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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)

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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.https://spkt.io/a/1132481?isAmp=1&ampPlayer=MinimalPlayer#amp=1

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.

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Berbera ports: The africa most valuable real estate

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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:
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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

The Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation, dispatched from Beijing, will arrive in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Chinese delegation is reportedly arriving in Somaliland, a self-governing territory in East Africa, following rumors that the Somaliland government is considering formally recognizing Taiwan.
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The Chinese Foreign Ministry delegation, dispatched from Beijing, will arrive in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, on Wednesday (August 5), the Somaliland Chronicle cited officials from the East African territory’s foreign ministry as saying. This came just one day after the same paper reported that Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi is weighing the possibility of unilaterally recognizing Taiwan.

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Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday declined to comment on the issue, which if confirmed will certainly anger Somalia, a neighboring nation that claims Somaliland as part of its territory, not to mention China. The ministry has full knowledge of the situation and remains in close communication with Somaliland authorities, according to MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安).

Taiwan and Somaliland pledged to strengthen bilateral ties early in July through the setting up of mutual representative offices as well as the promotion of cooperative projects.

It is also reported that the Chinese Ambassador to Somalia, Qin Jian (覃儉), has been in Hargeisa since August 1 — the third time this year. He has been requesting to meet with President Bihi of Somaliland, who reportedly instructed aides to provide a risk analysis of furthering diplomatic ties with Taiwan but has so far declined to meet with the ambassador.

Somaliland, officially called the Republic of Somaliland, is a de-facto independent state with a population of approximately 3.5 million. Despite declaring itself an independent state in 1991, Somaliland to this day has not been recognized by any foreign government.

China and Somalia both criticized Taiwan for its efforts to advance ties with Somaliland back in July. The Somali government — which has diplomatic relations with China — condemned Taiwan for undermining Somalian sovereignty, while Beijing labeled the move by Taiwan as part of a separatist plot perpetrated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Marriage proposals, dresses, feasts and dances – the story of two weddings in SOMALIland, with traditions old and new.

When it comes to weddings, Somaliland has many approaches. Some couples stick with tradition while others go for more modern marriage ceremonies.

This film tells the story of two weddings, one in a small desert village and the other in a busy city, while highlighting everyday life in different parts of the country. It also contrasts traditional ways of life with modern ideas that come from younger Somalis and social media.

In the remote rural village of Toon, herder Jamalli Muhammad Ahmed can only marry a local woman called  Hoda after first getting permission from her family. In a tradition going back generations, they all gather in the shade of a large tree to decide whether they are a suitable match. Only then can Jamalli and Hoda start planning their lives together.

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 Jamalli and Hoda’s wedding followed traditional Somali customs [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Abdullatif Deeq Omar in Hargeisa city, however, first met his future wife Najma on Facebook. They eloped but eventually returned to their families who accepted their marriage plans.

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 Abdullatif and Najma’s ceremony was in the city of Hargeisa [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Both weddings have the same pressures: buying outfits, inviting guests, finding a venue and arranging feasts – but each tells a unique story of family, community and tradition.

In Somali culture, many people also believe that getting married in the run-up to Ramadan ensures additional blessings on the couple, making the happy occasion even more special

Shakir Essa report.

Former Oldham Student Set For Somaliland

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Former Oldham Student Set For Somaliland
“I am looking forward to starting my post in Somaliland, as it will be a unique opportunity for me to work inside the government of a developing country”

By admin – September 17, 20180
Former Oldham Student Set For Somaliland
Shazar Tariq

Last week, one of the Oldham Sixth Form College’s notable alumni, Shazar Tariq, joined Economics students to speak about his journey from studying Economics at OSFC to becoming an Economic Advisor in Somaliland.

Shazar studied Economics, Mathematics, and Accountancy at Oldham Sixth Form College (OSFC) between 2008 and 2010, before moving on to study Economics at the University of Manchester through the Manchester Access Programme.

After gaining his undergraduate degree, Shazar studied for an MSc in Oxford, spent time teaching English in Istanbul and worked for a consultancy in London.

Recently, Shazar was successful in gaining a place on an Overseas Development Institute Fellowship Scheme for which thousands applied and 30-40 were selected from around the world.

Each year the scheme selects Economists from all around the world to work as international civil servants in developing countries.

Shazar has been selected as Economics Fellow for Somaliland and will start his post this month providing Economic advice to the Director-General.

Shazar said: “I have returned to OSFC to personally thank my Economics tutors for the support they gave me when I first started discovering Economics.

“The fundamentals of Economics I learned during my A Levels have stayed with me and the quality of education I received at college was incredible.

“I am looking forward to starting my post in Somaliland, as it will be a unique opportunity for me to work inside the government of a developing country – though Somaliland is still yet to be recognized as a country internationally.”

Shakir Essa biography

Shakir Essa is a senior journalist and news tv reporter, he takes a big role on somali social media,
He wrote a famous book of ” We are behind the curtain and the ogaal daily program
currently based on cincinnati Ohio, united states
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More info about Shakir Essa

The Shakir Essa Report, first aired January 2012, is a thirty-minutes, weekly investigative documentary in which he reports on African immigrant stories northern Africa, Libya and Tunisia. Shakir Essa is a social media activist in east african communities he served as manager at somali journalists and producer of Somali Today Tv

BIOGRAPHY

Shakir Essa was born in mid  1980s in the jameecada district of HargeisaSomaliland.[3] He attended high school in Hargeisa,

He later studied Telecommunication technologyat the international Horn University,where he earned a Bachelor of Arts. In 2004, he moved to Malaysia and pursued an advanced degree in Telecommunication Engineering at the TIU in malaysia .[3] He later on attended the cyber security and and advanced information technology at University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, USA.

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He is also multilingual, speaking SomaliUrduArabicand English