No to Savagery in Somalia – The Case of Aisha

Recently an incident occurred in Somalia’s Kismayo city that shocked most of the Somalis and showed the savagery some of the Somali radical factions are capable of.

A young girl, Aisha Ibrahim Dhuholow, who was 14 years old according to her father (23 according to the Islamic kangaroo court that ended her life) was stoned to death because she reportedly committed adultery.

The spokesman for the radical faction Alshabab that rules Kismayo, Sheikh Hassan Yakoub Ali was interviewed by VOA Somali service and stated that the girl was 23 years old, married(making adultery pubishable by death as opposed to lashings for unmarried women) and came to the authorities by herself reporting that 3 men raped her. The authorities arrested the men and soon their kangaroo court passed not a religious verdict but a ruling that reflected the tribal balance in the area and proved what you may call the jungle law in Somalia which is the survival of the most powerful.

The girl was coerced into saying the 3 arrested men were 3 men she made consensual sex with, that the 3 men who raped her are still at large and that she admits adultery and accepts the court’s ruling.  In no time, she was stoned to death in front of a large crowd in front of the old stadium with poor Aisha screaming as she was led to a pit up to her shoulders and stoned, dragged out 3 times to check if she died. Unable to bear, some of her relatives tried to run towards her and were frightened with a barrage of bullets killing a child.

VOA interviewed her father who is in a refugee camp who challenged everything the spokesman claimed. The girl was only14 years old, not married and indicated that she did not understand what was at stake. He also condemned claiming this was murder and he would request full compensation. The girl’s sister was as shocked and claimed that they have not approached the girl’s family as required.

I am shocked as every Somali was shocked. The whole world is shocked. How can the victim who reported a rape be the one who ends up dead unless there is foul play and bad intention? How can the spokesman sheepishly tell us that the 3 rapists at large would be brought to justice when the only witness to the rape who is the victim is stoned to death? How can it be possible for a rape victim to identify the rapists and then change the story unless under duress?  This reminds us of the May 2006 Islamic courts similar kangaroo court when they forced a 16 year old boy to stab continuously a man who reportedly killed his father in from of thousands of people in Mogadishu (picture  on the right).

Somalis are shocked by this incident and condemn it. In a popular site, the story attracted over 150 comments from Somalis and a sample of these indicated an outright 10 to 1 rejection and condemnation of this inhumane act. Like the Somalis, the world also expressed outrage and condemnation both at individual, state and organizational levels.

It is illiterate people like these with misguided concepts and sick minds who mete out cannibalistic acts that are not only unislamic but break every rule of the Koran, the Towrah, Bible and human thinking.

May Allah rest Aisha’s soul in peace and lighten the hardship on her parents and Friends.

As for those who did this heinous act, we Somalis and the world will not forget and will not forgive.

Nostaglia for Somalia’s Siyad Barre Era

On October 21, 1969 Somalia  witnessed a bloodless coup that brought to power President Mohamed Siyad Barre and was the beginning of over 2 decades of military power. This was part of a string of coups that occured in Africa during the last three years of the sixties decade fron Libya to Sudan to Somalia and a lot of Sub-Sahara Africa.

This is not about his dictatorship or the atrocities that happened in his final years or the debacle of the Ogaden war or the other 1001 debatable secrets in the October revolution pandora box. All these have been recorded and renarrated, debated and discussed, printed and prosed.

Rather this is about the nostaglia for what I can remember of Somalia when it was a country, a nation and a state. When we had a National theatre and Heesaha Hirgaly. When we could ride the Sitay Ma noogto and drive to Afgooye without bullets and bombs. This is about a girl walking past midnight to an October or 1st July parade simulation without being harassed or raped. This is about a nomad walking a three days journey across other clan territory in search of a lost camel without fear of being killed and expecting to be hosted and fed with meat and milk. This is about those city people excursions to the country side to escape the city’s hectic life. This is about Mogadishu ‘s 1001 melting pot characters of every shade and colour of Somalia’s clan culture. This is about neighbours next door who do not know each other’s tribe and dont care. This is about going to Cinema Ceel Gaab and watching an Ivan Cliff film. This is about sitting  on the stair steps of your Boondheere bechalor room and watching the people pass. This is about going to any district and watching a weekend popular cultural outing. This is longing for Burco and Beerta Xoriyada or Bosaso and Beletweyn, Borama’s banaan  and Isha Baidoa. This is about Beeraha Kismayo and Badda Barawe and the other hundreds of other Somali towns.

Siyad Bare’s Somalia was the last Somalia we remember as a country. It is like having a lot of money and spending it using the notes and ignoring and throwing the coins. But as you run out of the notes you look for  the coins not finding them except one or two that are rusted, dirty, damaged and unacceptable now. That is how Somalia was and is now. Powerful, united and among nations then.  But weak, divided and an outsider now.

I long for that Somalia. Nostglia in its extremest. May we see all of us on our feet and then hold our nation togather and bring it its glory and rightful place among nations.

Vivo Somalia!

12 October – Somalia’s Flag Day

Our flag is today torn, discarded and ignored. The very people who should have protected it are now fighting clannish and personal wars and for over 17 years, they have refused statehood and therefore the hoisting of our blue flag with the white star in the middle.

But the silent majority and the millions of Somalis who have been killed, made homeless and denied their rights will one day stand in fury and raise high the Somali flag and will put it among the flags of the nations of the world.

We pray to God to put sense into the heads of our warlords and medialords and tribal lords and make possible things to flow back to normal and restore Somalia’s glory and our flag’s honor. Amen.

What a better medium than to listen to that icon of Somali songs Maryan Mursal and her touching song of Somali Udiida Ceeb (Prevent shame from Somalia).

God bless Somalia. God bless us all.

Samia Yusuf Omer – So Inspirational

There comes a time when you are stuck for words and just freeze. You freeze in awe and want to communicate to the subject. You are moved. You want to hug that person. You want to say God bless you.

When I first read about Somalian Samia Yusuf Omer the day after she ran the 200m race for Somalia, I was moved, choking and moving my head sideways. She was so motivational and inspirational. A model in a war-ravaged country. That she came in last is a fact and not news. But it is the impact she had on the spectators, her co-runners, people who read her story across the globe and Somalis like me that outweigh all the gold medals one hopes for. Above all, the biggest achievement is the feeling of a dream come true for Samia in going to the Olympics against all odds and raising Somalia’s flag in Peking at a time when Somalia appears to be forgotten.

Samia was born March 1991 on the eve of the war that brought an end to Siyad Barre’s rule. So she has never seen the normal life that had prevailed in her country. She is a civil war child. As she grew older, she developed an interest in atheletics in a very harsh enviroment. In a July 2008 pre-olympics interview she gave to the BBC, she describes the difficulties she faces in training, the insults she is subjected to as a female in a traditionally male dominated country where some of the factions look down to films, sports and music as evil hobbies and more so when it relates to a female.

Samia had competed in the 100 metre sprint at the African Athletics Championships in May 2008 finishing last in her first round heat.

At the Peking Olympics, she tried the 200m coming last with a time of 32.16 seconds. Was she very disappointed? Yes. How did she see the whole saga? This is what she said to an Australian Yahoo Sports Journalist:

“We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.”

As her story was wired across the globe, people poured their hearts out to her. Hunreds of comments were made as the story and other Samia bylines were webbed across. Hundreds of bloggers picked up the story and dedicated pages. American patriots, Japanese mothers, Icelandic students, Russian teenagers, Sports fanatices and everyone who read the story expressed his/her awe. There were even Samia dedicated forums and Youtube entries. Perhaps all  had in common what one Canadian lady wrote: ” I cried. I can not continue. Hey Samia, keep on!”

I can only add God bless you Samai. Here is the link to the original story.

Somalia Ranked Number 1 in Global Corruption

Recently Somalia was ranked the worst in the Corruption Preceptions Index appearing in the unenviable position of country no. 180 out of 180 countries. This index is produced by Transparency International which is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

Who are the top 5 corrupt countries? They are – Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan in that order. They all share the the status of countries that have been ravaged by war or ruled by a junta and survive on handouts from donor countries although Iraq possesses the largest oil reserve deposits in the world.

How were the East African Countries ranked? Somalia (180), Sudan (173), Burundi (158), Kenya (147), Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda (126) with the best East African slot shared by Tanzania, Ruwanda and Djibouti (102).

Who are the 5 least corrupted countries? Three countries shared the number 1 position – Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden followed by Singapore and Finland.

This index was started in 2001. How was Somalia ranked since that time? Somalia started appeared from 2005 and was ranked: 2005 (144 out of 158), 2006 (Not ranked), 2007 (179 out of 179) and 2008 (180 out of 180 countries).

The index and the accompanying notes did not of course indicate the sources of their ranking as understandably this will produce howls, rages and what not.

But all Somalis know quite well that corruption is the number one occupation of politicians.

Both in Somaliland and Puntland contracts will not go through unless a cut of 5-10% goes to one of the key ministers. In one of this two entities there is a minister called Mr 5%!

The TFG is a corruption elephant. While president Yusuf is very well known as a man who does not siphon off money and other government assets, he reportedly buys influence among parliamentarians and groups to obtain their support. Ex president Qasim has amassed wealth from government coffers and also bought support. One of the major fall offs between Yusuf and ex Prime Minster Geedi was the disappearance of a USD32m grant from Saudi Arabia. 

The two most corrupt entities in Somalia are the members of parliament and the UNO. While not spending one hour on key parliamentary issues, the parliamentarians have been holding frequent vote of confidence sessions for every government since 2005 and members will change positions by the hour depending on whom they met last and the size of the envelope passed under the table. The UNO has registered over 1,000 local NGOs across Somalia most of which are fronts by people with UNO connections set up for the sole purpose of defeating any audit trail for the millions of dollars granted to Somalia.

The newest rage is now forced corruption. Call it ransom for hijacked ships off Puntland and the Gulf of Aden or payouts to Islamic outfits around Mogadishu. The recent closure of the airport in the capital and Alshabab’s recent warnings to Care International and other charity organizations fits into this category.

Oil exploration companies, nuclear waste dumping organizations and even getting yourself appointed as an ambassador all get accomplished with shady deals. The two or three private airlines operating inside Somalia are notorious for arranging huge payouts to the prime minister and Haj minister of the day to be granted the lucrative Haj Pilgrim flights.   

Even the Somali media has a large stake in the corruption pie. The BBC uses free lancers across Somalia who provide pro Islamic Courts propaganda in their daily dispatches reportedly with the blessing of the BBC Somali section chief. Puntland and Somaliland media generate programmes that favour these entities and are anti-Islamists and pro-Ethiopian. HornAfric and Radio Shabelle sound like the mouth pieces of the opposition. Which brings home the fact that the Somalia media is one of the high profile corruption spinners.

A difficult web to untangle? It sure is. And it maybe sometime before we can see an improvement in Somalia’s ranking in the Corruption Preceptions Index.

Somalia: Failed State Master in Piracy

Since 1991 when Siyad Barre was driven out of Somalia, it has gone through every upheaval mentioned in the books and its people were subjected to every evil known to man. Stateless, leaderless, rudderless and lost, Somalia was dubbed a dozen names that put us to shame every time we saw them printed: failed state, forgotten country, terrorist enclave, notorious land for drug peddlers and criminals, etc etc. As if the cold war scars were not enough, Somalia was again a pawn used in the war on terrorists with Alqaida establishing cells and local jihadist personalities and the West sticking a red danger label to it and establishing local stooges and neighbouring states to conduct its own proxy war against Alqaida.

 And then enters something Somalia seems to excel – Piracy.  A lot of people and Somalia desk experts are making a lot of noise and telling us different things about this piracy but none is actually saying what it really is. They are only talking about paying ransom and containing the danger by escorting ships. So in comes a flotilla of war ships from a dozen countries and all this against a very small number of naive teenagers turned pampered pirates. This is like trying to address a rat menace in the house with a shot gun.

What is the real issue? How did it start? Who are the stakeholders? What is the solution?  Read further:

Origins: These were initially a very small group of fishermen. As large fishing ships arrived in their localities, their livelihood was threatened. These big ships were using internationally prohibited fishing nets that collect all fish  including small ones. Sometimes when the local fishermen challenge them, the later were chased away with canons of hot water. There were even few reports of the large ships intentionally trying to run over the small boats.

Tsunami: Things changed as Tsunami hit the Somali coast. As the scale of the disaster become known, a lot of international assistance came. Nearly all the small boats used by the Somali fishermen were swept away and the United Nations provided new stronger boats and other fishing facilities to the affected fishermen. The new faster boats enabled the fishermen to go further to the sea. In the meantime, large fishing vessels from different countries increased as the local adminstration started giving fishing licenses and providing local guards onboard these ships to fence off the challenges from local fishermen. 

Piracy: As the situation become worse for the fishermen, lone acts of attacks started but these were low profile as both the local gurards onboard the ships and a company contracted to guard the coast prevented any clash. As the Pundland government become weaker due to the Somali livestock import ban by the gulf countries, corruption and other ills, elements of the contracted company and the original fishermen upped thier challenges to the big fishing ships eventually capturing one or two and demanding Ransom.

Ransoms and the Insurance Companies: Initial ransoms started in the range of $50,000 to $ 200,000 and were mainly from privalely owned fishing boats and tourist yachts.  When the first ransoms were paid, this made possible for the pirates to acquire bigger boats and weaponry enabling them to capture larger commercial and cargo ships. Here insurance companies or ship owners joined the fray and started paying the ransoms quickly as the goods on the ships were of substantial value. The pirates upped these ransoms to an average of $1000,000 per ship. A recent estimate put their annual income at $100m. This is three times the combined budget of both Puntland and Somaliland who are both affected by this piracy which now expanded to the Aden Gulf and to the Indian Ocean outside the Somali nautical 200 mile limit. There were recent reports that outside parties from organized crime as well as local administration officials were involved in these piracy boom

Solution: In an alarmist knee jerk reaction a number of countries with vested interests (illegal fishing off Somalia coast) assembled a flotilla of navy ships and started to escort ships passing off Somalia. The US, French and other country navies also dispatched one or two Navy ships each. The French conducted two successful raids on some of the pirates and hauled them off to Paris to put them on trial. How serious the issue is was highlighted recently when they seized an Ukrainian ship with 32 T-72 tanks on board and demanded ransom of $35m later reduced to $20m as I write this. Such tanks finding their way into Islamist hands frightened a lot of people. How can this be solved?

According to the pirates, leave our shores and no piracy will happen. This is both impossible and untrue. The pirates are lying because they are hijacking ships outside Somali waters. Leaving of the Somali coast is impossible since as long as there is no credible government, illegal fishing will continue to be conducted due to its high profitability and the abundence of fish. The current cycle is encouraged by the insurance companies and ship owners who are ready to pay the $1m ransom than lose lives, potential business and millions of dollars if the ship is abandoned. Flush with ransom money, the pirates have demonstrated how they can acquire faster boats, armour, army and corrupted the local administrations make themselves the de facto power in the towns from where they operate.

But then these do not operate from their speedy boats out in the sea all the time. They have bases on shore. Here is where the solution ought to be searched. In the cities of Eil, Garaad, Hobyo and Harardheere all in Puntland and the Cenral Somalia and remotely Bossasso. Solution 1 is to establish a small force independent from the local administrations not more than 100 to ensure that their local presence is terminated. Solution 2 neutralize all the speed boats the pirates use. It will be a surprise to the west to know these are not more than 10 and a monitoring ship they put out to sea to look for victim ships approaching the coast. These speed boats and the guns on them should simply be destroyed. Somalia is notorious for captured items to find their way back to the owners next morning. Solution3 find and put behind bars the key pirate personalities outside Somalia as they can be extradited on the basis of committing an international crime. These personalities are known people in Puntland and Galgudud regions and openly drive 4 wheel vehicles, put up marriage parties graced by key community figures and advertise themselves loud and openly. This is a rat menace and needs the basic rat poison or trap to tackle it. Not a shot gun. And definitely not an armada of sophisticated warships as is now happening. Go ashore and set the trap. So simple.