Oct 29, 2007

TFG prime minister resigns

Following on yesterday's post, the prime minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia has resigned, amid pressure from US and other neighboring countries. I'll have more on this later.

Adopting African kids: from fashion to kidnapping

One of the most demeaning things for Africa - and Africans - is the growing trend in the West to adopt African children, and justifying it as an act of "charity" for Africa. Now, a French charity took this a bit further, they kidnapped 100 kids from villages in Chad to be sold to French families (or may be even worse).

The charity claims the kids are orphans from Darfur, but the kids are crying for the parents and say they're from villages in easter Chad. The charity also claimed it was taking the kids for medical treatment but the BBC reporter in Chad, who met the kids and the kidnappers, says the kids look healthy.

The people who did this will eventually be freed, France will interfere on their behalf saying that the whole thing was a well intentioned misunderstanding (and perhaps pay some money). The "charity" will also have many chances to repeat the same in other poor African countries. This what the French human rights minister had to say about:
I can understand the families, the French families who wanted to save children. But I don't understand why an association decided, alone, to bring them to Paris. That's why we completely disapprove of this initiative.
What? this is not an "initiative" and the French families didn't want save the children, this is simply criminal. This time they caught it, but I can help but wonder if there has been successful attempts before.

The kids were obviously Muslims but were going to be sold to non-Muslim families, adding to the gravity of what might have been waiting for these poor kids.This is a sad, but expected, climax to the "adopting an African child" fashion in the West.

Oct 28, 2007

Fresh fighting in Mogadishu

In the biggest fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents in Mogadishu for many months, at least 10 people and a few Ethiopian soldier have been killed. The fighting is continuing for a second day, and it shows that insurgents have been gaining ground in the city.

Also today, hundreds of residents have demonstrated in Hodan district of Mogadishu against Ethiopian troops and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Puntland loses control of Las Anod, more fighting expected

As was expected Somaliland and Puntland resumed fighting in northern Somalia over the city of Las Anod. About ten days ago, armed militia from Dhulbahante tribe supporting Somaliland entered the city of Las Anod from the south declaring Las Anod a Somaliland city. At the time there were no other militias in the city so there was little casualty. Outside of the city, in the West, Puntland and Somaliland forces clashed, Puntland forces pulled back to the Easter side of the city after they heard that local militia loyal to Somaliland took the city. Puntland lost all control over Las Anod. Somaliland troops avoided going into the city to avoid and are camping outside of city, to the east.

Most families - women and children - left the city of Las Anod to the surrounding villages; to the south - up to or inside the Ethiopian border - and the east - up to Garowe, the capital city of Puntland.

Puntland forces are regrouping and there are reports that Puntland forces in the southern Somalia have already started moving up north. Tribal militias of Dhulhbahante and Majeerteen are also gathering in the east of the city. Las Anod itself have been emptied and most businesses are still closed, people are preparing for another round of fighting. It's a sad end to the peace that northern Somalia (East and West) have enjoyed in the past decade.

It seems this is only the first round of the fighting, most Dhulbahante elders and population continue to support Puntland.

Conflict between top TFG officials

Add to Somali woes the current conflict between the president and prime minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), it seems only one of them will keep his job. The president, as well as others, accuse prime minister Ali Gedi of stealing government funds and mismanaging resources so president Abdullah Yusuf requested the parliament to dismiss the PM. The PM has been frantically trying to save his job, he has visited Ethiopia twice in the last two week - that's were the decisions are made - and has been rallying his supporters in the parliament.

Both men are now in Saudi Arabia which is trying to mediate between them. It's not the first time the president asked the parliament to dismiss the PM.

Back ..

I've been away for few weeks - a much need vacation - and I tried to stay away from internet and blogging. I didn't think I could but I did it. The first week of my vacation was within the last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims are supposed to focus on worship and prayer - I tried. The second week was Eid, visiting and calling friends and family. As Eid week ended we had a baby. So it was an eventful vacation, very much enjoyed it.

In Islamic tradition the baby must be named in seven days,we named him Ibrahim.

Oct 22, 2007

Links for 22-10-2007

Oct 4, 2007

Links for 02-10-2007

Lunch over IP: Tips for conference bloggers
This is an excellent resource, Bruno combines his thoughts and those of Ethan Zuckerman's on conference blogging. I've seen Ethan in action, he's an amazing conference blogger, I tried but couldn't keep up.

Oct 3, 2007

Links for 01-10-2007

Oct 2, 2007

Fighting in Sool region between Puntland and Somaliland

Somaliland and Puntland forces have clashed in northern Somalia fighting for control over the city of Las Anod, the capital of Sool region. In the past two weeks, Somaliland forces have started moving towards the city from the west. Puntland reinforcements came from the south and the two forces clashed about 18km west of the city, exchanging artillery fires before clashing two days ago.

There were reports that Puntland forces pulled back to about 6km from Las Anod but the city remains under Puntland control (despite Somaliland claims of otherwise). Somaliland-based telco companies supplied most telephone lines in the city, they were all cut off yesterday.

Sool region has been the safest in Somalia for the last 15 years or so even though both Puntland and Somaliland claimed the region. In 1991, Somaliland declared independence and claimed the region formerly colonized by Britian (British Somaliland Protectorate). The north-west is mostly Isaq tribe and Dhulbahante tribe (a branch of Darood) in the north-east, these are the two largest tribes in norther Somalia.

There's a historical context to the current conflict that dates back to colonial era. During the British colonial period, Dhulbahante tribe fiercely fought the British forces under the movement called Darawish, though later defeated they have never accepted the British rule. Isaq tribe, on the other hand, supported and fought alongside the British. The two tribes Dhulbahante tribe never accepted the idea of separating from the rest of Somalia.

But 1998 Dhulbahante tribal elders together with
Majeerteen and Warsangeli to the east formed Puntland, a state that does not declare independence from the rest of Somalia. These three tribes are from a branch of Darood tribe called Harti. Subsequently, Sool and Sanaag regions became part of Puntland, though the capital city of Sanaag is still under Somaliland control. But some Dhulbahante continued to take part in Somaliland government.

The creation of Puntland was a major blow for Somaliland's quest for independence as a large junk of the land it claimed was now part of Puntland. The first president of Somaliland,
Ibrahim Cigaal never visited Las Anood since Somaliland was created but his predecessor Riyaale Kahin attempted to visit the city few years ago, his convoy was ambushed and he was nearly killed. The people region are almost entirely in support of Puntland.

Ethiopia is the main power-broker in northern Somalia, both Puntland and Somaliland are heavily dependent on their relationship with the Ethiopian regime. Earlier this year, more than five thousand Puntland forces went to the south to fight the Islamic Courts alongside Ethiopian troops, Ethiopia in turn pressured Somaliland not to attack Puntland. But few months later, Somaliland forces went deep into Puntland territory attacking Dhahar, a small town in Sanaag region but they were swiftly pushed back and the Somaliland defense minister was sacked.

While Somaliland would like to control Sool and Sanaag to bolster its claim for independence, their leaders realize that the majority of the population in these two regions support Puntland, therefore occasionally stirring the situation is enough for them. But this particular clash has wider implications. This could lead to a tribal war between Dhulbahante and Isaq. It could also prompt Puntland to return its forces from the south making the situation in the north more volatile.

Somaliland has been wary of the Transitional National Government (TFG) too. Somaliland politicians realize that international support for the TFG dwindles their chances of gaining recognition. The current president of the TFG is from Puntland and the former prime minister of the previous government - prior to the Islamic Courts - was from the now disputed city of Las Anod.

Certainly the next few days will see more fighting though the city is like to remain under Puntland control. The president of the TFG Abdullahi Yusuf continues to have strong influence in Puntland, how he will react to these latest clashes will greatly determine the events in the coming few days.

An email from US army, this is weird

I've received an email from admin@army.mil this morning informing that my credit card has expired!. I know it's probably junk mail but with US army's recent history in the region, I must say, I feel uncomfortable receiving anything from them, even receiving junk mail. Here's the message:
from BoaMilitary hide details Oct 1 (1 day ago)
date Oct 1, 2007 7:29 AM
subject BankOfAmerica Military Notification

Dear BankOfAmerica Military VISA card holder, this is an automated message to inform you that your Credit Card has been disabled.

In order to re-activate your account please call free 800-903-0794 .

Please notice that your credit card is now disabled and you will not be able to use it in any financial transactions.

BankOfAmerica Military
Secured Message.

Oct 1, 2007

Ahmadinejad in NY: that was not about free speech

A late comment on Ahmadinejad's visit to NY. Ahmadinejad's address was live on Aljazeera - both English and Arabic - with immediate commentary coming from guests, but I didn't watch it. The next morning, I've asked some friend, some of whom are staunchly anti-Iran - about what they thought of Ahmadinejad and Columbia university presidents attack on him. An overwhelming majority thought Ahmadinejad's address was great.

Respecting your guest and being generous to them is part of Arab and Muslim culture, similarly the act of disrespecting your guest is the most vile act one can commit. The moment Bollinger insulted the Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president had the support of everyone, even those who hated Iran religiously. This was only superseded by Ahmadinejad's reaction to the insults, he responded in a brave and dignified manner.

That's not to say people didn't have things to object to in his speech, many Arabs are alarmed of Iran's growing support of Shia militias in the region - from Hizbollah to Mahdi army - and the perceived Sunni-Shia clash. And the president's response about homosexuality in Iran was equally untrue, I've heard sometime back that Iran is second in number of sex change operations - behind Thailand - and actually the Iranian government pays for it.

The Iranian president wanted to present a different prospective of Iran, that it's righteous and peaceful. He surely had scored big with the Arab public. Arab stations led by Aljazeera took a different prospective than that of the America media, and the guests were also different.

Most of the editorials in NY portrait the host, Columbia university president, as brave but far from it, it was the complete opposite to me. He was simply reacting to the criticism from the media, Jewish lobby, neocon pundits and those who funded the government. And in the process he comprised the whole idea of free speech and the independence of academia from political pressures. The questions is, would he have done the same if it was president Bush?

The pressure paid off, from now on any American academic institution would think twice before hosting anyone with a difference view that what is "acceptable".

I thought this piece described accurately how the whole show had nothing to do with "free speech":
Bollinger, meanwhile, was playing to a different audience. After taking a beating for giving Ahmadinejad a forum, he was eager to show the media, alumni, concerned Jewish organizations and a raft of bellicose neoconservative pundits that he was no terrorist-loving appeaser of Holocaust deniers.

In a narrow sense, both Ahmadinejad and Bollinger achieved their goals. Ahmadinejad showed that he could be dignified in the face of crass American bullies, which will play well abroad -- and may even buttress his dwindling prestige in Iran. And Bollinger showed that he can be a crass American bully, which, in our current political climate, is what passes for "courage."


Sorry, no. "Free speech at its best" is when someone really does speak truth to power, and power stops blathering long enough to engage with inconvenient ideas. If an Iranian professor, inside Iran, had said what Bollinger said to Ahmadinejad, that would have been brave.

Or -- stay with me here -- if Bollinger had invited President Bush to Columbia and made those same unvarnished remarks to him, and Bush had toughed it out and struggled to answer half a dozen unfiltered, critical questions from an audience not made up of his handpicked supporters . . . . Well, that too would have been free speech at its best.

Unfortunately, that's not the kind of thing you're likely to see in America.