Monthly Archives: June 2008
Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia Deputy Chairman Abdirahman Abdishakur, who was in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, rejected the terrorist appeal.
“I do not think we are interested in al-Qaida’s statements and they have nothing to do with Somali issues. Al-Qaida has not got any base in Somalia and they always issue statements against any peace process. I do not think their statements are relevant to the Somali people,” said Abdishakur.
Abdishakur has exposed al Qaeda’ attempted interference for what it is: a transparent and ill-substantiated ploy to exacerbate tensions on the ground, impede any progress toward a cessation of hostilities, and, most likely, to induce fear in those committed to bringing peace to Somalia.
Unfortunately, not all of Somalia’s fractured opposition has so clearly repudiated al Qaeda’s involvement, and the more militant groups — those that did not sign the ceasefire — share the commitment to unraveling the deal. Leaders of these organizations called the peace agreement “rubbish and inconsequential” and vowed to undermine it through increased attacks — promises they have sadly followed up on. No sign yet that al Qaeda involvement is any more than hortatory, but it would not be the first time that the organization operated out of Somalia, or fed on another country’s instability and violence. More terrorist activity is, of course, the last thing that Somalia needs right now.
Foreign Policy’s long-awaited ranking of “top public intellectuals” is now available, and earning second place is Muhammad Yunus, a pioneering microfinancer and a member of the board of the UN Foundation, which sponsors this site. FP’s description:
More than 30 years ago, Yunus loaned several dozen poor entrepreneurs in his native Bangladesh a total of $27. It was the beginning of a lifetime devoted to fighting poverty through microfinance, efforts that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Over the years, his Grameen Bank, now operating in more than 100 countries, has loaned nearly $7 billion in small sums to more than 7 million borrowers–97 percent of them women. Ninety-eight percent of the loans have been repaid.
Our week long collaboration with Grist rolls on today with a discussion prompted by On Day One user taylorshelton who suggests government subsidies for non-renewable energy should be eliminated.
Eliminate all subsidies for traditional fuels (coal, oil and nuclear) and invest all energy-related funds into renewable energy resources like solar, wind and cellulosic ethanol with the goal of completely eliminating dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Yesterday, Mark cited a UNICEF report on the abhorrent crimes committed against children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Via FP Passport, though, I came across this somewhat surprising article in the Christian Science Monitor, describing that, even according to the UN force operating in Haiti, the situation is not quite as bad as it seems:
Kidnappings, gang violence, drug trafficking, corrupt police, flaming road blockades.
The reports out of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere are enough to keep the most adventurous traveler away.
But according to security experts and officials from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is no more violent than any other country in Latin America.
“It’s a big myth,” says Fred Blaise, spokesman for the UN police force in Haiti. “Port-au-Prince is no more dangerous than any big city. You can go to New York and get pickpocketed and held at gunpoint. The same goes for cities in Mexico or Brazil.”
Haiti’s negative image has devastated its economy, whose once-booming tourism industry is now limited largely to aid workers, peacekeepers, and diplomats.
But UN data indicate that the country could be among the safest in the region.
While such data does not diminish the reprehensible nature of any number of kidnappings and rapes — nor is it entirely reassuring to think that one may “only” be “pickpocketed and and held at gunpoint” — there does seem to be some degree of sensationalism in reporting rampant violence in Haiti. The situation there is still intolerable, with hundreds of thousands suffering from hunger and extreme poverty, but perhaps a little tourism would help Haitians more than it might put travelers at risk.
Last week, we flagged press reports about new fighting on the Djibouti-Eritrea border, apparently sparked when Eritrean soldiers raided a Djibouti border town. Following the clashes, the United States (which has a special forces base in Djubouti) condemned Eritrea’s “military aggression.” The Security Council also issued a presidential statement to the same effect.
Today, the Security Council is expected to take up the matter again. The ever-valuable Security Council Report analyzes the Council dynamics at work during this debate.
There is broad sympathy in the Council for Djibouti’s situation, and strong concern about the need to avoid escalation of the recent fighting. Members also seem increasingly alarmed by the potential for a generalised conflict in East Africa, not the least involving Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti. Most members seem frustrated about and alienated by Eritrea’s actions.
One option in the minds of some members has been a fact-finding mission, but it is unclear if and when members will be ready to adopt a statement or a resolution. This is likely to depend on the prospects of current regional efforts as well as the situation on the ground.
In related news, the Council considered on Monday a plan to officially disband the United Nations Mission to Eritrea/Ethiopia (UNMEE), which was forced to withdraw from Eritrea this spring after Asmara effectively cut off its access to fuel. The council took no immediate action though.
Early yesterday morning the press caught glimpse of a new video in which a known al Qaeda associate calls for attacks on the United Nations in Somalia. In a separate incident, the local Somali head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Hassan Mohamed Ali, was abducted from his home Saturday evening by masked gunmen.
It would be pure speculation to say the two incidents are related. That said, it would not be unreasonable conjecture. Al Qaeda has targeted the United Nations before. In December 2007, suicide bombers detonated twin bombs outside two UN offices in Algiers, killing 17 UN workers. And of course there was the bombing of the United Nations compound in Iraq in August 2003, which killed the diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others.
Regardless of whether or not these incidents are linked they are very disturbing developments, and timed to undermine a recently brokered ceasefire between Somalia’s warring factions. We will stay on this story.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.