 and PoK a paltry 28. The report also labeled PoK as “not free” in terms of freedom enjoyed by its residents and the functioning of local institutes.While the report termed Pakistan as “partly free”, it labeled India a “free” country alongside the US, several European nations, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and several Latin American countries.“Elections in Somaliland have been relatively free and fair, but years-long delays have meant that elected officials serve well beyond their original mandates.

Journalists face pressure from authorities, and police have employed excessive force and engaged in arbitrary detention. Minor clans are subject to political and economic marginalization, and violence against women remains a serious problem,” the report said, adding that “Somaliland’s political rights rating improved from 5 to 4 due to the holding of a long-delayed presidential election.”On the electoral process, the Freedom House had said in its report in 2018 “The president is directly elected for a maximum of two five-year terms and appoints the cabinet.

The electoral mandate of incumbent president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Sillanyo” of the Peace, Unity, and Development Party (Kulmiye) expired in 2015, but the presidential election due that year was not held until November 2017.

Muse Bihi Abdi, the Kulmiye candidate, won the contest with 55 percent of the vote, followed by Abdurahman Mohamed Abdullahi of the opposition Wadani party with 40 percent and Faisal Ali Warabe of the For Justice and Development (UCID) party with 4 percent.International monitors identified some irregularities in the process—including unstamped ballot papers and underage voting—and there was an outbreak of violence while results were being finalized, with police firing on pro-Wadani protesters amid suspicions of fraud. However, the observers concluded that such problems did not significantly affect the final result, which Wadani ultimately accepted in the public interest.Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 3 because Somaliland held a competitive presidential election, ending a two-year period in which the chief executive lacked an electoral mandate.”Be the first to know – Follow us on Twitter @SaxafiThe Freedom House report with a focus on “democracy in retreat” said in 2018, freedom in the world recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. Domestic attacks on key institutions—the judiciary, the media, and electoral mechanisms—are undermining the foundations of democracy, the report said.It said at the same time, a global assault on the norms of democracy, led by an increasingly assertive China, challenges their spread around the world. Only by strengthening democracy at home and standing together in its defense around the world can democracies protect their values and preserve their ability to expand freedom globally, the report said.

It also said that the internet and other digital technologies have become ubiquitous as a means of accessing information, communicating, and participating in public debates. Consequently, technology and social media companies play an increasingly important role in sustaining—or weakening—democracy.

Author: Africa Times News

Somalia Rejects Diplomatic Resolution of Maritime Dispute with Kenya

(Afrika-times.com) Somalia has rejected pressure for a diplomatic resolution to a longstanding maritime dispute with Kenya, maintaining the matter will be decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Despite a charm offensive by Kenya, Somalia reckons the ICJ must provide the final verdict on the dispute that has been running for close to a decade in which the neighbouring countries both claim ownership of large territories of the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Raychelle Omamo made a maiden visit to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, where she held talks with Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and sought to push the agenda of an out-of-court settlement with a deal brokered by the African Union. However, Somalia stuck to its guns saying that the maritime dispute between both nations will be decided by The Hague-based court whose ruling is eagerly awaited after formal hearings in March this year. Kenya boycotted the hearings after accusing the ICJ of unfairness and unwillingness to delay the proceedings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Somalia has underscored that an existing maritime dispute between both nations will be decided by The Hague-based International Court of Justice, or ICJ, despite several requests by Kenya to reach a settlement out of court,” said a statement from the prime minister’s office.

The two east African neighbors dispute over 38,000 square miles of territory in the Indian Ocean with prospects of vast oil and gas deposits, a matter Somalia wants the ICJ to arbitrate. The dispute has also led to frosty diplomatic relations over accusations and counter-accusations about interference with domestic affairs, territorial integrity, trade and security.

The statement noted that the two ministers “emphasized the importance of taking concrete measures to show respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, which are the cornerstone of the relationship between the two countries.”

Somalia filed the case at the ICJ in 2014 on the basis that Kenya was encroaching on its marine territory and has repeatedly rejected calls to withdraw it and allow for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute.

Both countries are claiming ownership to the territory and have gone ahead to invite international companies to explore for gas and oil.

somalia and Kenya Maritime disputes

Horn Of Africa Is The Most Militarized Region On Earth

The combination of external actors has made the Horn the most militarized and complex security region, housing the largest number of foreign military bases in the world. The massive presence of six foreign military bases in Djibouti, and more in Sudan, Somalia and Somaliland, underlines the strategic importance of the Horn. Dawit W. Giorgis, a visiting scholar at the African Studies Centre at Boston University.

Horn Of Africa Is The Most Militarized Region On Earth

The Horn of Africa is witnessing far-reaching changes in its external security relations. It is simultaneously experiencing an increase in the build-up of foreign military forces – on land and at sea – and a broadening of the security agendas pursued by these external actors.

The combination of these factors has made the Horn the most militarized and complex security region, housing the largest number of foreign military bases in the world. Though Egypt and Yemen are not in the Greater Horn, they are however part of the security complex of the Red Sea arena. It is known as the “choke point,” because much of the world’s commerce goes through this maritime route. At one point, when Somali pirates ruled the sea, the area was identified as the most dangerous naval zone in the world, notoriety now claimed by the Gulf of Guinea.

Those who control the Horn of Africa control a significant chunk of the world’s economies. The massive presence of six foreign military bases in Djibouti, and more in Sudan, Somalia and Somaliland, underlines the strategic importance of the Horn.

This situation would have inspired or forced the countries of the Horn to be more united and have common strategic and security policies. Each of these forces has a stake in the development of events in the Horn and an agenda that puts their interests at the forefront.However, there are notable rivalries between the countries of the Horn of Africa, which has not enabled the forging of the necessary harmony in their relationships.

Eritrea and Djibouti have not put their border conflict of 2007 behind them. However, they agreed to normalize their relationship two years ago, although Djibouti still considers Eritrea an enemy, considering a recent statement in relations to the prosecution of a pilot that allegedly tried to run away to an “enemy” territory.But a conference call between the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and East African countries on March 30, 2020, was made to forge a regional plan to combat the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Four presidents from Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti were joined by the prime ministers of Ethiopia and Sudan and the first vice-president of South Sudan. Eritrea did not participate, because its membership has not yet been regularized since it left IGAD in 2007.

This is while Kenya-Somalia relations have escalated in the last few years. It stems from the security concern related to the terror group Al-Shabaab and the maritime border dispute between the two states.

The terror group has been continuously launching attacks across the border at Kenyan military outposts and against civilians in the area.The maritime boundary dispute between Nairobi and Mogadishu further complicates the relationship between the two. Somalia instituted proceedings against Kenya before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean, on August 28, 2014. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has approved a request by Kenya to delay the public hearing of its maritime boundary case with Somalia.

The case is still pending.Taking the matter further, Kenya has started negotiating the withdrawal of its forces the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) by 2021, making Ethiopia carry the bulk of troop contributions of the five countries that will remain.

These are bad signals of souring relationships, which can contribute to the overall destabilization of the fragile region.Neither are Ethiopia and Sudan on the best of terms. The borders between the two countries are the scene of occasional fighting, with recent skirmishes having turned deadly. It is unnecessary and preventable incidents that only add to the burden of stress the two countries have on their very sensitive and fragile relationship.“It is not clear exactly what triggered a flare-up of this long-standing border dispute,” stated the International Crisis Group (ICG). “Sources suggest that Sudanese security forces may have responded to incursions by Ethiopian troops.”Sudan is in the unique position of being a member of the Arab League, which makes it close to Egypt, but a generally close ally of Ethiopia as well. It has to play high stakes diplomacy not to be seen as siding with either.

Despite enormous pressure from Egypt and the United States, Sudan has held its ground. The bold and calculated decision manifested this in voting against other members of the Arab League on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).Sudan expressed “reservations” that the resolution does not serve its interests and might lead to confrontations between the Arab League countries and Ethiopia. This support of Sudan should not be taken for granted though. Last week, Sudan called for the United Nations Security Council`s intervention regarding Ethiopia’s plan to fill the Dam.“While acknowledging Ethiopia’s right to utilize its natural resources, Sudan has stressed the need for consultation and cooperation among the three countries to avoid the harm lower stream countries could suffer as a result of Ethiopia’s activities,” read Sudan’s memorandum to the Security Council.Concerning the GERD, Sudan highlighted the benefits and threats that could follow the construction. It acknowledged the benefits the Dam could have in helping manage periodic flooding and in raising Sudan’s capacity to generate electric power.“On the other hand, Sudan claimed that the construction of the Dam could change the flow line of the river and that it could affect Sudanese citizens negatively if the design, construction and filling works are not followed daily and closely.”This should be of great concern to Ethiopia, especially considering that a new regional organization with suspect motives – Council of Arab and African States Bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (CAASBRSGA) – has already been established on January 6, 2020. Although Egypt first initiated the idea, it was later taken over by Saudi Arabia.Its members are the coastal states of the Red Sea, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen (the internationally recognized government), Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia.

The stated goals of this new organization are to improve cooperation and coordination among the members in matters related to politics, economy, culture, the environment and security. The Council is an unnecessary organization and one loaded with an Arab and Egyptian agenda. The Arab League is installing its subsidiary branch closer to home.“One of the most important issues is the one of membership. Currently, the criteria to be a member of the Council are to be a Red Sea coastal state.

This is the criterion defended by Egypt,” wrote the Middle Eastern business and financial news outlet MENAFN. “This position seeks to keep Ethiopia outside of Red Sea affairs, a position not shared by many of the members, who believe that despite its lack of access to the sea, Addis Ababa is a key player in Red Sea affairs. The reason for this absence is the litigation that Egypt and Ethiopia maintain over the construction of the Renaissance Dam in the Nile.”The stated goals of the Council include matters related to the Nile, an issue vital for Ethiopia. The strategy of Egypt and its allies is to choke Ethiopia through myriad projects. Ethiopia must vigorously fight such moves, but it does not seem that the Ethiopian government is aware of the dangers. At the same time, it flirts with the very countries that are active partners on the other side of the debate.

There has been a flurry of activities between South Sudan and Egypt as well since the crisis between Ethiopia and Egypt intensified over the GERD. Some of these activities are suspicious.

South Sudan had submitted its application in 2018, for a second time, to join the Arab League. There have also been diplomatic moves led by Egypt within the Arab League emphasizing the importance of South Sudan joining the organization, given Juba’s strategic geographical position serving as the Arab gateway to Africa.

With steadily and warmer relations with Ethiopia’s new neighbor, South Sudanese President Silva Kiir and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi have exchanged visits followed by several others at ministerial levels.Bringing South Sudan into the Arab League completes the strangulation of Ethiopia by Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Seen together with the Council on The Red Sea Coast, the threats directed at Ethiopia are real and severe.This is the result of the failure of Ethiopia`s diplomacy.

Its fractured unity and volatile internal security situation have resulted in establishing a fertile ground for Egypt and other extremist and hostile forces to recruit people and spread propaganda that will further destabilize the country.Ethiopian diplomacy suffered a big blow when the 23 Arab League members, except Sudan, supported the draft resolution prepared by Egypt.

This must have been a clear sign that there was little effort from Ethiopia’s side.“The draft agreement proposed by the United States and the World Bank is fair and serves the interests of the three countries,” affirmed The Arab League.Somalia and Djibouti, Ethiopia’s “close allies,” voted for it. Eritrea, an observer, said nothing.

Although its president, Isaias Afwerki, has come out as an elder statesman and mentor of Ethiopia`s Prime Minister, we have yet to see him as “a friend in need, a friend indeed.”This diplomatic spat is occurring in a region that should otherwise be banding together to address challenges that affect every member.

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) has warned East African countries about the outbreak of the desert locust, which has already placed around 20 million people in acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

Ethiopia and the region are facing three-pronged attacks: pandemics, possible famine and regional and internal security challenges. A vital organ in such a time would have been IGAD, which until 1996 was preceded by the establishment of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought & Development (IGADD) was initiated in the mid-1980s.This was after Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda took action through the United Nations to establish an intergovernmental body for development and drought control in their region in 1983 and 1984.

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government met in Djibouti in January 1986 to sign the agreement, which officially launched IGADD with its headquarters in Djibouti. Eritrea became the seventh member after attaining its independence in 1993.

Then the focus was drought and food security.The recurring and severe droughts and other natural disasters in the decade beginning 1974 caused widespread famine, ecological degradation and economic hardship in the Eastern Africa region.

Although individual countries made substantial efforts to cope with the situation and received generous support from the international community, the magnitude and extent of the problem argued strongly for a regional approach to supplement national efforts.IGAD has never solved any political crisis. But it serves as a forum where leaders can meet and discuss their shared concerns.

However, IGAD can only be what its members want it to be. It can be an excellent tool if external agendas do not subvert it.

Members must first be committed to peaceful resolution through bilateral negotiations.

Creating other layers of organizations for the Horn will not help achieve any of the development, security and cooperation goals, but merely makes IGAD redundant. The regional body must be supported and reinforced to be a relevant organization. The spirit of cooperation needed here is one that President Isaias, Somalia’s Mohamed Farmajo Abdullahi and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) showed when they agreed on a joint plan of action for this year after the third edition of a tripartite summit in Asmara. This was in February 2020.

The alliance also adopted a new Joint Plan of Action for 2020.The plan focuses “on two main and intertwined objectives of consolidating peace, stability and security, as well as promoting economic and social development,” as Yemane Gebremeskel, Eritrea`s Information Minister, explained.“They also agreed to bolster efforts for effective regional cooperation.”On the security front, the leaders formulated a strategy to combat common threats, such as terrorism, arms and human trafficking, and drug smuggling. These efforts are leading “to some sort of Horn of Africa coalition,” even a “Cushitic Alliance,” according to the East African newspaper.Such an alliance will overlap with the mandate of IGAD.

It remains ambiguous what is in the minds of these leaders. But to an outsider, this looks like more of a problem than a solution.How can the three countries, in exclusion of Djibouti, Sudan and Kenya, forge an alliance that can bring peace to the region?Beyond the long-term ambition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to control the Horn of Africa, the immediate goal of Egypt is to secure its interest on the Nile. Many Ethiopians are expressing their anger and showing patriotism through a rhetoric of war.

War in this politically charged, highly militarized strategic region would be destructive beyond our imagination.

If anyone “wins,” it will only be at enormous cost. Even that will be a preparation for the next round of war.The case of Egypt needs wisdom and patience.

War should be the ultimate exercise to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country. Heroes are those who prevent war and not make war.

There is an attempt to resuscitate discussions between Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, but tripartite talks should not be the preferred way for Ethiopia. This case is about the Nile and the rights of the Nile Basin countries. Sudan is not a reliable partner in this case for Ethiopia.

The issue is best served if brought before the Nile Basin countries and not a tripartite meeting where the odds do not favor Ethiopia.The only viable option for Ethiopia and Egypt is to bring back their case to Africa, call an emergency meeting of the heads of state of the Nile Basin countries and continue the dialogue and, if necessary, bring it to the level of the African Heads of State.

But before this can be done, the Ethiopian government has to do the legwork by approaching each of the Nile Basin countries and presenting its case and a possible solution that will serve the interests of both Egypt and Ethiopia. These discussions should be led by knowledgeable people that understand the intricacy of the problem at hand.

In the meantime, unilateral actions on both sides should be avoided as much as possible.The foundation for stability in the Horn begins with bilateral efforts to solve their differences in the face of mounting political, security and pandemic crisis. It is not patriotism not to compromise but is expressed best when the crisis between countries are solved through bilateral negotiations, including compromise.Give and take is the essence of diplomacy. But leaders need to know what to give and what to take. This requires a grasp on history and debate.

The building blocks for sustainable peace in the region begin with a capacity of each leader to discern the truth and not to mistake information as knowledge.

For the latter, leaders have people who have a sense of history and can see the big picture through the lenses of current affairs.The fact that the Horn of Africa is the most militarized region on earth is not a coincidence. Let us encourage our leaders to take stock of the situation on the area and trek carefully in this treacherous minefield: what the Horn has become.

Author Publisher: @shakiressa

ICJ should now drop Kenya-Somalia case

Kenya and Somalia will reportedly share equally any revenue from the maritime triangle under a Qatar-brokered deal 

The International Court of Justice in the Hague has been hearing arguments over ownership of the maritime triangle

ICJ should now drop Kenya-Somalia case

Kenya and Somalia have reportedly agreed to share equally any oil revenues from the disputed maritime triangle

The deal was brokered by Qatar and prompted the recent resumption of diplomatic relations between Somalia and Kenya. Two years ago Qatar bought blocks in the maritime triangle from Italian oil company ENI that had been issued by Kenya.

This is a win-win for all concerned. Somalia cannot afford to fall out with Kenya as there are so many links between the two countries. For its part, Kenya has a weak case as the unfair maritime convention states that any sea border should run perpendicular to the coastline.

And it is a big win for Qatar as it demonstrates that the tiny Gulf nation has diplomatic muscle and economic clout.

But the International Court of Justice must now wind up the long-running case over the maritime triangle. If Kenya and Somalia have agreed to leave the matter pending and to split 50-50 any oil and gas revenues, there is no need to pursue a legal case that will only divide the two nations and threaten the stability of the region. 

Somalian Opposition Suspects Government Will Sign Secret Oil Deals

Members of the opposition in Somalia warned this week that the country’s federal government is about to sign a secret petroleum exploration and drilling agreement with two foreign companies a month before its term in office expires, which would “pose a great danger” to the future of Somalia and its natural resources.

 

Somalian Opposition Suspects Government Will Sign Secret Oil Deals

The opposition has received information that Somalia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources would sign the secret deal in the coming days, Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of the opposition Wadajir Party, said in a letter to the top officials in Somalia posted on Twitter.https://eb78af75e59148b61392f3f115543780.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

“On 5 June 2018, the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member states signed an agreement on sharing of natural resources in Baidoa, which states that any agreement on the drilling, exploration or search for oil in the country must be transparent, thoroughly debated, evaluated and agreed upon, and finally approved by the House of the People of the Federal Republic of Somalia, before it is signed,” the letter reads.

The Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) in Somalia strongly opposes the secret deal between Coastline Exploration Inc and Liberty Petroleum Corporation on oil block deals, Warsame said on Twitter.

“Any agreement on the drilling for oil must be transparent, thoroughly debated, evaluated, agreed upon & approved by the Parliament, before it is signed,” he added.

The secret agreement would be signed just a month before the current government’s term in office ends, the opposition says in the letter, noting that this timing of an oil deal “creates strong suspicions.”

Somalia launched in August last year its first-ever offshore licensing round. Back then, the country expected to announce the winners of the oil auction in the first quarter of 2021, Ibrahim Ali Hussein, the chief executive of the Somali Petroleum Authority (SPA), told Reuters.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

Worldremit generates over $200bn in revenue and manages more than $700bn of remittance FLOWS. Nigeria received 24B

As a youth, Ismail Ahmed was forced by the outbreak of civil war to escape his homeland – Somaliland – and take refuge in the UK. Today, the company he founded is one of the most successful money transfer companies in the world. Profile

At the end of August this year, WorldRemit, one of the leading players in the world of international money transfers, put in a reported $500m bid for the takeover of the US app-based remittance company Sendwave. Not bad going for a company that was founded only 10 years ago by a Somali entrepreneur, Ismail Ahmed.

Remittances today account for more than FDI or overseas development aid. The global market is estimated at $700bn a year. Nigeria alone received an estimated $24bn in remittances in 2018, up from $4bn in 2013.

Photo: The founder of worldremit ismail ahmed

Many economists predicted that the economic meltdown caused by Covid-19 would lead to a massive drop in remittances and as a result, adversely impact emerging markets. The World Bank, at the start of the pandemic in April, estimated a 20% fall in remittances, anticipating catastrophic consequences.

However, these predictions were confounded when some countries, such as Kenya, posted growing year-on-year remittance numbers as at August. Ahmed is not surprised by this. He says he couldn’t fathom the World Bank estimates as experience had shown him that remittances were generally countercyclical.

The rise in remittances, for example in countries like Kenya, has been attributed to a number of factors. One is that many of the people sending money back home are actually those ‘essential workers’ who have kept health facilities going, and provided the services that have kept the economies of the West afloat.

In addition, government stimuli had cushioned the economic blow and the different economic mitigation schemes have meant that in some countries, such as the US, disposable income at the end of the month has at times actually been higher than what many workers were earning before the pandemic.

Ahmed says that the figures for WorldRemit, as at October, were quite strong for the year. “The only region where there was a noticeable fall are the Gulf countries, especially with Indian workers sending money back home.”

Recalling his life story, he says it seems that he was destined to work in money transfer services. He was born and raised in what is now Somaliland and he reflects that his family often received monies from a relative working in the Gulf.

With an excellent head for figures, he was awarded a World Bank scholarship to study economics at the University of London in the UK. But before he could take up the offer, the Somali Civil War intervened.

In the chaos that followed, he managed to escape and thanks to the money sent to him by his brother working in Saudi Arabia, he was able to purchase an air ticket out of Djibouti to the UK.

Expertise in the world of remittances

Fascinated by the world of remittances, he wrote a research paper on the subject at Sussex University; and whilst at the London Business School, as part of a case study project, he put together a model of a remittance business. This was to become the blueprint for what is today WorldRemit.

Before setting up WorldRemit, Ismail worked at the UN to advise on the system of remittances after 9/11.

While working on a UN Development Programme for Somalia, out of Nairobi, he noticed fraud involving senior colleagues. He blew the whistle and, for this, was dismissed.

He fought his corner, alleging unfair dismissal. He won his case and substantial compensation. This was the seed money he used to launch WorldRemit together with Catherine Wines, who also had extensive experience in money transfers, having herself restructured a remittance business that was subsequently sold to Travelex.

He says the scope of their ambition right from the get-go was big – hence the name of the company. As a student, he had experienced the frustrations and high charges involved in sending money back home. Working at the UN, he had realised that the process could be expensive as well as far from frictionless.

Right from the outset, he says, he knew that using rapidly improving IT technology was going to be the ace in their pack. Properly deployed, it could challenge the two giants in the field – Western Union and Moneygram.

He sees WorldRemit as an aspect of the increasingly important fintech sphere. The runaway success of M-Pesa and mobile money in Kenya underscored to him, in the early 2000s, the enormous potential of digital.

However, breaking into the market wasn’t plain sailing. The dominant players had, in many cases, struck exclusivity deals with banks or agents and seemed unassailable.

Given the very tight space left in the market, WorldRemit started with a single agent in both Uganda and Kenya. But the company still managed to get considerable business. This proved to them that their business was viable and also that the market was growing apace.

It was not long before WorldRemit became a substantial global player. Today the company operates in over 6,500 money transfer corridors worldwide and sends money from 50 countries to more than 150 nations.

The acquisition of Sendwave will make it a company that generates over $200m in revenue and manages more than $7.5bn of remittance flows.

The deal will strengthen the company’s position in the US, the world’s biggest source of outward remittances. “You can’t be big in money transfers if you’re not big in the US,” says Ahmed.

Industry more streamlined

The remittance industry has definitely benefited from having more players in the market: costs have been drastically reduced and the spread on exchange rates has also fallen considerably. However, some analysts warn that it is becoming an increasingly difficult area in which to make money as competition is eroding margins and the marketing costs to acquire new customers are greater than the gains.

Ahmed doesn’t agree; he counters that the industry will not only grow but will evolve. One factor behind the resilience of remittances has been the digitisation of payments. “Somaliland is pretty much a cashless society today. In Kenya, 90% of remittances are non-cash based, with the majority going to mobile money. In Nigeria 90% of international money transfers will end up in a bank account. So even during lockdowns, remittance flows still take place.”

He believes that the digitisation of remittances will also enable countries and analysts to better understand and make use of data that is now more readily available.

He also anticipates that the infrastructure backbone of remittances, which is ultimately about matching and settling trades, can help play a greater role in business transactions such as purchasing machinery or goods from abroad, as well as in intra-African trade, where too often buyers need to access dollars or euros to settle a payment within Africa.

Remittances have often been overlooked as a development tool, he says, but today they are a key indicator from a macro-economic perspective. Nonetheless they have been criticised for being ‘unproductive’ capital in that they are used in the ‘receiving’ country to make basic purchases.

Ahmed refutes this and says that as well as covering expenses such as school fees, food or medical bills, a big chunk of remittance payments goes to starting new businesses, investing in land and property.

shakiressa.com

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Somalia cuts diplomatic ties with Kenya over Somaliland

Photo: kenyan president uhuru kenyatta and somaliasomaliaSomalia president mohamed abdilahi farmajo, somalia cuts diplomatic ties with Kenya over Somaliland,

Somalia on Tuesday morning announced it is cutting diplomatic ties with Kenya, in the latest escalation of a spat between the two, and following the invitation of Somaliland leader Muse Bihi to Nairobi.

Somalia cuts diplomatic ties with Kenya over Somaliland

Osman Dubbe, the Somali Minister for Information declared the news on national TV a few minutes to 2am in the morning, breaking tradition of countries making such pronouncements during the day.

Photo: somaliland and kenyan flag, Somalia cuts diplomatic ties with Kenya over Somaliland,

Dubbe said Kenya had “constantly interfered” with Somalia’s internal affairs and that Nairobi was violating Somalia’s sovereignty.

He said Kenyan diplomats in Mogadishu will have seven days to leave the country. But this came just a week after Mogadishu actually expelled the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Lucas Tumbo, and recalled theirs to Nairobi, Mohamud Ahmed Tarzan, following a similar complaint of interference.

Somalia had also submitted a complaint to regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to include the spat with Kenya during the upcoming virtual summit on Dec 20 on Tigray.

Kenya though, became the second country in a year after Guinea, with which Somalia has cut ties over the Somaliland issue.

Also Read

Spokesperson’s Office
State House, Nairobi

14th December 2020

Press Release

Bilateral talks between Kenyan and Somaliland delegations

Kenya hosts Bihi

But as Mogadishu moved in the night, Nairobi was hosting Bihi for bilateral talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Both sides on Monday said they had agreed on a number of issues and would continue discussions on Tuesday on business and security cooperation.

With the cutting of diplomatic ties, it means the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu and Somalia’s mission in Nairobi will be shut and their officials sent back home. But both countries, based on Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, will remain obligated to offer visa and other travel and immigration services to nationals of each other.Advertisement

In fact, each country will remain obligated to protect premises owned by either side on their host territories.

However, despite having legal obligations to protect citizens of each other, the actual protection of each other’s nationals may be granted to a third acceptable state.

It was unclear by Tuesday morning what will happen to military cooperation between Somalia and Kenya which has sent troops to the country under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Legally, it is Amisom to make a decision about troop movements, but in consultation with the UN and troop contributing countries.

About 350,000 Somali refugees also live in Kenya, most of them in camps in Dadaab and Kakuma. Kenya will have to continue protecting them, under the international humanitarian law.

What may be exposed, however, are the properties owned by Somalia businesses and politicians in Nairobi.

Officials in the Kenyan capital said on Tuesday morning they had not yet received any formal communication from Mogadishu on the severing of ties.

Afrika-times.com

Uhuru kenyatta is clearly seeking recognition to somaliland as newest country in africa

somaliland and kenya flag Afrika-times.com
  • Somalia had accused Somaliland of undermining its sovereignty after a delegation led by President Muse Bihi was hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta at Nairobi’s Statehouse

• But Somaliland through its Foreign Affairs responded by saying such an irrelevant statement Somalia shows nothing but only failure and irresponsibility.

  • KENYA MAINTAINED ITS RECOGNITION OF SOMALILAND AS NEWEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA

(Afrika-times.com- Somalia and Somaliland on Monday engaged in a war of words on Twitter following the latter’s delegation visit to Nairobi.

Somalia had accused Somaliland of undermining its sovereignty after a delegation led by President Muse Bihi was hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta at Nairobi’s Statehouse.

Through its Foreign Affairs, Somalia said Bihi’s visit must be treated with all contempt it deserved.

The ministry later deleted the tweet.

“Somaliland is the federal Member State of Somalia. It, therefore, has no legitimacy to directly deal with Kenya especially now that we have severed our diplomatic ties,” part of the tweet read.

It also read, “Muse Bihi’s visit to Nairobi undermines the sovereignty of Somalia and must be treated with the contempt it deserves”.

But Somaliland through its Foreign Affairs responded by saying such an irrelevant statement Somalia shows nothing but only failure and irresponsibility.

Somaliland said as an independent country it has a right to make a decision to strengthen its mutual relationship with Kenya which is also an independent country.

“The irrelevant statement from the failed administration of Somalia shows nothing but only failure and irresponsibility. The Republic of Somaliland and The Republic of Kenya are two independent countries which has (sic) the rightful decision to strengthen their mutual relationship, ” the tweet read.

President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted bilateral talks between Kenya and Somaliland delegation led by President Musa Bihi Abdi at State House on Monday.

President Abdi arrived in the country on Sunday for a three-day official visit.

During the meeting, the two leaders initiated discussions on a number of subjects of mutual interest between Kenya and Somaliland.

The two delegations are set to meet again on Tuesday to finalise the talks.

Kenya has no diplomatic presence in Somaliland but takes cognizance of the political and economic stability of the region.

The country is keen to enhance and broaden trade in goods and services, as well as an investment as the cornerstone for long-term development cooperation with the region.

There has been a looming diplomatic spat between Nairobi and Mogadishu after Farmnajo expelled Kenya’s ambassador to Mogadishu Ambassador Lucas Tumbo.

Mogadishu cited what it termed as the Kenyan government’s interference in its internal and political affairs.

Uhuru receives Somaliland President Musa Abdi at State HouseThey initiated discussions on issues of mutual interest between Kenya and Somaliland Afrika-times.com

“The federal government f Somalia expresses it regret in the government of Kenya’s overt and blatant interferences in the internal and political affairs of Somalia which has the potential to be a hindrance to stability,” a statement from Somalia’s foreign ministry said.

But Kenya in its response dismissed the claims terming them unsubstantiated allegations.

Nairobi said it had not received any Note Verbale or any other official communication from Mogadishu requesting Kenya’s ambassador to leave for Nairobi for consultations.

“However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ attention has been drawn to a press statement purportedly released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia,” a statement from the ministry said. 

“This action is reportedly based on unsubstantiated allegations, namely, “continued interference in the internal affairs of Somalia”. The Government of Kenya respects and upholds the cardinal international principles of self-determination, sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, and in particular those in Africa,” Nairobi said.

Mbili Niagro, Nairobi Kenya Afrika-times.com

fla

Kenya maintained its recognition of SOMALILAND as newest country in africa

President Uhuru Kenyatta is hosting his Somaliland counterpart Muse Bihi Abdi amidst worsening relations with Somalia.

Kenya maintained to its recognition of somaliland as the newest country in africa, uhuru kenyatta meets with somaliland president muse bihi abdi

KENYA 🇰🇪 MAINTAINED ITS RECOGNITION OF SOMALILAND AS NEWEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA

The visit by the leader of the self-declared country seeks to give Kenya a platform through which Nairobi can have presence in Hargeisa, as it has no diplomatic presence in Somaliland

President Abdi jetted into the country for a three-day state visit yesterday and was received. Official invitation from uhuru kenyatta

This visit comes after Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, imposed restrictions on Kenyans hoping to travel to the country. At the same time, there has been a maritime dispute that saw Somalia file a case against Kenta at the International Court of Justice in 2014.

Mogadishu has accused Nairobi of meddling in its upcoming elections by allegedly putting pressure on the leader of Jubaland region, Ahmed Mohamed Islaam Madobe, to pull out of poll agreement brokered two months ago.

Mogadishu expelled Kenya’s diplomat to Somalia Maj Gen (rtd) Lucas Tambo and recalled its ambassador to Kenya, Mohamud Ahmed Nur ‘Tarzan’, over claims of Nairobi’s continuous interference in its internal affairs.

“President Kenyatta, on Monday, is scheduled to host President of Somaliland for talks on mutual interests and discuss diaspora issues as they seek to deepen trade ties,” reads a press release by the Foreign Affairs ministry.

Uhuru, according to the ministry’s brief, will be seeking stronger relations between the two countries to bolster security, economic and social

“Somaliland is an important partner in the Horn of Africa region in the fight against terrorism and particularly Al-Shabaab,” the statement read.

This file photo taken on May 18, 2016 shows a woman holding a flag as soldiers and other military personnel of Somalia’s breakaway territory of Somaliland march past during an Independence day celebration parade in the capital, Hargeisa. [AFP]

“ takes cognizance of the political and economic stability of the region and is keen to enhance and broaden trade in goods and services, as well as investment as the cornerstone for long-term development cooperation with the region.”

The ministry also disclosed that Uhuru would be seeking intensified cooperation in banking and financial sector to accelerate investment opportunities for both parties. Kenya Airways flights connecting Nairobi and Hargeisa to enhance trade and movement is carefully being explored, the statement said.

Other issues on the table include information sharing on security, particularly in countering terrorism in the Horn of Africa. “Kenya and Somaliland will work together to actualise these aspirations,” the statement read.

This is the first official visit to Nairobi by President Abdi since he took over Somaliland in 2017, and the second by a Somaliland leader following a similar one by President Kahin Riyale Kahin in 2009.

Such differences are not new to Kenya. Tanzania cancelled landing rights for three Kenyan airlines — Kenya Airways, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation — after Kenya insisted Tanzanians arriving in the country had to be quarantined for 14 days.

The actions by the two countries have recently stalled business ventures for Kenyans over ‘bad’ policies by Nairobi.

While receiving President Abdi together with his delegation, which includes uhuru kenyatta and the members of the Cabinet, Munya said today’s talks between the two leaders would be of mutual interest.

Somaliland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said President Abdi left Hargeisa on Sunday and would meet Kenyan officials for bilateral talks.

Somalia has had issues with Kenya over miraa (khat) export. The country has since banned Kenyan miraa from its market.

The matter resurfaced last week after a delegation of farmers’ representatives travelled to seek audience with Somalia officials. However, they were met with a list of demands, including a tax charge of $4 per kilo.

The farmers were also told to report to the Kenyan authorities that they would only be allowed to sell miraa in Somalia if flights from Mogadishu are not forced to stop in Wajir for security checks.

Somalia officials say Kenya should treat their country as an equal partner.

In 2016, Mr Munya, then Meru Governor, caused a diplomatic storm after he ‘offered recognition’ of Somaliland if they were assured a steady miraa market.

KENYA MAINTAINED ITS RECOGNITION OF SOMALILAND AS NEWEST COUNTRY IN AFRICA

Somaliland: East Africa’s largest conduit for illicit cheetah trafficking to the Gulf

Somaliland: East Africa’s largest conduit for illicit cheetah trafficking to the Gulf
Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime
Somaliland: East Africa’s largest conduit for illicit cheetah trafficking to the Gulf

A cheetah cub receives care from representatives of Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment and Rural Development, in a village near Erigavo, Sanaag, in August 2020.

According to reports, the cubs were being held by local farmers who surrendered them to the authorities, as the result of conflict with the mother cheetah near their livestock. (Photo: Twitter / Ministry of Environment and Rural Development)

A recent spate of cheetahs being seized in Somaliland has shown that the illicit demand for these animals remains strong. Cheetahs are highly prized as exotic pets in the Gulf states, and in supplying this market, traffickers have heavily impacted local cheetah populations in Africa, a situation compounded by the fact that many animals die en route.

In late July, two cheetah cubs were rescued from a 25-day ordeal at the hands of wildlife traffickers by the Awdal region police in Borama, a city in Somaliland not far from the Ethiopian border. Members of the local community helped look after the dehydrated and underweight cubs until the rescue team arrived. The cubs were then given care by Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) staff before being transported to a CCF safe house.

Two cubs rescued near Borama, 24 July 2020. The cubs had reportedly been in the hands of traffickers for 25 days before their rescue. (Photo: CCF)

These cubs were part of a series of recent seizures of cheetahs in Somaliland. Through July and August, 20 cheetah cubs were rescued over five missions jointly conducted by the ministry of environment and rural development, the Selel regional administration and the Somaliland police, with support from the CCF and Torrid Analytics. 

On 14 September, two cheetah cubs were seized in the Sool region in the south-east: the youngest was only two weeks old. In total, 25 cubs have been reported as seized or rescued in Somaliland so far this year.

A six-month-old cheetah cub, in the care of Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment and Rural Development and the Cheetah Conservation Fund, en route to Hargeisa, 29 July 2020. The cub was one of eight rescued over three missions in Somaliland in late July. (Photo: Cheetah Conservation Fund)

Cheetah trafficking in Somaliland is not a new issue. Since 2010, when reporting became more consistent, there have been 193 rescued or surrendered cheetahs. Nearly a third of these occurred after the country ratified its Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Law in August 2018, which has reportedly led to increased awareness and better coordination between wildlife officials, police and the army.

Many of the cheetahs seized in Somaliland are believed to originate in Ethiopia, which shares an 800km border with the self-declared state. At least 25% of seized cheetahs in Somaliland have been found at or near the Ethiopian border – the two cubs intercepted near Borama in August, for example, were less than 15km from the border. 

As known cheetah populations in Ethiopia total no more than 300 adolescent and adult specimens, it is clear that the trafficking of cubs is taking a significant toll on cheetah populations. Ethiopia and South Sudan, along with Somalia/Somaliland where cheetah populations are unknown, are also the last remaining stronghold of the North East African cheetah subspecies, Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii.

Cheetah cubs are mostly taken from the wild when the mother hides them to go hunting, either opportunistically by nomadic herders or by poachers. A cub can sell for between $200 and $300 in Somaliland, although prices vary greatly: an unhealthy cub can be bought for as little as $80, while a healthy, older cub can cost up to $1,000. The same cheetah can be sold for up to $15,000 in the Gulf states. 

Mortality is high, as most cubs are removed from the wild at only two to eight weeks from birth and are subjected to maltreatment and poor nutrition in the hands of poachers and dealers, compounded with the rigours of the trip across the Gulf of Aden. While difficult to estimate, it is thought that more than 60% of cheetah cubs die before they reach the market to be sold.

Somaliland is vulnerable as a conduit for the illegal wildlife trade not only due to its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula’s wealthy consumer markets for exotic wildlife, but also due to the country’s rampant poverty, weak legal frameworks and a lack of environmental awareness. 

Corruption also drives the cheetah trade. There are instances of illegally obtained cheetah cubs being sold back to smugglers by corrupt officials after a confiscation has been reported. That being said, Somaliland’s cheetah trade has been more extensively researched than other countries and regions of Somalia. Its relative importance as the main cheetah trafficking route into the Middle East might be in part connected to underreporting from other countries.

Across the Gulf of Aden

From Somaliland, cheetahs are transported by boat – hidden in hampers, crates or cardboard boxes – from the northern coastline across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen at an estimated rate of 300 cubs per year. The 140 nautical miles between the ports of Berbera in Somaliland and Aden in Yemen can be covered in just over seven hours at a dhow’s average speed of 20 knots.

Once in Yemen, cheetahs are reportedly transported by boat or road across the Saudi border to animal markets such as Al-Jazan or Al-Khouba, or delivered to Saudi traders, who will then offer them throughout the Gulf states to known buyers on ecommerce and social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, or, more recently, through private chat groups. 

Research carried out by CCF researchers found that at least 2,000 cheetahs had been advertised online between 2010 and 2019. Most were found on Instagram, with sellers offering cheetahs in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

Delivery to the UAE, Qatar or Kuwait from Saudi Arabia can be made by road or air. An investigative report published by Le Figaro quoted an employee at the Kuwait airport who stated that:

“It is enough to mention that they are ‘cats’ on the box and to pay certain people I know. It is easy for me because I work there and I know who will take the money. I give them between KWD500 and KWD1000 ($1,600–$3,200 to allow illegal animals (through the country).”

There have also been isolated reports of cheetahs arriving in Oman from Yemen, as well as being transported from Oman into the UAE via the Hatta border crossing.

An illegal status symbol

Cheetahs have long been popular household pets or hunting companions in the Gulf states, where they are viewed as status symbols. This popularity has been boosted in recent years by wealthy or famous individuals posing with their exotic pets on social media

However, few cheetah owners know how to provide the proper care for these animals, with some social media posts advertising cheetahs that have been declawed – an extremely painful process for the animals. 

Many pet cheetahs in the Gulf states do not live beyond the first year, and few live longer than five years, according to information collected by CCF.

CCF veterinarian Dr Asma Bile prepares cubs rescued from traffickers to make the journey to Hargeisa to the CCF safe house. (Photo: CCF)

Trade in wild cheetahs for commercial purposes is illegal in all the Gulf states, either through the states being party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) or through domestic legislation. 

In December 2016, the UAE enacted a law banning the private possession of exotic and dangerous pets, although only one seizure (of four cheetahs) has been made since 2015, suggesting that the ban is seldom enforced. 

In Kuwait, where no cheetahs have been seized in the past five years, the National Assembly approved a draft animal welfare law that penalises illegal trade or possession of predators in December 2015. In Qatar – where discussions continue over a law regulating the trade and ownership of dangerous animals – the ministry of municipality and environment announced the arrest of an Arab national in July 2016 for trading in cheetahs.

Under CITES regulations, however, captive-bred cheetahs can be traded commercially by registered facilities. The CITES trade database reports that 16 “captive-bred” cheetahs were exported into Armenia from Bahrain and the UAE between 2009 and 2015.

However, the probability that cheetahs in the Gulf (both those kept as pets and those exported) are truly bred in captivity or traded in compliance with national laws or CITES regulations is low.

First, only two such registered breeding facilities exist worldwide – both are in South Africa.

Second, cheetahs do not breed well in captivity. Based on information from the International Cheetah Studbook, a voluntary register of captive cheetahs worldwide, the first report of captive-bred cheetahs in the Gulf states was in 1994. Since then, six facilities have reported a total of 304 cheetah births in captivity, with a 31% mortality rate for cubs under six months. 

No births have been reported by these facilities since 2016.

It is therefore more likely that purportedly “captive-bred” cheetahs in the Gulf come from elsewhere, as suggested by the “captive-bred” cheetahs exported from Bahrain to Armenia. There are no known cheetah breeding facilities in Bahrain, suggesting that the cheetahs’ real origins were masked.

A contentious issue

The issue of the illegal cheetah trade has been on the CITES agenda since 2013, when it commissioned a study that led to decisions and recommendations aimed at reducing demand and encouraging international collaboration. However, the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP), held in August 2019, voted to delete these decisions based on a report from the standing committee to the secretariat

The report concluded that the illegal cheetah trade was limited, based on official seizure reports from nine countries that cited 32 specimens (13 live, 19 parts or products) between 2015 and mid-2018. Based on this, the CoP agreed that matters related to the illegal cheetah trade could be addressed by a Big Cat Task Force, jointly run by CITES and the Convention for Migratory Species, which is currently in the process of being implemented.

However, Kenya and Ethiopia – two cheetah-range countries – argued that the numbers reported by CITES “underestimate the full extent of the trade, since they only include confiscated animals appearing in official records and omit data from many countries, including key primary source countries for trafficked cheetah”. They cited information showing 393 cheetah specimens (274 live animals and 119 parts), including the 32 seized specimens reported to CITES, during the same period.

The countries’ joint statement – submitted to the CITES CoP – went on to add: “Given the perilous state of [East African] cheetah populations that are the source of illegal trade, any ongoing trade in wild cheetah is alarming.”

The recent spate of seizures in Somaliland seems to confirm those fears. The illegal trade in wild cheetahs appears to be continuing apace, with potentially grave consequences for East African cheetah populations. DM

This article appears in the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s monthly East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin. The Global Initiative is a network of more than 500 experts on organised crime drawn from law enforcement, academia, conservation, technology, media, the private sector and development agencies. It publishes research and analysis on emerging criminal threats and works to develop innovative strategies to counter organised crime globally. To receive monthly Risk Bulletin updates, please sign up here.

Shakir Essa

Shakir Essa served as manager at Somali Journalist Association and PR consultant at allafrica.com

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Berbera ports: The africa most valuable real estate

266px-Berbera_Port2

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Berbera and Zeila, two of the Horn of Africa’s ancient trading cities, have long attracted the interest of global powers because of their strategic location near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. This location makes Somaliland’s coastal ports among the region’s most valuable real estate and an alternative to Djibouti as a key player in terms of trade, development, energy, and water security for the Red Sea and Horn of Africa.

Richard Burton, the British explorer, recognized the importance of Berbera port back in 1896, writing:
images (21)
In the first place, Berbera is the true key of the Red Sea, the centre of East African traffic, and the only safe place for shipping upon the western Eritrean shore, from Suez to Guardafui. Backed by lands capable of cultivation, and by hills covered with pine and other valuable trees, enjoying a comparatively temperate climate, with a regular although thin monsoon, this harbour has been coveted by many a foreign conqueror. Circumstances have thrown it as it were into our arms, and, if we refuse the chance, another and a rival nation will not be so blind.

A new geopolitical rivalry in the Red Sea

Somaliland’s ports still remain the object of international interest and rivalry today, although the foreign powers involved have changed. On July 1, according to an official statement, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taiwan had agreed to establish ties with Somaliland based on “friendship and a shared commitment to common values of freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law.”

Less than a week later, however, Somalia’s federal government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aligned itself with China to prevent a Taiwanese-Somaliland nexus that would have clear geopolitical ramifications for the Horn of Africa.

While China and Somalia rebuffed and condemned the new strategic bilateral ties between Somaliland and Taiwan, the U.S. National Security Council has blessed Taiwan’s venture into East Africa, sending a clear message to China that the U.S. stands with Taiwan. This is a significant blow to the Chinese government, which has used its international influence and “development-trap diplomacy” in recent decades to rally support among African and Middle Eastern states for its efforts to suppress Taiwan’s presence in the international sphere.

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Somaliland

On July 12, a high-level delegation from Egypt traveled to Somaliland. Although an Egyptian delegation had visited in 2019, angering Somalia, this year’s trip comes at a critical time as Ethiopia and Egypt have locked horns in their dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Egyptian delegation’s visit prompted protests from the Ethiopian government, and Egypt’s growing bilateral ties and cooperation with Somaliland are giving Ethiopia GERD problems of its own — as in gastroesophageal reflux disease.

It is important to note that Ethiopia has a 19 percent stake in the port of Berbera, which is managed by the UAE’s DP World with a 51 percent stake, while Somaliland holds 30 percent. In May 2019, Ethiopia signed its first military cooperation agreement with France, which covers joint air cooperation and includes assistance for Ethiopia’s efforts to build up its naval forces — although where the landlocked country plans to dock these naval forces remains unclear. Joking aside, Ethiopia’s naval endeavors are driven by two main factors: first, concerns over the future of Djibouti’s port, which the IMF categorizes as at a “high risk of debt distress,” comparable to the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, which was built with Chinese financing and which Beijing took control of after Colombo failed to meet its debt obligations; and second, to protect 11 state-owned commercial vessels managed by the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE).

Scramble for fragile Somaliland

Although Somaliland is relatively peaceful compared to Somalia, its lack of international recognition makes it fragile and susceptible to being drawn into regional disputes as it seeks allies, bilateral ties, and eventual recognition. This has been the case with the Gulf states, where it has sided with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In part as a result of this fragility and desire to secure more allies and improve bilateral ties, Somaliland now finds itself in the middle of multiple disputes among other states, including Ethiopia and Egypt and China and Taiwan.

Taken together, the current domestic instability in Ethiopia and its tensions with Egypt over the GERD, combined with the global superpower competition in the Horn of Africa and Red Sea, are a recipe for conflict that could trigger the largest refugee influx in African history. This could destabilize Somaliland and with it key international maritime trade routes, making it vulnerable to insecurity and terrorism that directly affects both Ethiopia and Djibouti, with which it shares its western border.

To reduce future geopolitical uncertainty and security risk in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, it’s in the best interest of the international community to take the following steps:

Consider recognizing Somaliland;

Praise Taiwan-Somaliland relations instead of giving in to Chinese pressure and potentially keeping at bay Russia, which also has a keen interest in establishing a military base at Berbera port; and

Include Somaliland in the Red Sea Council and help it develop its own navy.

Shakir Essa report

Somalia expects to announce winners of first petroleum auction early 2021

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Somalia expects to announce the winners of its first oil and gas licensing round early next year, as the country seeks petro dollars to help rebuild its struggling economy, a senior government oil official said on Wednesday.
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Battered by violence and an Islamist insurgency since clan warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991, Somalia is offering seven deep water offshore blocks in its maiden licensing round in one of the world’s last frontier markets.

The oil and gas auction officially opened on Tuesday.

“We are expecting that in the first quarter of next year to finalise and award the block contracts,” Ibrahim Ali Hussein told Reuters in his first interview with international media since his appointment last week as the CEO of the Somali Petroleum Authority (SPA).
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The government had previously mooted offering 15 blocks in this licensing round but cut this down to seven due to capacity constraints, Hussein, a former advisor to Somalia’s energy minister, said. Seismic data previously indicated the 15 blocks could contain around 30 billion barrels of oil.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had delayed talks between the government and a joint venture of legacy rights holders Shell and Exxon Mobil to convert their existing concession into a production sharing agreement (PSA).

“If there was not coronavirus, the roadmap that we agreed … was to get the contract back before the end of this year, December,” he said.

Converting the concession into a PSA would also help end a force majeure by the oil majors that has been in place since 1990, Hussein said. Shell and Exxon hold exclusive petroleum exploration and production rights over five shallow water offshore blocks.

“We have an ongoing and constructive dialogue with the Somali authorities about a roadmap potentially to convert the existing concession to a production sharing agreement,” a Shell spokesman said.

No-one at Exxon was immediately available to comment. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf Editing by Tim Cocks and David Evans)

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