Friday, December 30, 2011

Thousands of protesters in Syria 'Crawl to Freedom Square'

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 31, 2011 -- Updated 0355 GMT (1155 HKT)
  • NEW: Opposition group says 382 protests held across Syria
  • At least 35 deaths are reported across the country
  • The Free Syrian Army says it is only conducting defensive operations for now
  • Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets
Cairo (CNN) -- Large-scale anti-government protests and more violence unfolded across Syria Friday as tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on public squares to protest President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The protests coincided with reports of increased violence against demonstrators by al-Assad's security forces, even as an Arab League fact-finding mission works to determine whether the Syrian government is abiding by a peace agreement to end a brutal crackdown on protesters.
As they have in their nearly 10 months of resistance, Syrian activists and opposition groups used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to urge thousands to evade al-Assad's forces and defy government-imposed curfews.
"Today we will go out to the squares not to show the Arab League something, but we will go out because we have rights," Saleh Al-Hamwi, a spokesman for the Syrian Revolution General Council in Hama said in a video statement posted on YouTube. "And we will go after these rights."

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network that claims to have people in various locations in Syria, said 35 people were killed. Deaths occurred in Idlib city, Daraa, Hama, Homs city, the Homs province town of Tal Kalakh near Lebanon, the Damascus suburbs and Abu Kamal in the east.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based opposition group with contacts throughout the country, said that security forces attempting to prevent tens of thousands of protesters from reaching a square in Idlib city shot and wounded 25 protesters. The observatory said demonstrators turned out in Idlib province towns as well.
It also said security forces fired their weapons at demonstrators in Daraa, in the south, and Deir Ezzor, in the east.
CNN cannot independently verify opposition accounts of violence or reports of deaths and injuries in Syria. Al-Assad's government has restricted access by international journalists.
The LCC said there were 382 demonstrations across the country, including a sit-in that drew tens of thousands in front of Arab League observers in Douma, outside Damascus. The opposition group said more than 30,000 demonstrators in the Idlib province town of Saraqeb chanted to topple the regime, and the military fired shots to disperse protesters.
An Arab League observer mission also visited the Damascus suburb of Harasta on Friday, the LCC said. State-run Syrian TV reported a pro-regime demonstration in Homs in support of the Arab League protocol, an effort criticized as pointless by many opposition members.
The Syrian government said Friday, via the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, that Arab League observers visited Douma, portions of Damascus, various neighborhoods in Homs, which opposition groups say has been under siege by Syrian forces.
The Facebook page for the Syrian Revolution General Council, an umbrella organization for opposition groups, is one of the most prominent outlets for the uprising -- with over 330,000 followers who share news, videos, information and ideas online.
Opposition groups have dubbed the rallies "The Crawl to Freedom Square," encouraging protesters to defy what they say are sniper attacks by Syrian forces and crawl to central public squares rather than remain in small protest groups in local neighborhoods.
The reports of violence prompted Britain's Foreign Office on Friday to say it welcomed news that the Arab League planned to increase the number of observers in Syria. An Arab League official has told CNN that 75 monitors are currently in Syria with more expected to arrive in coming days.
"Unfortunately, reports show that the violence has continued in Syria over the past few days. I urge the Syrian government to meet fully its obligations to the Arab League, including immediately ending the repression and withdrawing security forces from cities," Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office's minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

"The Syrian government must allow the Arab League mission independent and unrestricted access to all areas of Syria and to the Syrian people."
A human rights advocate in Beirut, who is talking to people on the ground in Syria, said it appears the monitors have seen violence and are making headway gathering information.
"It does seem they are getting access to people and are getting in to see the reality on the ground," the source said.
The Arab League has suspended Syria's membership over its crackdown, and al-Assad has been under enormous international pressure to end the violence. Earlier this month, al-Assad agreed to a peace initiative with the Arab League that calls for security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees and end violence. Part of the agreement calls for Arab League observers to monitor whether the government abides by the initiative.
More than 5,000 people have died since mid-March, when al-Assad began the crackdown on anti-government protesters calling for his ouster, the United Nations said this month. But opposition groups put the toll at more than 6,000.
The uprising has spawned both the creation of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel force composed of military defectors, and efforts to create a breakaway government. Other opposition groups, most notably the Syrian National Council, have emerged.
Mohamed Hamado, an FSA lieutenant colonel, said the army has been ordered to halt operations since the start of the Arab League monitoring mission.
"We are still being attacked by the Syrian forces, so the nature of our operations is defensive at this stage," he said.
CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, Yousuf Basil, Joe Sterling and Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

Two Maryland abortion doctors face murder charges

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 31, 2011 -- Updated 0014 GMT (0814 HKT)
Steven Brigham and Nicola Riley are awaiting extradition hearings to bring them back to Maryland, police said.
Steven Brigham and Nicola Riley are awaiting extradition hearings to bring them back to Maryland, police said.
  • The doctors were arrested earlier this week in New Jersey and Utah
  • They face five counts of first-degree murder and five of second-degree murder
  • A prosecutor says the charges stem from abortions on viable, late-term fetuses
Elkton, Maryland (CNN) -- Two Maryland doctors face murder charges related to abortions performed on late-term fetuses that were viable, authorities said Friday.
Steven Brigham and Nicola Riley are in jails in New Jersey and Utah, respectively, awaiting extradition hearings to bring them back to Maryland, police in Elkton, Maryland, said in a news release.
The two face identical charges -- five counts each of first-degree murder, five of second-degree murder and one of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
The cases did not fall into the exceptions for aborted fetuses under Maryland law, Kerwin Miller, the deputy state's attorney for Cecil County, told CNN.
Defense attorney Tom Brown told CNN by e-mail that Brigham "has fully cooperated with this investigation" and has not "violated any Maryland laws." Another lawyer for Brigham, Norman Wilson, declined to comment.
Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an attorney at a Baltimore-based law firm that is representing Riley, said, "We believe that the criminal charges are without merit, (and) we believe it is inappropriate for (Riley) to be held without bond."
The investigation began August 13, 2010, when Riley brought a woman into an Elkton hospital due to a "complication resulting from a medical procedure," police said. The woman had driven from New Jersey to Maryland for an abortion, investigators later determined.
Days later, Elkton police searched the abortion clinic where Brigham and Riley work and found several fetuses "in a freezer chest." The fetuses were taken to a medical examiner's office in Baltimore, according to the news release.
The indictment warrant was issued Wednesday, following an investigation. Camden, New Jersey, police took Brigham into custody "without incident" later that night. The 55-year-old doctor has since been held at the Camden County jail.
Riley, 46, was also detained without incident Wednesday evening by the Unified Police Department in Utah. She is being held at the Salt Lake City jail, ahead of an anticipated extradition hearing, Elkton police said.
Miller, who is the chief homicide prosecutor for Cecil County, said more details on the case will not be released until Tuesday.
CNN's Greg Seaby in Elkton and David Mattingly and Tristan Smith in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Two aid workers killed in Somalia capital

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 30, 2011 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
  • Two aid workers were shot at a compound operated by Medecins San Frontieres
  • The workers provided aid to people displaced by famine and violence, the agency says
  • It is the second killing of aid workers in Somalia in a little more than a week
  • Three U.N. World Food Programme workers were killed last week
(CNN) -- A man who was fired by an international aid group in Somalia this week returned to the office and shot dead two aid workers, a government official and the aid agency said Friday.
Thursday's shooting occurred in the capital of Mogadishu at the compound of Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders. The slain workers provided emergency medical relief in the embattled city.
Somali Interior Minister Abdisamad Moalin Mohamud said the alleged shooter, who lost his job Wednesday, was in custody.
"He was not a simple gunman he was an employee with a high local position with the agency and he has a long history of working in the relief field " said Mohamud, who condemned the "ugly" incident.
He stressed that insurgents did not carry out the attack. Somalia has been mired in famine and violence, spurred by the efforts of Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant group that has waged war against the country's weak transitional government.
The shooting remains under investigation.
MSF identified the victims as 53-year-old Philipe Havet of Belgium, who was described as an experienced emergency coordinator who had worked with the agency since 2000 in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone and South Africa.
Also killed was Andrias Karel Keiluhu, known as "Kace", a 44-year-old doctor, who had worked with MSF since 1998 in his native Indonesia, as well as Ethiopia, Thailand and Somalia, the aid agency said.
MSF said the "exact circumstances of the shooting" are unclear.
"MSF's immediate priority is to take care of those most affected by this tragedy, in particular the families and colleagues of the victims," the group said in a statement.
"We are deeply shocked by this tragic event and we will greatly miss Philippe and Kace."
The shooting follows the killing of three U.N. World Food Programme workers last week in the central Somali town of Mataban. They were part of a mission to monitor food distribution at camps.
MSF plans to relocate some of its staff from Somalia, citing security concerns, according to its statement.
Still, an African Union commander told CNN Thursday that its forces in Somalia have successfully pushed Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu.
Journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow contributed to this report

For Somali Women, Pain of Being a Spoil of War


Sven Torfinn for The New York Times
A rape victim in Mogadishu hid her identity. Aid workers say there has been a free-for-all of armed men preying upon women and girls displaced by famine. More Photos »
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The girl’s voice dropped to a hush as she remembered the bright, sunny afternoon when she stepped out of her hut and saw her best friend buried in the sand, up to her neck.


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Her friend had made the mistake of refusing to marry a Shabab commander. Now she was about to get her head bashed in, rock by rock.
“You’re next,” the Shabab warned the girl, a frail 17-year-old who was living with her brother in a squalid refugee camp.
Several months later, the men came back. Five militants burst into her hut, pinned her down and gang-raped her, she said. They claimed to be on a jihad, or holy war, and any resistance was considered a crime against Islam, punishable by death.
“I’ve had some very bad dreams about these men,” she said, having recently escaped the area they control. “I don’t know what religion they are.”
Somalia has been steadily worn down by decades of conflict and chaos, its cities in ruins and its people starving. Just this year, tens of thousands have died from famine, with countless others cut down in relentless combat. Now Somalis face yet another widespread terror: an alarming increase in rapes and sexual abuse of women and girls.
The Shabab militant group, which presents itself as a morally righteous rebel force and the defender of pure Islam, is seizing women and girls as spoils of war, gang-raping and abusing them as part of its reign of terror in southern Somalia, according to victims, aid workers and United Nations officials. Short of cash and losing ground, the militants are also forcing families to hand over girls for arranged marriages that often last no more than a few weeks and are essentially sexual slavery, a cheap way to bolster their ranks’ flagging morale.
But it is not just the Shabab. In the past few months, aid workers and victims say, there has been a free-for-all of armed men preying upon women and girls displaced by Somalia’s famine, who often trek hundreds of miles searching for food and end up in crowded, lawless refugee camps where Islamist militants, rogue militiamen and even government soldiers rape, rob and kill with impunity.
With the famine putting hundreds of thousands of women on the move — severing them from their traditional protection mechanism, the clan — aid workers say more Somali women are being raped right now than at any time in recent memory. In some areas, they say, women are being used as chits at roadblocks, surrendered to the gunmen staffing the barrier in the road so that a group of desperate refugees can pass.
“The situation is intensifying,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations’ special representative for children and armed conflict. All the recent flight has created a surge in opportunistic rapes, she said, and “for the Shabab, forced marriage is another aspect they are using to control the population.”
In the past two months, from Mogadishu alone, the United Nations says it has received more than 2,500 reports of gender-based violence, an unusually large number here. But because Somalia is a no-go zone for most operations, United Nations officials say they are unable to confirm the reports, leaving the work to fledgling Somali aid organizations under constant threat.
Somalia is a deeply traditional place, where 98 percent of girls are subject to genital cutting, according to United Nations figures. Most girls are illiterate and relegated to their homes. When they venture out, it is usually to work, trudging through the rubble-strewn alleyways wrapped head to toe in thick black cloth, often lugging something on their back, the equatorial sun burning down on them.
The famine and mass displacement, which began over the summer, have made women and girls more vulnerable. Many Somali communities have been disbanded, and with armed groups forcing men and boys into their militias, it is often single women, with children in tow, who set off on the dangerous odyssey to refugee camps.
At the same time, aid workers and United Nations officials say the Shabab, who are fighting Somalia’s transitional government and imposing a harsh version of Islam in the areas they control, can no longer pay their several thousand fighters the way they used to. Much as they seize crops and livestock, giving their militants what they call “temporary wives” is how the Shabab keep many young men fighting for them.
But these are hardly marriages, said Sheik Mohamed Farah Ali, a former Shabab commander who defected to the government army.
“There’s no cleric, no ceremony, nothing,” he said, adding that Shabab fighters had even paired up with thin little girls as young as 12, who are left torn and incontinent afterward. If a girl refuses, he said, “she’s killed by stones or bullets.”
One young woman just delivered a baby, half Somali, half Arab. She said she was selected by a Somali Shabab fighter she knew, brought to a house full of guns and handed off to a portly Arab commander, one of the many foreigners fighting for the Shabab.
“He did whatever he wanted with me,” she said. “Night and day.”
She said she escaped when he was sleeping.
The Elman Peace and Human Rights Center is one of the few Somali organizations helping rape victims, run by Fartuun Adan, a tall, outspoken woman whose husband, Elman, was gunned down by warlords years ago. Ms. Adan says that since the famine began, she has met hundreds of women who have been raped and hundreds more who have escaped forced marriages.
“You have no idea how difficult it is for them to come forward,” she said. “There’s no justice here, no protection. People say, ‘You’re junk’ if you’ve been raped.”
Often, the women are left wounded or pregnant, forced to seek help. Ms. Adan wants to expand her medical services and counseling for rape victims and possibly open a safe house, but it is hard to do on a budget of $5,000 a month, provided by a small aid organization called Sister Somalia. Ms. Adan wept on a recent day as she listened to the 17-year-old girl recount the story of seeing her friend stoned to death and then being gang-raped herself.
“These girls ask me, ‘How am I going to get married, what’s going to be my future, what’s going to happen to me?’ ” she said. “We can’t answer that.”
Some of the women in Ms. Adan’s office seem to have come from another time. They have made it here, with help from Elman’s network, from the deepest recesses of rural Somalia, where women are still treated like chattel.
One 18-year-old who asked to go by Ms. Nur, her common last name, was married off at 10. She was a nomad and says that to this day she has never used a phone or seen a television.
She spoke of being raped by two Shabab fighters at a displaced-persons camp in October. She said the men did not bother saying much when they entered her hut. They just pointed their guns at her chest and uttered two words: stay silent.

Efforts continue to stop use of child soldiers in Somalia


Listen / Download
Radhika Coomaraswamy
2011 has been a bad year for Somali children  in a country that has continued to grapple with famine, drought and conflict.
Some of the children are being used as child soldiers by various armed including the Al Shabaab insurgents who are battling the forces of the Transitional Federal Government or TFG.
The government is being assisted by peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to stabilize the country.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict visited Somalia recently to get the government to sign an action plan to stop using child soldiers.
She spoke to Derrick Mbatha about her mission and her hopes for Somali children in 2012.
Duration: 3’35”

Terrorists Struggle To Gain Recruits On The Web

December 29, 2011
Terrorist groups seemed to be all over the Web in 2011. There were al-Qaida videos on YouTube, Facebook pages by Islamic militants in Somalia and webzines — like Inspire — produced by al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen.
If there were an award for the best known terrorist music recording in the past couple of years, it would probably go to the Somali militia group al-Shabab for a YouTube video that extolled the virtues of jihad, or holy war.
The Twitter page for al-Shabab, the radical Islamic group in Somalia that has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. Such groups are active in social media, but have not attracted many recruits. The Twitter page for al-Shabab, the radical Islamic group in Somalia that has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. Such groups are active in social media, but have not attracted many recruits.
The tune became so popular it was actually covered by other aspiring jihadists, who added hip-hop beats and rap lyrics.
The Shabab music video caught the attention of U.S. counterterrorism officials, who saw it as dangerous because it was slick and catchy and in English. The video ignited an effort in Washington to figure out how to counter the use of social media among terrorist groups.
What no one is saying, however, is that the effort to use social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, and even Twitter, hasn't been the recruitment boon that terrorist organizations had been hoping for.
Terrorist groups appear to be still working out the kinks in their new media strategy and concerns about terrorists using social media may be overblown.
"The worry in official Washington has been that kids are going to be attracted by its message and that they are going to spontaneously arise and become terrorists," said Will McCants, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis. "But we just haven't seen the numbers to suggest that that's true. Before social media, after social media ... it is just a trickle of individuals who get involved in terrorist activities."
McCants says U.S. officials may see it as a larger menace than it actually is — perhaps because they don't use social media on a regular basis.
Tracking Websites
It's easy to track how many people are browsing websites and, on the terrorism front, who is entering jihadi chatrooms and threatening to attack. Counterterrorism experts like McCants say there is no research to indicate that the al-Shabab music video — or any other jihadi social media offering, for that matter — is actually winning over many new recruits.
Social media is interesting as a new outlet for terrorist groups, but in terms of achieving al-Qaida's goal or the Taliban's goal of creating new recruits... I think it is a complete disaster.
"Social media is interesting as a new outlet for terrorist groups," McCants said, "but in terms of achieving al-Qaida's goal or the Taliban's goal of creating new recruits ... I think it is a complete disaster."
Bruce Hoffman, a professor and terrorism expert at Georgetown University, agrees to a certain extent. "I don't think anyone is going to be radicalized or mesmerized by this media to pick up a gun or throw a bomb," he said. "But it does provide a very extraordinarily important first step. It certainly serves that purpose."
In other words, while social media may not be turning people into violent jihadists all by itself, it can help that process along.
One of the early players in jihadi social media was a radical Islamic organization called Revolution Muslim. Based in New York, the group's founders claimed that the RevMuslim blog received 1,500 hits a day. Its YouTube channel had some 1,000 subscribers. The group was open about its goals to establish Islamic law in the U.S., destroy Israel and take al-Qaida's messages to the masses.
Revolution Muslim became like a gateway drug for young men, enabling those who might be just tangentially interested in the global jihad to link up with real jihadists in Pakistan and other places.
RevMusim's relative success — a list of its recent members reads like a who's who of American homegrown terrorism suspects — has yet to be repeated by other violent jihadi groups.
Even so, Georgetown's Hoffman says there is a lesson to be learned from all of this: "These jihadi groups have been all over this a lot faster and far more ahead of it than many of their government opponents," he said, "so that it will continue to evolve and they will be able to exploit it even more effectively."
Leads For Law Enforcement
There is one part of government that has learned to exploit the intersection of terrorism and the Web: law enforcement.
The New York Police Department and FBI never shut the Revolution Muslim website down because it provided leads on young men who were inclined toward violent extremism. Now law enforcement can go to Facebook to get the same kind of intelligence.
"I have been very surprised by the number of people who are moving to Facebook who are talking openly about their admiration for al-Qaida," said CNA's McCants. "This can be a great boon for law enforcement because you can watch the flow of propaganda and you can see who is connecting to whom and if they are getting in the orbit of very dangerous people."
Al-Shabab, the Islamist militia that produced that popular music video, now has a Twitter account with thousands of followers. The joke among terrorism experts? About 99 percent of them are journalists and law enforcement.

سياسة عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه

Thursday, December 29, 2011

إيران: إغلاق مضيق هرمز سهل كـ"شربة ماء"


الخميس ، 29 كانون الأول/ديسمبر 2011، آخر تحديث 11:20 (GMT+0400)

طهران، إيران (CNN) -- تتواصل الحرب الكلامية بين إيران والغرب حول مضيق هرمز، إذ أكدت الجمهورية الإسلامية، الأربعاء، إن إغلاقه في غاية السهولة كـ"شربة" ماء"، في رد على انتقادات غربية لتهديدها بإغلاق الممر المائي الذي يعتبر شرياناً أساسياً لتدفق النفط إلى الأسواق العالمية.
وقال قائد سلاح البحرية الإيراني، العميد سياري، إن إيران تمتلك القدرات لإغلاق المضيق بغاية السهولة، "لكن ليس هناك ضرورة لذلك في الوقت الحاضر."
ونقلت وكالة أنباء "فارس" شبه الرسمية عن سياري قوله خلال حديث لقناة "برس" الناطقة بالإنجليزية: إغلاق المضيق سهل جدا للقوات المسلحة الإيرانية ويشبه شرب كاس ماء، كما نقول بالفارسية".
وأضاف المسؤول العسكري الإيراني: "نسعى إلى إحلال الأمن والاستقرار في المنطقة وبهذه المناورات تدرك دول المنطقة إنه بقدراتنا العسكرية يمكن أن يستمر المرور" عبر المضيق"، طبقاً للمصدر.
ويذكر أن الجمهورية الإسلامية تجري منذ عدة أيام مناورات بحرية واسعة في شرق المضيق المائي لأهم في العالم.
وتأتي تصريحات سياري بعد قليل من إعلان البحرية الأمريكية، الأربعاء، إن تهديد إيران بإغلاق مضيق هرمز الاستراتيجي "أمر غير مقبول."
وقالت آمي ديريك فروست المتحدث باسم الأسطول الأمريكي الخامس، ومقره البحرين "كل من يهدد بتعطيل حرية الملاحة في مضيق دولي فإن من الواضح أنه خارج عن المجتمع الدولي.. لن يتم التسامح مع أي تعطيل."
وأشارت فروست إلى أن البحرية الأمريكية "تحتفظ بوجود قوي في المنطقة لردع أو مواجهة أنشطة زعزعة الاستقرار،" وقالت "إننا نجري عمليات الأمن البحري بموجب الاتفاقيات الدولية لضمان الأمن والسلامة في المياه الدولية لجميع السفن التجارية."
وكانت إيران قد لوحت إيران على لسان محمد رضا رحيمي، النائب الأول للرئيس الإيراني، في حال جرى فرض حظر على صادراتها النفطية.
وقال رحيمي إن "قطرة نفط واحدة لن تمر عبر مضيق هرمز إذا كان مقررا فرض حظر علی النفط الإيراني،" وأضاف المسؤول الإيراني: "إيران لا ترغب بإثارة العداء واستخدام القوة، وشعارها هو الصداقة والأخوة، إلا أن الغربيين لا يريدون التخلی عن مخططاتهم."
وجاء التهديد الصريح وقت تقوم فيه البحرين الإيرانية بتنفيذ مناورة واسعة النطاق تمتد لعشرة أيام، وانطلقت المناورات تحت شعار "الولاية 90" في 24 ديسمبر/كانون الأول، على أن يستمر ذلك عشرة أيام، وتمتد المناورات من مضيق هرمز وبحر عمان إلی شمال المحيط الهندي.

Snipers rule the streets in the besieged Syrian city of Homs

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 29, 2011 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Exclusive: Government snipers prowl Homs
  • Homs has been the epicenter of the anti-government protest movement in Syria
  • A filmmaker finds bullet-pocked walls along streets where snipers reign
  • The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed nationwide
  • Syria has restricted access since it began cracking down on protests in March
Homs, Syria (CNN) -- For months, the Syrian city of Homs has been the focus of opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, with almost daily protests since the summer.
More recently, defectors from the military have begun organizing armed resistance. Meanwhile, government forces have tightened their siege of rebellious neighborhoods that are now under the control of the opposition.
A freelance journalist and filmmaker -- who is not named for his own security -- has just left Homs, and over the next few days CNN will be showcasing his remarkable stories from the front lines of a city at war.
Among the bullet-scarred walls of neighborhoods under siege, he encountered the government snipers who prowl the city picking off their victims apparently indiscriminately and at will.
He found snipers stationed on almost every main street, manning checkpoints on both sides and firing at anybody crossing the street between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. the next day -- imposing a kind of unofficial curfew.
He spoke to one woman whose daughter was seven months pregnant when she was shot in the head as she tried to venture out of the house to do some shopping. The snipers kept shooting as relatives tried to reach the pregnant woman where she lay dead in the street, before finally they were able to bring her body back to her mother's home.

To film what was going on, the journalist too had to risk his life on the streets of Homs, with about 1 million inhabitants the country's third-largest city.
View his images in hi-res
"I had to cross several times exactly the same streets where people got shot several minutes before. And you arrive at a scene where half an hour ago someone got shot and 30 minutes later people are crossing the street normally," he said.
"Me crossing the street, I was feeling literally that the sniper is aiming at me and it is up to him if he is going to pull the trigger or not."
Residents describe the daily struggle of life in the cross-hairs, some telling how they throw bread and other supplies across the street to others who cannot safely traverse to reach a shop.
A monitoring mission from the Arab League arrived in the city Tuesday but opposition activists fear they will not see the full extent of a brutal government crackdown that the United Nations says has claimed more than 5,000 lives nationwide.
Despite the days-long military siege, thousands turned out for anti-government demonstrations as the Arab League team entered the city.
The fact-finding team is monitoring an Arab League initiative that calls for Al-Assad's security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees and end violence.
But from what he has seen in Homs, the journalist thinks the point of no return has already been reached. So many people have been killed already that those going out to protest don't believe the authorities would let them live even if they stayed at home, he said.
His is a rare insight into the realities of the situation in Homs. The Syrian government has limited journalists' access to the country since its crackdown on protests began, making it impossible to verify many reports. Most information has come from activist groups seeking to keep the world informed of the ongoing violence. They put the death toll at more than 6,000.
The unrest began in March when protesters, emboldened by democracy movements in Tunisia and Egypt, called for open elections and an increase in political freedoms, and demanded an end to brutal regime actions.
The movement quickly spiraled into a call for the ouster of al-Assad, and the regime cracked down on peaceful demonstrators. The government says it is combating "armed terrorist groups."

'Blue bra girl' rallies Egypt's women vs. oppression

By Isobel Coleman, Special to CNN
December 22, 2011 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
A newspaper photo shows Egyptian security forces beating a female demonstrator during clashes in Cairo on Sunday.
A newspaper photo shows Egyptian security forces beating a female demonstrator during clashes in Cairo on Sunday.
  • Isobel Coleman: Videos of vicious beating of Egyptian woman have prompted protests
  • Women have been active in revolution but largely excluded from political process, she says
  • Coleman says the battle for women's rights in Egypt is a vital but difficult struggle
Editor's note: Isobel Coleman is the author of "Paradise Beneath Her Feet" and a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
(CNN) -- The Egyptian revolution has a new, and shocking, image: It's the Egyptian flag, but the eagle in the middle has been replaced by a simple blue bra. The image refers to the recent, savage beating of an abaya-clad female protester by Egyptian military forces.
Graphic videos of the beating, captured on phones and uploaded to YouTube and Facebook, have quickly proliferated. They show a limp woman being dragged by her arms along the street. Her abaya is ripped open, exposing her naked torso and blue bra. Security forces surround her, many wielding batons. As the beating progresses, the guards hit her and one even stomps on her. Photos of the man bringing his heavy boot down on her bare stomach made the front page of newspapers around the world.
In response, thousands of women -- and men -- marched Tuesday in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Observers say it was the largest demonstration of women in Egypt in decades. Not since 1919, when women mobilized under the leadership of feminist Hoda Sha'rawi in anti-colonial demonstrations against the British have so many Egyptian women taken to the streets. (After representing Egyptian women at the International Women Suffrage Alliance in Rome in 1923, Sha'rawi returned to Cairo and very publicly removed her veil.)
Isobel Coleman
Isobel Coleman
Women have played an important role in Egypt's modern revolution but have struggled to translate their activism into a political role in the new, emerging system. They have been excluded from important decision-making bodies, and the military leadership declined to continue a Mubarak-era quota for women that ensured them at least 64 seats in parliament. Based on early election results, it appears that few women will win a place in the new government.
Nevertheless, one intrepid woman, Bothaina Kamel, is breaking ground with her candidacy for president. The campaign of Kamel, a well-known television presenter, at first was shocking, and certainly quixotic, with polls indicating her support is less than 1%. But her persistence has gained her credibility. While she has little chance of winning, she is helping to normalize the idea of women in politics -- an idea that is deeply contested in Egyptian society. Leaders of Salafi parties, which gained a surprising 20% of the vote in the first rounds of elections, have spoken out against women running for office.
Woman recounts violent attack in Egypt
Female demonstrators attacked
The recent women's protest may breathe life into a movement that desperately needs new energy. In the early weeks of the revolution, women activists tried to bring attention to women's issues but never succeeded in getting the masses behind them.
A women's march in Tahrir Square to mark International Women's Day on March 8 ended badly. Only a few hundred women showed up, and they were soon harassed by a mob of angry men who shouted at them to go home and warned that their demands for rights were against Islam.
Around the same time, the Egyptian military rounded up scores of women demonstrators, and in a show of raw intimidation, subjected many of them to "virginity tests." Military leaders at first denied the accusations, and later defended their abuse by claiming the women "were not like your daughter or mine."
In a remarkable show of courage, one of the victims, Samira Ibrahim, is pursuing a criminal case against the military for her ordeal. The only one of the 17 victims willing to take her case to court, Ibrahim is challenging not only the heavy-handed tactics of the military but also the social stigma associated with her issue.
The woman attacked by the military in the recent protests has declined to come forward, so for now she is only known as "blue bra girl." But her mistreatment seems to be a galvanizing force. Thousands of people joined the march through Cairo on Tuesday, many of them taking to the streets for the first time in outrage. Organizers of the march used the hashtag #BlueBra on Twitter to encourage people to join them.
Some of the protesters held giant posters of the blue bra/flag icon. Others carried photographs of the beating. Men formed a cordon around the women, chanting "The women of Egypt are the red line." Still, many Egyptians were not supportive.
Bloggers and tweeters offered negative comments on the blue bra girl -- criticizing her for being out in public protesting in the first place and accusing her of being provocative for not wearing more clothes under her abaya.
It remains to be seen whether these new humiliations for Egyptian women will lead to significant changes. But given the country's deep-seated patriarchy, women in Egypt should not take their rights for granted.
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AU claims success against Al-Shabaab

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 29, 2011 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
AU claims success against Al-Shabaab

  • African Union forces say they have pushed the terrorist group out of Mogadishu
  • They are expanding operations outside of the capital
  • The mission is to consolidate power for the transitional government
(CNN) -- African Union forces in Somalia have successfully pushed the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab out of the capital Mogadishu, a commander told CNN Thursday.
The African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, is trying to consolidate power for Somalia's weak transitional federal government in Mogadishu, where Al-Shabaab had been especially active in its battle against that government.
"We have managed to beat them off," said Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha, force commander for AMISOM.
The government now has control of nearly 100% of the capital, he said.
"This is a very big achievement in my own view and the views of everybody else," he said.

Elbagir: World is 'failing' Somalia
Al-Shabaab is linked to al Qaeda and is considered a terrorist group by the United States.
In Mogadishu, the group was using conventional military tactics, terrorism and propaganda in its fight against the government.
But now, "they are conventionally defeated" in the capital, Mugisha said.
AMISOM is now expanding its forces into areas surrounding the capital, he said.
Other forces are fighting Al-Shabaab in Somalia as well.
Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October after a rash of kidnappings Kenyan authorities blamed on Al-Shabaab.
Kenyan officials say the kidnappings threatened security and constituted an attack on Kenyan sovereignty. Kenyan forces are ultimately seeking to take the Somali port city of Kismayo, described by the United Nations as a key stronghold and source of cash for Al-Shabaab.

Muslims upset by NYPD to boycott mayor’s breakfast English

Some Muslim leaders in New York declined an invitation to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual year-end interfaith breakfast, citing the New York Police Department’s  infiltration of mosques and alleged spying on Muslim neighborhoods. (File photo)
Some Muslim leaders in New York declined an invitation to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual year-end interfaith breakfast, citing the New York Police Department’s infiltration of mosques and alleged spying on Muslim neighborhoods. (File photo)
Several Muslim leaders have declined invitations to the mayor’s annual year-end interfaith breakfast, saying they’re upset at police department efforts to infiltrate mosques and spy on Muslim neighborhoods.

The imams and activists said in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg that they’re disturbed at his response to a series of stories by The Associated Press detailing New York Police Department intelligence-gathering programs that monitored Muslim groups, businesses and houses of worship.

Bloomberg has defended the NYPD, saying last week it doesn’t take religion into account in its policing.
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser acknowledged Wednesday that about a dozen people turned down the breakfast invitation. But he said “a couple dozen” more said they plan to attend.

“Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD's misconduct,” wrote Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood. “We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

He added: “We are deeply disturbed that to date we have only heard your words of strong support for these troubling policies and violations of our rights. We are equally disturbed by Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly’s denials of what we know to be true as verified by the leaked documents.”

The Muslim leaders said they appreciate the mayor’s staunch support a year ago during an uproar over a planned Islamic center near the World Trade Center site. But they said they were disappointed by what he said after the AP stories since August about the police department’s efforts to infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and mosques with aggressive programs designed by a CIA officer who worked with the department after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The stories disclosed that a team of 16 police officers speaking at least five languages was assigned to use census information and government databases to map ethnic neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Documents reviewed by the AP revealed that undercover police officers known as rakers visited local businesses such as Islamic bookstores and cafes, chatting up store owners to determine their ethnicities and gauge their views. They played cricket and eavesdropped in ethnic cafes and clubs.

The AP stories also revealed that one of the CIA’s most experienced clandestine operatives began working inside the police department in July as the special assistant to the deputy commissioner of intelligence.

The CIA is prohibited from spying domestically. Its unusual partnership with the NYPD has troubled top lawmakers and prompted an internal investigation.

Bloomberg in October defended the arrangement, saying it was necessary in a dangerous world.

“There are people trying to kill us,” he said. “And if the CIA can help us I’m all for getting any information they have and then letting the police department use it as - if it's appropriate to protect you and to protect me.”

In the letter, Abdur-Rashid noted that Muslims comprise at least 10 percent of the city’s population. He said the Muslims leaders were seeking a meeting with the mayor to discuss the issues raised by the reports.

“We believe it is unequivocally wrong and fundamentally misguided to invest law enforcement resources in religious or racial profiling, rather than investigating suspicious activity,” he said. “We seek your clear, unambiguous, public support for the rights and privacy of all New Yorkers, including Muslims; and a condemnation of all policies that profile and target communities and community groups solely based on their religion or the color of their skin.”

From Today’s Zaman: Unmarried women not eligible for legal protection English

Women subject to violence from partners to whom they have not been engaged or married will not be eligible for legal protection against domestic violence, following the removal of the clause “those living together in close relations” from a statute currently being drafted by the Family and Social Policy Ministry.

The provisions of the proposed bill, “The Protection of Women and Family Members from Violence,” which is to be presented in the near future for consideration in Parliament by Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin, will only pertain to couples who are married, engaged or divorced. A woman who has been exposed to or threatened with violence by a man she was formerly engaged to will, however, fall within the ambit of the statute.

For more, please see this:

Report: Israel, US Discuss Excuses for Attacking Iran

Israeli Hawks 'Furious' at Panetta for Comments on War

by Jason Ditz, December 28, 2011
A report today is claiming that the Obama Administration is in secret talks with the Israeli government to figure out exactly what would constitute a good excuse for launching an attack on Iran.
The talks came after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made comments suggesting that attacking Iran is something that the US and Israel “would regret,” apparently causing many top Israeli officials to react furiously and for Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to file an official complaint with the Obama Administration.
Panetta followed up the speech with much more hawkish ones, apparently aimed at publicly placating Israel, but behind the scenes the administration has been seeking to clarify what exactly counts as a “red line” that would give the US and Israel the excuse to launch an attack.
Officially, of course, both sides would insist such an attack was about Iran’s nuclear program. But since both nations have been claiming Iran is within striking distance of acquiring nuclear weapons since the mid-1980s, the excuse isn’t going to really fly internationally, so both nations are hoping to settle on something which could be the “trigger” for the attack.

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Obama Admits Drone War in Somalia Creates Terrorism

John Glaser, December 28, 2011
From yesterday’s Washington Post, in an article entitled “Under Obama, an emerging global apparatus for drone killing“:
But the administration has allowed only a handful of strikes, out of concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.
Here, it is admitted by the Obama administration that al-Shabab is merely “a regional menace” that does not pose a direct threat to the United States. It is also explicitly acknowledged that unleashing a drone war against the group is likely to promote them into an international terrorist group “determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.”
Of course, we’ve been harping on these very points at since the beginning. I’m glad to hear the Obama administration, at least according to the Washington Post, understands the fundamentals of our interventions in Somalia. My fear is obviously that we’ve already passed that threshold.
U.S. intervention in Somalia doesn’t begin and end with the drone war. As Jeremy Scahill has reported, the Obama administration is running secret CIA prisons which confine uncharged individuals in terribly inhumane conditions without access to legal council, building up a Somali intelligence agency and giving weapons to thugs and murderous warlords in a proxy war, and deploying Joint Special Operations Command on the ground in Somalia. Add to that the U.S. cooperation in Kenya’s invasion and military assault on Somalia in recent months, as well as U.S. support for the Ugandan regime which also contributes to fighting al-Shabab. Go back even further to 2006 when the Bush administration sponsored Ethiopia’s military invasion of Somalia, an action which helped give rise to al-Shabab in the first place. Covert missions in Somalia go back to 2003, at least. All this and we haven’t even delved into the Somalia interventions of the 1990′s.
If we’re concerned about turning al-Shabab “from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil” we better do more than give them drone-war-lite. Or rather, we better do much, much less.
(h/t Charles Davis)

Ethiopian court hands Swedish journalists 11-year prison terms


NEW YORK — In a highly politicized trial, two Swedish journalists have been sentenced in an Ethiopian court to 11-year jail terms after being convicted of supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally, according to news reports.
Judge Shemsu Sirgaga ruled today that Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye should serve “rigorous imprisonment,” and said the verdict “should satisfy the goal of peace and security,” Agence France-Presse reported. Last week, the journalists were convicted of illegally entering the eastern Somali-speaking Ogaden region, where government forces are battling separatists with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, according to news reports. The Ethiopian government classified the ONLF as a terrorist organization early this year and has restricted journalists from independently accessing the region.
Prosecutors had asked the judge for a jail term of 18 and a half years for Persson and Schibbye, who were tried under the country’s far-reaching anti-terrorism law, news reports said. Human rights groups have said the law, which has been criticized by human rights monitors in the United Nations, is being used by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to crack down on dissent.
CPJ research found that fundamental principles of due process were violated during the journalists’ trial, including the presumption of innocence, which is enshrined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ethiopia is a signatory. In addition, numerous accusatory public statements by state media and top government officials, including Zenawi, appeared to predetermine the outcome of the trial.
“The harsh sentences against Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye are an affront to justice and press freedom,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “With this politicized case, authorities showed they are intent on quashing coverage of important events in the Ogaden region. The Ethiopian government should unconditionally release Persson and Schibbye, and allow independent access to the Ogaden region.”
Ethiopian officials have denied using the trial as politically motivated reprisal. “How can there be a political motive when prosecutors provided evidence throughout the trial and the defendants themselves admitted to entering the country illegally with rebels?” Justice Ministry Spokesman Desalegn Deressa told Reuters. Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon accused international human rights groups of being “interested only in regime change,” he told AFP. “We feel these people do not understand the concept of rule of law,” Simon said.
The journalists’ defense lawyers have not yet said whether they will appeal the sentences, news reports said.
In a statement today, European Union High Representative Spokesperson Catherine Ashton expressed “serious concern” about the judgment and the verdict, and said that “the sentencing on terrorism-related charges raises concerns about the freedom of media and expression in Ethiopia.”
With seven journalists behind bars, including Persson and Schibbye, Ethiopia trails only Eritrea among Africa’s worst jailers of journalists, according to CPJ research. Ethiopia’s repression of the media has driven the world’s largest number of journalists into exile over the last decade.
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization
that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Mohamed Keita
Africa Advocacy Coordinator
Tom Rhodes
East Africa Consultant
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New Egypt, Somaliland set to establish diplomatic ties


Egypt ready to open new page in relations with Somaliland
Photograph: Somaliland FM Dr Mohamed Abdullahi Omar meets with Egyptian officials in Cairo
HARGEISA — Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs, arrived in the Egyptian capital on Saturday and held immediate talks with officials on various regional affairs, it was officially reported.
Press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Dr Omar accompanied by Mr Hersi Ali Hassan, Ministers for Presidential Palace, embarked on his first diplomatic mission to the North African country.
The statement added the minister received an official invitation from Egypt for talks. The dialogue is aimed at establishing diplomatic relations and developing bilateral cooperation in all areas for the first time, it said.
Upon arrival, the two ministers were greeted and welcomed to the Arab state by Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Mrs Mona Omar and Special Representative to Somalia and Somaliland Mr Ayman Magdy.
Dr Omar is expected to hold a series of bilateral talks with senior Egyptian officials. Somaliland said that the new Egyptian authorities had expressed a willingness to open a new page in bilateral relations with Hargeisa.
Ties between the two African states have always been sour but Somaliland has reacted positively to the new initiative. It expressed optimism and expects things to normalize between Cairo and Hargeisa following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. For years Hargeisa accused Egypt of blocking its bid to gain full recognition. It argued Egypt had used its strong position within the AU and the Arab League, also a strong ally of U.S. and Israel, to block Somaliland recognition.
Egypt’s government has always maintained it recognizes the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, which controls only few blocks, as the sole authority in Somalia. After a devastating conflict with Mogadishu that left hundreds of thousands dead, Somaliland ended its voluntary union with Somalia in 1991. The Hosni Mubarak regime refused to respect the decision of the people of Somaliland. Somaliland voluntarily unified with its southern neighbor July 1960, a union that was never rectified.
After the toppling of long-time dictator Mubarak, Egypt said it was open to all countries and was seeking new relations. This visit to Cairo by Dr Omar is the first its kind by a Somaliland official since declaring the restoration of its sovereignty in 1991. It remains to be seen if the diplomatic trip will bear any fruits in the near future.
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The partition of Somalia and the politics of destruction
There have been some thought-provoking pieces recently on the balkanization or partitioning of Somalia. The best of these pieces, in my opinion, have been Professor Michael Weinstein’s “Kenya’s Premature Invasions of Southern Somalia Stalls Balkanization” published on Garowe Online and Abdishakur Jowhar’s “The End of Somalia: Scenario of Partition” published on Somalilandpress. Professor Weinstein’s piece is a methodical analysis of the realpolitik motivations underlying the efforts of Ethiopia and Kenya to establish statelets beholden to, and dependant upon, them within Somalia and the political trends within, and outside, Somalia supporting or opposed to such efforts. Mr. Jowhar’s piece, on the other hand, is the anguished and visceral cry of opposition to these efforts, and the Somali political actors that are, wittingly or unwittingly, supporting them, that can only come from a Somali patriot who feels the dismemberment of his country as deeply as wounds on his body.
This is an important topic that needs to be addressed seriously and both Professor Weinstein and Mr. Jowhar are to be commended for raising it in their inimitable ways. However, it is necessary to define our terms in order to bring clarity and transparency to the discussion or debate. In this context, we have to ask which “Somalia” is in imminent danger of being partitioned or balkanized? Professor Weinstein’s article is specifically concerned with the potential partition of south and central Somalia into fiefdoms and spheres of influence controlled by Kenya and Ethiopia respectively, thereby excluding Somaliland and Puntland from the central thrust of its discourse (in the interest of full disclosure, I should add that Professor Weinstein and I have exchanged correspondence on his piece). Mr. Jowhar’s piece also seems to have south and central Somalia as its principal focus, in view of its exposition of what it terms “state-lets” in that territory and its concentration upon Kenya, Ethiopia, IGAD and UNPOS as the external actors militating and scheming to effect partition.
The second term that needs to be examined and defined is “partition”. We all know that, in this context, partition means political division, however the fact is that the Somali people have been partitioned since the 1884/85 Berlin Conference at which the European Powers divided Africa between themselves. In the modern era, the Allied victory in World War II set the parameters of this division which has resulted in the partition of the Somali people between independent Djibouti, a resurgent Somaliland, the Somali state in Ethiopia (5th Province), the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya, and south/central Somalia, within which the autonomous region of Puntland has managed to avoid the anarchy and state collapse prevalent in the rest of the erstwhile UN Trust Territory administered by Italy. Thus, partition is not new to the Somali people; indeed it has been a feature of their political existence and reality since their first contact with European imperialism at the end of the 19th century. It’s not even new that it is Ethiopia and Kenya that are scheming to partition Somali people since both of these countries insisted upon sovereignty over some of their Somali neighbours in 1959 and 1962 respectively. In both instances, Britain acceded to the wishes of the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments, and granted Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia what is now termed the 5th Province in the first and Kenyatta’s Kenya the NFD in 1962, in both cases against the express wishes of the people of those regions and contrary to the promises made by Britain to them.
Since the “Somalia” which is the focus of this discussion is but one part of the territories occupied by the Somali people and which forms the residual rump of the erstwhile Somali Republic established in 1960 by the un-ratified union between ex-British Somaliland and the ex-UN Trust Territory, and since partition has formed the political reality of the Somali people since the late 19th century, we are forced to ask, why is the present prospect of the partition of south/central Somalia so noteworthy and different? Both Professor Weinstein and Mr. Shakur come to the same answer but through different routes. The danger, as Professor Weinstein sees it, is that “The Somali people would be deprived of a political community and their political self-determination.”, while Mr. Shakur sees Somalia reduced from nation to “a group of desperate wild tribes each entirely focused in a life and death struggle against the neighbouring tribe.” Thus, both writers see the dangers of the current potential partition of south/central Somalia in terms of the eradication of Somali nationalism and political self-determination.
Now we have reached the crux of the matter. As with all analysis of Somali politics, we have to address the issue of Somali nationalism and the fission-fusion paradox that defines its very nature and essence. It is not necessary to go into a lengthy analysis of Somali nationalism (which I have undertaken under separate cover), but suffice it to say that since their first experience of European colonialism, the Somali people have responded with nationalist, religious and cultural resistance. Modern Somali nationalism dating back to the end of World War II was characterised by its pan-Somali and irredentist focus with the goal of uniting all the Somali people in one state – the Greater Somalia vision that was endorsed and championed unsuccessfully by Aneurin Bevan (Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party) prior to his death in 1960. This dream of Greater Somalia developed in the heady days of anti-colonial nationalism and the agitation it spawned, marks the zenith of the fusion strand of Somali nationalist ethos. Indeed, the creation of the Somali Republic in 1960 through the ill-fated union of British Somaliland and Italian-administered Somalia was but the first step in the realisation of this dream.
Unfortunately, there was a nightmare lurking within the pregnant promises of the dream of Somali unity, and this evil first surfaced in the unequal and oppressive terms of union exacted by the leaders of Italian-administered Somalia from their less experienced and more naive brethren of British Somaliland. When the union constitution was put to them for ratification in 1961 in a national referendum, more than two thirds of the voting public in the ex-British Protectorate rejected it, while a similar majority in the ex-UN Trust Territory ratified it. Thus, did Somali nationalism and politics begin to swing from the fusion pole at one end of the spectrum towards the fission pole at the other. This manifestation of fission in Somali politics and nationalism reached its zenith during the final decade of the Siyad Barre dictatorship when political power became concentrated in the hands of only one sub-clan, with the inevitable result that the country fractured along clan lines and descended into the anarchic madness that continues to persist in south/central Somalia to this day.
The only part of the erstwhile Somali Republic that has managed to fashion a new model of politics, peaceful co-existence and underlying rationale for allegiance to a state across clan divisions is Somaliland, which has developed a functioning, democratic system of government rooted in local culture and traditions with a free and robust press. This system can be used as a useful and effective model by the people of south/central Somalia to establish a state, but it cannot be imposed upon them by any external actors, whether their intentions are benign or malign. The simple and inescapable fact is that the persistence of the fission tendency of Somali politics in south/central Somalia, and the attendant atomisation of society into vicious inter and intra-clan rivalries, is a legacy of the Siyad Barre dictatorship that has been co-opted and exacerbated by warlords, self-appointed ‘civil society leaders’, Islamist militias and Diaspora carpet-baggers in search of easy money and self aggrandisement. It is the ugly and venal tribalism of this politics, and its manipulations by external actors, that Mr. Jowhar decries so emphatically and eloquently, and which Professor Weinstein de-constructs so emphatically.
The fact that the people of south/central Somalia have reached the end of their patience with the anarchy that has blighted their lives for so long, and the self serving straw men masquerading as leaders that are maintaining it, is evidenced by the repeated, but unpublicised, missions of tribal leaders from this territory to Somaliland requesting its assistance in facilitating genuine, Somali-sponsored and Somali-driven, national reconciliation. Supporting and facilitating genuine, grass-root efforts at national reconciliation among its brothers to the south is a moral, religious, humanitarian and fraternal duty that Somaliland must and will discharge. It has always been the conviction of many, including this author, that national reconciliation in south/central Somalia can be best achieved with the active support, sponsorship and mediation of Somaliland. The proposals of successive governments in Somaliland to play such role have been repeatedly rebuffed by both the international community and the self-appointed and self-serving leaders of south/central Somalia, the very architects of its misery! Quelle surprise, as the French would say!
The fact remains, however, that the evil which grips south/central Somalia is not partition, nor is it the designs of Kenya and Ethiopia to carve out spheres of influence within this territory. Rather, it is the inability and unwillingness of the social, religious and political leadership of the people of this territory to voice a vision of politics beyond narrow clan allegiance and partisanship, i.e. to transcend the fission principle of Somali politics. Neither Kenya nor Ethiopia is evil in pursuing its national interest vis-à-vis the anarchy and violence across its borders – this is called diplomacy and foreign policy. It is up to the people of south/central Somalia to pursue their own enlightened self interest and develop a modus operandi for peaceful co-existence, representative government rooted in their own culture and effective institutions. Unfortunately, the long suffering people of this territory are afflicted by the twin, linked plagues of a venal and self-serving leadership and a disinterested international community which has delegated responsibility for them to the best harbinger of inertia known to man – a bloated and equally self-serving bureaucracy.
In conclusion, I cannot but agree with Professor Weinstein and Mr. Jowhar that partition of south/central Somalia into ‘spheres of influence’ between Ethiopia and Kenya, and that this process has not only commenced, but is already quite advanced. However, I believe that this fact is not the disease, but rather one symptom of an underlying malaise which is destroying this territory politically, economically and socially. The disease is a corrupted polity characterised by venal politics and the introverted, fissile nationalism that breeds and sustains it. The root causes of the threat and reality of partition lies within. I can only conclude with a co-opting a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “the fault dear Messrs Weinstein and Jowhar lies not in Kenya and Ethiopia but in ourselves”. Until the politics of destruction is eradicated from Somalia, its continued misery is assured as is the potential and danger of partition.
Ahmed M.I. Egal
Written: 26 December 2011