Sunday, August 23, 2009



Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor

A Voice from the Truth- & Justice-Seekers, who sit between all chairs, because they are not part of organized white-collar or no-collar-crime in Somalia or elsewhere, and who neither benefit from global naval militarization, from the illegal fishing and dumping in Somali waters or the piracy of merchant vessels, nor from the booming insurance business or the exorbitant ransom-, risk-management- or security industry, while neither the protection of the sea, the development of fishing communities or the humanitarian assistance to abducted seafarers and their families is receiving the required adequate attention, care and funding.

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." George Orwell

"The pirates must not be allowed to destroy our dream !"
Cpt. Florent Lemaçon - killed by French commandos - 10. April 2009

We have the obligation to fight oppression and cruelty wherever it appears, and believe that anybody who is degrading other people and peoples has to be fought against with whatever appropriate tools people have available.

CLEARING-HOUSE: Cut out the clutter - focus on facts !
If you find this compilation too large or if you can't grasp the multitude and magnitude of important, inter-related and complex issues influencing the Horn of Africa - you better do not deal with Somalia or other man-made "conflict zones".

Still no proper negotiations are forthcoming for MV IRENE well as MV ARIANA, where it must be clearly stated that administering some antibiotic pills is not sufficient to address the medical case on board, which requires evacuation. Both vessels are linked to neglecting Greek companies and no official help is coming forward.

News from sea-jackings, abductions, newly attacked ships and vessels in distress :Tanzanian Authorities complain about Philippines

Many months after the crew of an unclarified Taiwanes fishing vessel was captured by maritime officials from Kenya, Tanzania and Sout-Africa in a joint coastal patrol operation for illegal fishing, the Pinoy seafarers of the crew still languish in jail unattended.

Though the Seafarers' Assistance Programme visited the whole crew in the Tanzanian jail, so far Manila has not even been able to instruct the embassy of the Republic of the Phillipines in Kenya to attend to the case and travel to Tanzania.
The Philippines do not have a diplomatic mission in Tanzania and Tanzanian authorities already complained earlier that the Philippines could not even send an official translator to the court sessions.

The country earns billions from Pinoy overseas workers, but extends very little help to them when they are in distress, be it regularly sexually misused maids in the Middle East, hostages on vessels in Somalia, crews jailed for being part of fish-poaching ventures or all the cheap labour rented out wordwide by unscrupulous manpower-brokers, who supply even Philippiono men and women to the U.S. Navy in camp Le Monier in Djibouti.

"They talk a lot and pretend to pray, but actually only prey and do little to nothing to help us when we have problems!" a seafarer - recently freed from a sea-jacked vessel - disqualified the Philippine officials.
And concerning the presently longest pending case of a captured vessel in Somalia - the WIN FAR 161 with 17 Filipinos among the 30 crew, the Philippine government obviously even doesn't know or wants to cover the manning agent.

With the hyprocracy of the navies and the merchant mariners: UN shock at migrant boat deaths
The UN Refugee Agency has expressed shock at reports that other vessels passed by and did not help as a boat sank carrying illegal immigrants.

About 75 illegal immigrants from Africa died while travelling on a crowded rubber dinghy between Libya and Italy.It is thought many succumbed to hunger or thirst. Five Eritreans survived the journey and said no-one offered help.The UN said the failure of other ships to stop and help represented a betrayal of maritime tradition.
Earlier this year, Italy and Libya began joint naval patrols in the Mediterranean to try to prevent the passage of illegal migrants.

Italian coastguards picked up the five survivors from the 12ft vessel, found drifting in Italian waters between Malta and the tiny island of Lampedusa. The five - a woman, a child and three men - told rescuers that they had set out from the Libyan coast three weeks ago but had run out of food, water and fuel. They said many people had died after drinking sea water and their bodies had been thrown overboard.

'Shocking tragedy'
A spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency - the UNHCR - said the survivors had told them that a fishing boat which came across their stranded vessel offered them some bread and water, but then left them. Other vessels simply passed by, the survivors reported.

"Apart from the shocking tragedy this represents it gives the UNHCR cause for concern that these people report being passed by many vessels without any assistance being offered. "This is contrary to the long-standing maritime tradition of rescue at sea which has been under threat and is increasingly being eroded.

"UNHCR would be very concerned if the hardening of government policies towards boat people has the effect of discouraging ship masters from continuing to honour their international maritime obligations." Many African migrants from across the continent gather in Libya to make the crossing to Europe, with hundreds of arriving every month on the island of Lampedusa.

From there they are taken by officials to detention centres on the Italian mainland, for identification and eventual expulsion. Italy has recently introduced new legislation making it a crime to enter the country illegally, punishable by imprisonment and fines. However, this doesn't appear to have created any great deterrent. Hundreds of thousands still wait on the shores of north Africa for the chance to cross over to Europe, despite the serious risk to their lives.

With the latest captures and releases now still at least 6 foreign vessels with a total of not less than 123 crew members are accounted for (of which 42 are confirmed to be Filipinos) and are held in Somali waters. They are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed. MV JAIKUR 1 remains in Mogadishu harbor, but is an insurance and not a piracy case - all foreign crew was evacuated. MV INDIAN EXPLORER and S/Y SERENITY are allegedly dead ships.

Over 134 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) had been recorded for 2008 with 49 fully documented, factual sea-jacking cases (for Somalia, incl. presently held ones) and the mistaken sinking of one vessel by a naval force. For 2009 the account stands at 156 attacks (incl. averted or abandoned attacks) with 47 sea-jackings on the Somali/Yemeni pirate side as well as at least six wrongful attacks (incl. one friendly fire incident) on the side of the naval forces. More than 116 Somalis are held in foreign prisons under charges of piracy.

Mystery pirate mother-vessels Athena/Arena and Burum Ocean as well as not fully documented cases of absconded vessels are not listed in the sea-jack count until clarification. Several other vessels with unclear fate (also not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships have been traced back with different names, flags and superstructures.

Piracy incidents usually degrade during the monsoon season in winter and rise gradually by the end of the monsoon season starting from mid February and early April every year. Present multi-factorial risk assessment code: GoA: YELLOW IO: BLUE (Red = Very much likely, high season; Orange = Reduced risk, but very likely, Yellow = significantly reduced risk, but still likely, Blue = possible, Green = unlikely). Allegedly still/again two groups from Puntland alone are out hunting on the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean, where also groups from Harardheere have set out again, despite the heavy seas and the rough weather.

piracy or naval upsurge related reports

EU, Kenya Somali-Pirate Treaty ’Violates Rights’, Lawyers Say by Sarah McGregor
A treaty allowing the European Union to transfer suspected Somali pirates to Kenya for trial is violating human rights, a French legal aid network said. Paris-based Lawyers of the World has written to the United Nations, the EU’s anti-piracy force and Kenya’s Foreign Ministry to demand they form a joint committee to monitor performance of the five-month-old agreement and ensure piracy suspects are cared for in custody and get a credible trial.

“Without such implementation, the trials will be without legitimacy and a gross violation of the rights of the accused,” according to a copy of the letter dated Aug. 11 and e-mailed to Bloomberg News today.

Kenya, which borders Somalia, became a venue for piracy trials after signing prisoner transfer accords this year with the U.S., the U.K. and the EU in exchange for legal and logistical support. Denmark said on Aug. 18 it had also signed a piracy extradition agreement with Kenya.

Somalia is unable to host the trials because its legal system is in tatters following 18 years of civil war. At sea, suspects have been captured with no ability to access legal advice and in the absence of an interpreter so they are unable to communicate in their Somali language or understand the evidence, Lawyers of the World said.
Onshore, the detainees are denied adequate medical treatment and lack basic amenities such as soap. In most cases, they have not been able to contact their families.

There are also questions over whether Kenya has jurisdiction to try hijackings on the high seas, it added. On a mission to Kenya earlier this month, Lawyers of the World received permission to represent about 43 detained Somali men captured by European navies off eastern Africa and handed over to Kenya for prosecution. Kenyan law carries a maximum life sentence for those convicted of piracy.

Somali pirates urged to release hostages in honor of Ramadan

A non-governmental organization that monitors piracy activities along the Somali waters is appealing to Somali pirates to release all the foreign crews and vessels before the start of Holy Ramadan. In a statement, ECOTERRA Intl. said the activities are against the teaching of Quran, urging Somali pirates, who are Muslims to cease from the activities.

“Somali Piracy is Haram, strictly forbidden by the Holy Qur’an and must be punished under Shari’a law. Attacks on innocent merchant ships outside the 200nm zone of the Somali waters can never ever even be justified as self-defence,” stated Dr. Abdulkadir S. Elmi, the spokesman of the Somali office of the international human rights and nature protection advocacy.

He said the pirates are enemies of Somalis and humanity, adding that piracy is bad example for youngsters and would only play future of Somalia and all Somali people directly into the hands of Somalia’s enemies."Pirates of innocent merchant vessels are an enemy to mankind and Somali pirates first and foremost are the enemy of Somalia and all Somalis,” he noted, terming piracy as a “loose-loose game!".

The sea gangs made away with millions of dollars for ransom payment after seizing more than a dozen ships this year alone. Unnumbered ships and some hundred crewmembers are still held hostage by ransom-hunting Somali pirates.
The piracy scourge along the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes has prompted international community to deployed dozens of multinational warships, which patrol and deter pirates from hijacking merchant ships.

Somalia braces for surge in piracy during Ramadan

The number of hijacked vessels off the coast of Somalia is at a one-year low but both pirates and anti-piracy leaders are bracing for an inter-monsoon season that could herald a new flurry of attacks. Following the release of two Egyptian fishing boats, a German container ship and an Italian tugboat this month, the number of ships in pirate hands stands at no more than six, dipping to levels unseen since August 2008.

The ransoms raked in by pirates last year totalled around 40 million dollars, or barely a third of Christiano Ronaldo's transfer fee to Real Madrid, but high-profile attacks have made piracy the focus of much attention. The calm August seas last year led to a series of hijackings -- including that of a behemoth Saudi oil tanker -- that spread fears of major disruptions to world shipping and spurred foreign naval powers into sneding warships. "The weather conditions have been the main reason" for the recent dip in attacks, Hans Tino Hansen, managing director of Denmark-based Risk Intelligence, told AFP. "Another reason but of less importance is the success of the naval forces in repelling the few attacks that have been conducted in the Gulf of Aden," he added.

The pirates themselves had the bit between their teeth, with sea conditions already more propicious to boarding their prey from small skiffs in the Gulf of Aden and storms starting to recede in the Indian Ocean. "We are definitely set on capturing more ships and gaining more cash. I only made 9,000 dollars last year and I was banking on more," Ahmed Mohamed Abdi, a pirate from the central town of Harardhere, told AFP. "Foreign countries are still fishing illegally and no-one is blaming them, but when we try to recover something for the losses in marine wealth, we are accused of being bad boys," he lamented.

Ismail Haji Noor, head of anti-piracy for Somalia's transitional federal government, argued that some measures had succeeded in countering the thriving piracy business and that popular support for the pirates was dwindling. "People in coastal areas now have noticed that the pirates are not heroes and have brought nothing but inflation, prostitutes and alcohol," he told AFP.

Anti-piracy efforts by Somali authorities have included the involvement of local elders and religious leaders to turn unemployed Somalis away from one of the only profitable sectors in the war-ravaged country.

Sheikh Abdulkader Farah Nur Gaamey, an influential one-armed cleric based in the Puntland city of Garowe, was instrumental in getting hundreds of pirates to officially renounce piracy but admitted the risk some would revert to sea banditry in August was real. "I cannot say that our efforts have been fully successful but retired pirates are reaching out to the youth and general awareness has grown," he told AFP in a recent interview.

Noor argued that the latest developments on the ground in Somalia could also harm the unity that had been one of the main strengths of the five or six major pirate groups dotting Africa's longest coastline. "There are acute clanic rivalries among the different pirate groups now and I think they are less likely to work together as well as they did before."

The pirates themselves are aware of the increased risks involved in their activity, with more than 100 pirates captured by foreign navies over the past year and facing trial abroad. Dozens were also killed. While foreign navies have refined their tactics against the marauding sea-jackers, so too have the pirates, and Puntland's top anti-piracy official, deputy fisheries minister Abdulwahed Abdi Hirsi, feared the coming days could witness a dramatic surge in attacks. "Around the middle of Ramadan (expected to start within days), I think the pirates will reach to the sea because they had not been able to go out lately. I am afraid we will see a lot of attacks," he told AFP.

Warlords at sea: Piracy continues to be a threat to global trade, argues Attia Essawi
Despite the recent adventure of the 34 Egyptian sailors who managed to escape from Somali pirates' captivity, piracy will remain a threat to global trade, the lives of multinational crew, and oil tankers. Unless a solution is found to this problem these threats will remain and intensify. Somalia, the country that controls these vital sea lanes, has been in political turmoil and chaos since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. All efforts to create a centralised ruling system to control the Somali domestic situation and its 3,700km long coast have failed. Thus any attempts to prevent pirates from creating hideouts on the coast have proved unsuccessful. Pirates are said to have gained at least $100 million from ransom payments. They currently have 10 ships in their possession, with their cabin crews, awaiting ransom payment.

The Somali pirates are posing a serious threat to global trade. More than 25 per cent of global oil exports passes through Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Also according to the International Navigation Authority (INA), 10 per cent of international trade moves through that region. The authority also warned that this naval route has become one of the most dangerous. Between December 2007 and September 2008, 63 of the 199 piracy incidents occurred in the Indian Ocean. Foreign warships helped reduce the number of incidents off the Somali coast, but in April 2009 a new wave of hijacking ships began. In less than two weeks, pirates managed to capture 11 vessels -- two of them were American.

In the light of these circumstances, in which 22,000 vessels are threatened yearly, the UN Security Council announced that this naval route has become the most dangerous in the world. It also authorised countries to send warships into Somali waters, combat Somali pirates, and protect commercial vessels. The year 2008 witnessed one of the most prominent of vessel captures, the Saudi oil tanker carrying two million oil barrels, nearly a quarter of Saudi daily output, was taken by Somali pirates. The vessel was captured 860km off the Kenyan coast and was not released until a $3 million were paid as ransom. Another prominent incident was the capture of a Ukrainian ship cargo carrying military hardware, including grenade launchers and 33 Russian-made tanks, which was on its way to Mombasa, Kenya as part of an arms deal between Ukraine and Kenya. The cargo ship was released upon the payment of a hefty ransom.

Nevertheless, it is very unlikely that these episodes will end with the further militarisation of Somali waters. The main impetus for these activities has not been addressed, which is the Somali domestic crisis. The political chaos, high unemployment rates and increased poverty all push Somali youth into taking up this illegal job. These youth have little alternative, as the country lacks any police force or naval vessels. Interestingly, most of these pirates are experienced former naval soldiers from the dissembled Somali army of the Barre regime.

To combat piracy, the Obama administration announced a comprehensive plan focussed on increasing job opportunities, enhancing political stability in Somalia, alongside pursuing pirates by bringing them to justice and freezing their bank accounts. He also outlined the importance of enhancing vessel defences, making their capture more difficult.

Somali pirates have increased in strength in the last few months. They have increased in number too. They also now possess advanced weaponry, and have the capabilities to detect vessels from their take off from the Arab Gulf. The next few months could witness a new rise in attacks. Only last week Somali pirates attempted to capture a Turkish commercial vessel, only to be stopped by a German warship.

On the Arab front, a number of Red Sea and Gulf countries met to "coordinate thinking and ideas". They agreed to set up a joint manoeuvres, piracy monitoring system and warning system. These activities would focus on the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean to secure trade routes and ensure safety of passing commercial vessels. Participating countries include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti. Ending piracy attacks will not come by military means only. What is needed is systematic support for the re-establishment of Somali police, armed forces, navy, and intelligence agency. This can be achieved through international funding and training. It is also important to empower tribal chiefs to influence armed groups to stop their war against government forces. Furthermore, serious efforts should be made to resolve the Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict.

The piracy problem and Somali political turmoil has repercussions on neighbouring Arab and African countries and major powers alike. The turmoil has risks globally. For the United States, the risk is having Somalia as the new haven for Al-Qaeda and a base for attacks on Western targets. There are also fears of the establishment of an extremist Islamic state in Mogadishu that could be a threat to neighbouring countries. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters alongside opposition armed groups is on the increase and is estimated to be around 250-300 fighters.

It also stated that recent bombings that led to the killing of the Somali interior minister, ambassador to Ethiopia, Mogadishu's chief of police, a member of Somali parliament, and several other military leaders, all had clear Al-Qaeda imprints on them. It also seems that some extremist groups such as the Somali Youth (Al-Shabab) Movement, have a global dimension that transcends Somali land. This movement for instance, recently announced that they will continue to fight the government until the overthrow of Somali government, the establishment of an Islamic state in the world and the liberations of Jerusalem in Palestine. These are all indication of a serious global threat coming from Somali land.

It is for that reason that the United States has acted decisively to supply the Sheikh Sharif government with 40 tonnes of weaponry and promised a similar size. It also decided to train dozens of officers and soldiers from the government forces in its Djibouti military bases. It also made further funds available to support and strengthen Somali government forces. The United States also encouraged neighbouring countries to support and assist Sharif's government in face of Al Shabab's continued attack on government forces. On the other hand, France also followed US footsteps in training members of Somali government forces in its military in Djibouti. Alongside training, Ethiopia supplied further weaponry to Sharif's security agencies. The support from both neighbouring and Western countries has had its impact on the ground. This support was shown in the forces' ability to face the insurgents' attack on the presidential palace in January 2009.

The insurgents had to withdraw despite being only 1km away from the palace. Furthermore, Burundi's decision to send a further 850 soldiers to compliment the already 4,800 troops there will hopefully entice other African countries to follow suit.

Despite these efforts, it is only predictable that the guerrilla warfare of hit and run against government forces will continue without any side coming out victorious. On the other hand, the armed guerrillas receive continued support from Eritrea and trained personnel by Al-Qaeda. Somali violence caused the death of 500,000 people. What is required is a political solution that is acceptable to all parties. This will not occur without a suitable international climate that brings Somalis together on the negotiation table using a strategy of compensation and retribution to ensure agreement. The United States involvement is also conditional to any conflict resolution. It has to ensure that the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia is resolved with annexing the disputed upon Badme town to Eritrea.

Russian warships escort another convoy in the Gulf of Aden

A Russian Pacific Fleet task force is escorting its third convoy of commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden since its arrival in the area in late July, a fleet spokesman said on Friday. The task force - comprising the Admiral Tributs destroyer with two helicopters, a salvage tug, a tanker, and a naval infantry unit - escorts commercial ships, conducts aerial reconnaissance, and searches suspected pirate vessels. "A third convoy of commercial ships was formed on Thursday and is moving along the Gulf of Aden under the escort of the Russian warships," the spokesman said.

The Russian Navy joined international anti-piracy efforts off Somali coast in October 2008. Three Russian warships have so far participated in the mission - the Baltic Fleet's Neustrashimy (Fearless) frigate, and the Pacific Fleet's Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Panteleyev destroyers. "The warships from the Pacific Fleet have successfully escorted over 100 Russian and foreign commercial ships since January 2009. They have thwarted several attacks by pirates," the official said.

Around 35 warships from the navies of 16 countries are currently deployed off Somalia's coast to counter frequent pirate attacks on key trade routes. Pirate attacks on commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia have amounted to 130 since the beginning of the year, with 44 ships captured and at least 270 people held as hostages.

Chinese naval flotilla for escort mission in waters off Somalia, Gulf of Aden, returns home. China's naval convoy on duty off the Somalia coast and in the Gulf of Aden has successfully accomplished its missions and returned to the naval port in Zhanjiang city in Guangdong Province at 9 a.m. Friday, said a PLA Navy source.

The convoy amassed 85,000 sea miles in 142 days' voyaging. During that time it escorted 308 merchant ships, conducted regional cover for 85 more and went to the assistance of four being attacked, the source said. The convoy, the second from China to patrol the pirate-infested area, was sent to the region on April 2 this year. It was made up of guided missile destroyer "Shenzhen", missile frigate "Huangshan" and a supply ship.

ecosystems, marine environment, IUU fishing and dumping, ecology

The title of the report is: “Actions taken by States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements to give effect to paragraphs 83 to 90 of General Assembly resolution 61/105 of 8 December 2006 on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments Report of the Secretary-General”

The UN SG report merely reports the information sent by governments and RFMOs. It does not provide a critical review of the shortcomings or failures in the implementation of the UN General Assembly resolution. In fact, it creates a false impression that States and RFMOs have implemented the resolution well. Amongst other things, there are serious omissions in the SG report. Nonetheless, a concluding paragraph does state that much more needs to be done. We will prepare a critique of the report over the next week but, in the meantime we’ve issued a press release/web piece (attached) as follows:

RESPONSE TO: UN Secretary General Review of UN resolution 61/105

Responding to the UN Secretary General Review of UN resolution 61/105 published today, Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said "This report shows that fishing States and international organisations must urgently do much more to protect deep-sea ecosystems, or else stop fishing. We will be urging the United Nations to close the loopholes and call for sanctions to halt deep-sea fishing which doesn't comply with the UN resolution all countries agreed to implement in 2006. The destruction of deep-sea biodiversity on the high seas must be brought to an end."

The report, requested by the UN General Assembly, outlines the measures taken by high seas fishing nations to implement a 2006 UN General Assembly resolution designed to protect deep-ocean biodiversity from the harmful impact of deep-sea bottom trawling and other methods of bottom fishing. The report concludes that despite progress, “implementation of the resolution has been uneven and further efforts are needed in this regard, including through the adoption and implementation of conservation and management measures to address the impacts of bottom fishing activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems.”

The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) has been campaigning for over 5 years to put a stop to damage done by high seas bottom trawling to protect deep sea habitats. In 2006, in response to the concerns raised by the DSCC, scientists and a number of governments, the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA) adopted a resolution committing all countries whose vessels engage in deep-water fisheries on the high seas to establish regulations to effectively protect seamounts, cold-water corals and other vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems from the harmful impacts of deep-sea bottom fishing. UN GA resolution 61/105, adopted in December 2006, called on flag states and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to take action immediately to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) from the destructive impact of bottom fisheries on the high seas through conducting impact assessments, closing areas of the high seas to bottom fishing where VMEs are known or likely to occur unless fisheries in these areas can be managed to prevent significant adverse impacts, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks. The Resolution called on States and RFMOs to implement these measures by 31 December 2008 or else prohibit their vessels from engaging in bottom fishing on the high seas.

Unfortunately more than two years later, countries have done far too little to properly implement the UN General Assembly Resolution. The DSCC, in May 2009, submitted a report to the UN Secretary General outlining the shortcomings in the regulation of high seas bottom fisheries. Most high seas bottom fisheries have not been subject to impact assessments; where assessments have been conducted, none have been conclusive as to whether significant adverse impacts would or would not occur. Although some area closures have been adopted by RFMOs, most high seas areas at fishable depths where VMES are known or are likely to occur remain open to bottom fisheries with few or no constraints. The long-term sustainability of few, if any, deep-sea fish stocks has been ensured - in most high seas bottom fisheries, basic information on the catch and biological characteristics of target and non-target deep-sea fish stocks is insufficient to even determine long-term sustainable levels of fishing; in those fisheries where such information exists, most of the fish stocks are recognized to be overexploited or depleted and, in some cases, threatened with extinction (i.e. several species of deep-sea sharks in the Northeast Atlantic).

UN report shows much more needed to protect the deep seas - Greenpeace

Greenpeace is calling on the United Nations to put an immediate end to destructive high seas bottom fishing at this year’s general assembly meeting, following today’s release of the UN Secretary General’s own review (1) of the implementation of a resolution designed to protect deep sea life. The report concluded that States are still falling short of their commitments. “It is outrageous that nearly three years after the UN agreed to put measures in place to protect our deep seas from destructive fishing practices, countries have still done very little - if anything - to actually stop unregulated bottom fishing on the high seas,” said Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner.

The 2006 UNGA resolution (2) called on member states to implement specific measures to protect deep sea life in international waters by 31^ December 2008 or to stop destructive bottom fishing altogether. Requirements included conducting environmental impact assessments, identifying vulnerable deep sea habitats, and ensuring that no bottom fishing takes place where these are known to exist or are likely to occur.

In June 2009, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition published its own review, which concluded that across all oceans, member States and regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) have fallen far short of living up to the commitments agreed to in 2006 (3). Even in the few places where impact assessments have been conducted, they have only been partially completed and have been inconclusive at best. Many areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known or likely to occur remain open to bottom fishing with few or no constraints. Finally, where measures have been taken, these are often weak and provide little, if any, protection to deep sea life.

For years the scientific community, as well as environmental organisations around the world, has warned governments about the long-term devastating impacts of destructive high seas bottom fishing. Bottom trawling lays waste to vast expanses of deep sea life, including fragile deep sea ecosystems and corals that can live for thousands of years (4). “If bottom fishing continues at the current rate of destruction, in just a few decades our planet’s deepest and most mysterious habitats will disappear forever.

If fishing States can't or won't comply they simply must stop fishing” concluded Obaidullah. Greenpeace is calling on the United Nations General Assembly due to meet in November to call for an immediate end to destructive bottom fishing by fleets whose flag States have failed to fully implement the very clear criteria adopted by the UNGA in 2006. END (1) United Nations Secretary General’s review of implementation of the resolution 61/105 of 8 December 2006 on Sustainable fisheries, released on 21 August 2009:

(3) The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (comprising about 60 environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace} review of the implementation of the provisions of UN GA resolution 61/105 related to the management of high seas bottom fisheries:
(4) Bottom trawling is laying waste to the precious ecosystems of the deep sea. Sigourney Weaver calls on delegates of the UN to take immediate action to stop this destruction in the High Seas. The Bottom Line, presented by Sigourney Weaver,

Anti-piracy measures

Somali president calls for Ramadan ceasefire
* President Sharif says move meant to allow people to pray
* Shabaab attacks government-held checkpoint in Mogadishu

Somalia's government has called on warring parties in the conflict-torn horn of Africa nation to stop fighting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a spokesman for the presidency said on Saturday.President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel, said the ceasefire call was motivated by the need for peace during the religiously significant month.

"The president made this call since it is necessary to not stop people going to Islamic centres, worship Allah any time without fear, and we hope the opposition will accept it without condition," Abdulkadir Osman told Reuters by telephone.
Opposition groups said they would discuss the ceasefire call.The President's U.N. -backed government has been facing a stubborn insurgency from the al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam rebels, dashing hopes of an end to 18 years of instability. Western intelligence says the fighting and chaos is exploited by al Qaeda linked groups, exposing the entire region.

On Saturday clashes continued, as insurgents attacked a government-controlled Mogadishu checkpoint in the early hours. "Al Shabaab men have attacked our positions in Ex-Control Afgoye (checkpoint). We repulsed the attackers and killed more than 10 men," Abdifatah Shaweye, deputy mayor of Banadir, told Reuters by telephone

Al Shabaab's information office denied the claim and said they took control of the base and killed nearly 10 soldiers from the government side. Al Shabaab also said they had agreed to work together with Hizbul Islam fighters in the South Western region of Gedo. "We had agreed to join all our forces and take orders from one command. The number of Hizbul Islam fighters (who) joined us are in the hundreds," Commander Bare Adan Khooje told Reuters. About 100 people died last week in different parts of the country as pro-government militias and insurgents engaged in various battles.

US admiral: Pirates facing tougher merchant ships

Merchant vessels have been increasingly able to thwart attacks from Somali pirates by boosting their own security and following a special sea corridor watched by international warships, the new U.S. commander of an anti-piracy task force said Friday. Despite a sharp increase in reported pirate assaults this year, the stronger countermeasures by merchant crews — including special armed units — has cut into the ability of pirates to storm the ships, said Rear Adm. Scott Sanders, who took charge of the multinational flotilla last week.

Sanders said 80 percent of foiled pirate attacks are now accomplished by merchant crews without help from military vessels. Dozens of warships patrol the busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden — including a special sea route designed to keep ships in closer proximity and less vulnerable to being waylaid. "This just shows what the merchant community can do," Sanders told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the USS Anzio, part of the task force that began patrols in January.

He said merchant captains were being urged to take simple precautions such as adding barbed wire to decks and rolling up ladders, but naval commanders in the region "do not discourage" use of weapons to fight back against the well-armed pirates. The owner of an Egyptian fishing vessel held by pirates described this week how he used hired Somali gunmen to free the ship and crew after persuading the pirates to allow him on board with a portion of the demanded $800,000 ransom. Eight of the pirates were taken captive and could face trial in Egypt.

In April, the crew of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama battled pirates on the deck until the captain, Richard Phillips, offered himself as hostage. Phillips was freed after five days held hostage in a lifeboat when U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three of his captors. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment in June that would require armed teams on U.S.-flagged ships passing through high-risk waters, including off the Horn of Africa. The proposal now goes to the Senate.
A separate bill would grant immunity from prosecution in American courts for use of force to defend a U.S.-flagged vessel "against an act of piracy."

More than 135 pirate attacks have been reported so far this year off the coast of lawless Somalia — more than the total for all last year — but just 28 ships have been commandeered, Sanders said. Last year, 44 ships fell into pirate hands.
"This has to do with the action of the maritime community themselves and not to do with law enforcement or the military," said Sanders, who took command from Rear Adm. Caner Bener of the Turkish navy. The anti-pirate task force is part of an international naval deployment to battle piracy off the Horn of Africa, including vessels from NATO, China and India.

40K Pinoy seafarers to benefit from Japan's anti-piracy law

At least 40,000 Filipino seafarers stand to benefit from a new Japanese anti-piracy law protecting ships and its crew off Somalia, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Saturday. The DOLE said this new law dovetails with the wider efforts of the United Nations (UN) to ensure safe passage in maritime trading areas. "(The Japanese anti-piracy law), while aimed at protecting Japan-flagged vessels, would reinforce the safety and well-being of the more than 40,000 overseas Filipino seafarers currently manning the majority of Japan’s global merchant marine fleet," the DOLE said.

Before the law was passed, DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque visited Tokyo earlier this year to represent the Philippines at the Philippine-Japan Seafarer Policy Forum. He pushed for the preservation of the jobs of the numerous overseas Filipino seafarers employed in Japanese vessels. The Philippines supplies a third of the world's seafarers and has been tagged as one of the most vulnerable nationalities to pirate attacks.

Accompanying him in the forum were partners from the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), and the Philippine-Japan Consultative Council. The new law will allow Japan to “discharge its responsibility as a member of the international community," by actively contributing to the global efforts against piracy.

Japan reaffirmed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides that all states shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.
Forged in 1982, the Law of the Sea defined piracy as illegal acts committed on the high seas for private ends, adding all countries have a right to seize and prosecute those committing such acts.

Japan had contributed proactively to the anti-piracy efforts in tandem with the protecting naval vessels of the United States (US), European countries, China, and other states patrolling the waters off Somalia. Its measures included the dispatch of two destroyers from the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self Defense Forces for the conduct of maritime police operations in the Gulf of Aden. Specifically, the vessels had already escorted some 87 Japan-flagged vessels in 28 operations since early 2009.

India To Install Radars in Maldives

India will help the Republic of Maldives build a maritime surveillance system, among other defense-cooperative measures agreed to during the Aug. 20-22 visit of India Defence Minister A.K. Antony to the Indian Ocean island nation. The system's radars will be linked to the Indian Navy and Coastal Guard headquarters, a senior Indian Navy official said.

India is also likely to give Maldives two Coast Guard helicopters in coming months, the Navy official said. Indian Defence Ministry sources said Maldives is emerging as an important logistics and intelligence base for India. Antony and his delegation met with Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed and Defence Minister Ameen Faisal, who told reporters Aug. 21 that the security concerns of both countries are intertwined.

Analysts said the move was part of India's efforts to counter growing Chinese influence in the region. "If China is building a port in Hambantota, India outflanks the same by a strong presence in Male and so on. What could even be termed as a great game in the Indian Ocean will be seen in the years ahead," said defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Army brigadier.

But Zach Mathews, a retired Indian Navy commodore, said India is more worried about countering Pakistan's influence on the island chain, which is 400 nautical miles from the Indian coast. "Maldives is a Muslim country, and having an independent nation close to the Indian subcontinent and under control of forces inimical to India would be a disaster," Mathews said.

In 1988, India sent forces to Maldives at the request of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during a coup attempt. When the Indian troops arrived in Maldives by air, the terrorists and rebels escaped from Male but were overpowered by Indian Navy warships.

Maldives has an India-First policy, says Vijay Sakhuja, a director at the Indian Council of World Affairs here. "Maldives has emphatically denied that there are Chinese naval facilities on any of its island territories and assured [us] that it has no plans [to allow any] in the future. Instead, it seeks an exclusive security arrangement with India and does not wish to approach regional and extraregional powers for such agreements," said Sakhuja.

Analysts said Maldives needs help securing its littorals from piracy, terrorism, contraband trade, drug smuggling and human smuggling by local and foreign actors. "There is a need not just for Indian interests, but also [for] overall global interests, given the large quantum of trade passing through this region, which is likely to grow exponentially once the present financial crisis recedes. Unless these sea lanes are secured, there would be many more Somalia-like situations happening in the region," said Bhonsle. "I would not view it as an Indian security net but a global trade security net for which other South Asian countries of Sri Lanka and Maldives and those on the East African coast would remain critical. This global trade safety net through the Indian Ocean will be led by India, given the strategic location and large naval presence."

The Indian delegation also included Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, DG Armed Forces Medical Services Lt. Gen. N.K. Parmar, DG Coast Guard Vice Adm. Anil Chopra and Deputy Chief of Navy Staff Vice Adm. D.K. Joshi, according to an Indian Defence Ministry press release.

The President of the Republic has hailed the discussions with General William E. Ward, Commander of U.S Africa Command as “extremely warm and fruitful.”

President James Michel has welcomed the announcement by the United States of their intention to operate surveillance assets, to include P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in Seychelles. The announcement follows in depth high level discussions between the two countries on means of strengthening the security situation in the region and builds on provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement recently ratified by the Seychelles National Assembly.

Following the incidents of piracy around the Seychelles EEZ earlier this year which also resulted in the capture of several Seychellois nationals, President Michel made a call for international support from all partners to counter the scourge of piracy.

The strengthening of US surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government will be a key component in the fight against piracy in the region. “This new venture is both a concrete step in the fight against piracy and a symbol of the trust and understanding which exists between the governments of the Republic of Seychelles and the United States of America. We look forward to continually strengthening this partnership based on our mutual desire for peace and stability in the region,” the President stated following this morning’s meeting.

The President met with Mrs. Virginia Blaser, U.S Chargée d’Affaires, and General William E. Ward, Commander U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) as well as other high ranking U.S military personnel. It is not known yet, if the US will also encounter in an anti-drug-smuggling initiative concerning the Seychelles, which has become a major hub for illicit drugs and illegally caught fish, the majority of which is exported to Japan and Europe.

On 21. Aug.1980 - exactly 29 years ago - the United States and Somalia signed an agreement giving U.S. naval and air forces access to military facilities in the East African country in return for American military aid, which only pushed the country into civil war.

no real peace in sight yet : Insurgents launch attack on key checkpoint

The Islamist rebels fighting against the Somalia government have launched a pre-dawn attack on Ex-Control Afgoye, a key checkpoint manned by government soldiers 15 km from Mogadishu on Saturday. The fighting started early on Saturday and the rebels launched a big offensive against the government soldiers stationed at the checkpoint.No casualties have been reported so far, but Sheik Yusuf Mohamed Siad better known as Indho Ade, the state minister for defence said the government killed many rebel fighters and added that they attackers left their dead bodies behind.

There is no word from the other side about the fighting. Ex-Control Afgoye is a key checkpoint on the road that connects Mogadishu and Afgoye. It is the second time that the Islamist rebels launched an attack at this checkpoint since Sheik Sharif was elected as president and they lost last time more than 10 fighters. At least 25 people were killed and 40 others have been injured in Mogadishu when Islamists attacked bases of African Union troops in Mogadishu on Friday.

55 killed in Somalia as govt. attempt to regain town fails
Clashes between Somali gunmen and government soldiers has left over 55 people dead and over 60 others injured in the Horn of Africa country. The heavy exchange of fire broke out in Mogadishu's northern districts of Hawlwadag, Hodan and Wardhigley on Thursday. Mogadishu medics said they assisted more than 30 wounded civilians in the battlefield, where some 15 people were killed, a Press TV correspondent reported.

At the same time, fierce fighting erupted in the central town of Bulabarde in the Hiran region, about 210 km (130 miles) north of the capital, where government soldiers attacked the town, controlled by al-Shabaab fighters. About 40 people, most of them fighters from both sides, were killed in Bulabarde while scores of others were injured. A resident told Press TV that government forces retreated hours after the gun battle erupted. "The government forces attacked the town on Thursday but met with strong resistance from al-Shabaab fighters who battled out with attackers until they returned the control of the town," said Muhumed Ahmed, a Bulabarde resident.

Reports say that the al-Shabaab fighters have also captured the western wing of Beledweyne town, the capital of the Hiran region, some 332 km (206 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu. The strategic town connects the capital to the central region and neighboring Ethiopia.

Militants recapture key Somali town

Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam fighters have recaptured the central Somali town of Wabho from Ahlu Sunna forces, say eyewitnesses. During the recent offensive, they also captured various Ahlu Sunna military bases, killing several dozen Ahlu Sunna fighters, A Press TV correspondent reported. Al-Shabaab has regained increasing numbers of districts and towns in Somalia's Hiiran region, including 70 percent of the town of Baletweyne. The poverty-stricken Horn of Africa nation has been grappling with the ongoing civil war which has crippled the 'lawless' state for around two decades. Over 17,000 people have been killed and an estimated 250,000 others have been internally displaced over the past few months alone.

Somali Islamist groups merge

The Hizbul Islam insurgent group in Luq town has reportedly merged with al-Shabab, who are fighting for to topple the Somali government and impose its version of Islamic Sharia in the country. The merger comes days after Hizbul Islam group recaptured the town of Luq from pro government soldiers. Ahmed Mohamud Salad, the leader of the group in Luq district in Gedo region told reporters that they agreed to be part of al Shabaab fighters, but he did not disclose the reason behind their merger.

Officials from the two groups met in Luq on Friday afternoon and agreed issues including uniting their force to fight the government soldiers in Somalia’s Gedo region, reported The force of the group Hizbul Islam is weakening these days after more fighters with military trucks were defecting to the government recently.

Unrest prevails in Hiran region

Unrest continues in Somalia's central Hiran region as government forces and insurgent factions seek to outmaneuver each other for control of the region, Radio Garowe reports. On Friday, there were reports of fighting in Mahas district between the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a militia and Al Shabaab insurgents. There were no reports of casualties available and conflicting reports are emerging from the district, according to the Radio Garowe correspondent in Beletwein, the provincial capital of Hiran region.

Some reports say Ahlu Sunnah fighters attacked Mahas district and kicked out Al Shabaab. But other reports say Ahlu Sunnah's attack was repulsed and Al Shabaab remain in control of Mahas. All communications to Mahas are currently cut off, making it difficult to confirm facts. Meanwhile, Somali government forces who launched an offensive yesterday to take control of Bulo Burte district from the insurgent's control have returned to Beletwein. At least six people were killed during yesterday's battle.

It is not clear why the government forces returned, but insurgent fighters seized control of west Beletwein yesterday as fighting erupted in Bulo Burte. Also Friday, Ethiopian soldiers briefly entered Beletwein but withdrew to the outskirts of town after staying only a few hours. Locals said the insurgents who seized west Beletwein fled away and now all of Beletwein is under the control of government forces, but there were reports of skirmishes on the western outskirts of town.

Separately, six gunmen used pistols to target and kill four civilians inside Beletwein today. Among the dead was a local trader who tried to stop the killers from taking the life of a religious man. Both men were shot and killed. It is not clear why the four civilians were targeted. Last night, a well-known Islamic preacher was killed in Beletwein by two gunmen, who escaped. Somalia's UN-recognized transitional federal government is struggling to end an insurgency that began in early 2007.

Going Chechenian On Somalia

Puntland, one of the two breakaway statelets from Somalia, is currently headquarters for most of the pirate activity in the country (and the largest concentration of pirates on the planet.) It wasn't always that way.

In 1998, when Puntland was formed, this portion of northeast Somalia, suddenly became peaceful and began to prosper. The cause of this seeming miracle was all about tribal politics. The Darood clan (as the tribes are called here) managed to settle, for the moment, many feuds and rivalries, and set up a new country; Puntland (after the ancient name for this part of the world; "Punt"). But as the years went by, two things happened.

First, some of the old clan feuds revived. But worst of all, many of the gangster factions among the Darood found that the truce caused their criminal activities to be generally ignored, as long as the victims were not fellow Darood. But as Puntland became a den of thieves (and kidnappers, smugglers and, pirates), their neighbors began to notice. While many Puntland residents would like the gangsters to go away, that won't happen. The bad guys are Darood, and this is their home too. So the government says one thing to foreigners ("we're going to clean up this mess") and something else (nothing) to their fellow Darood. There's no solution in sight for this mess.

The Puntland situation is not unique, it is happening, or recently took place, in other parts of the world. There is a cure, but it may not be applicable to Puntland. One of the more notable other "Puntlands" is Chechnya, long a restive region in southern Russia. Chechnya's problems arose from attempts to become an independent nation.

When Chechnya first tried to separate itself from Russia (after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991), Russia responded with an inept military operation (1994-6) that killed over 35,000 people, and failed. Russia withdrew and left the Chechens to their own devices. In effect, the Chechens could pretend they were independent, while the Russians pretended they weren't. Problem was, the Chechens could not agree on how to form a unified government, and stumbled into a perpetual civil war. Along the way, some factions adopted Islamic radicalism, and began moving into adjacent areas, that were still very much under Russian control. Other, less religious, factions, used Chechnya as a safe haven for smuggling and kidnapping operations throughout southern Russia.

In 1999, the Russians came back in, and the second pacification campaign made greater use of Special Forces and better trained and led troops in general. This campaign killed about 5,000 people, but succeeded. The main reason for the success was the use of an ancient Russian technique. Basically, the Russians sought out Chechens who would be willing to run Chechnya, under Russian supervision, as long as they could keep the crime and terrorism under control. The Russians didn't care how "their Chechens" did it, as long as there was not a return to the 1994-9 era of rampant criminal activity. And no Islamic terrorism either. Over the last few years, the violence, and Islamic terrorism inside Chechnya, and Russia, greatly declined.

The problem with Puntland is that there's no large neighbor willing to play the role that Russia took in Chechnya. The industrialized nations that are suffering the most from the Puntland based piracy, are reluctant to intervene. Somalis have been known, for centuries, as ungovernable. The reputation is well earned, and no one wants to get involved. Meanwhile, Somalis are quite willing to get involved, via criminal activities, with their neighbors. Eventually, the pain to the neighbors will become too much. How long it will take for that to happen, is uncertain. Just like everything else in Somalia.

OCHA Somalia Humanitarian Access Analysis, January to June 2009

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
This paper aims at analysing the humanitarian situation in Somalia during the first half of 2009, and the effect that access constraints have had on the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the protection of beneficiaries. In the first six months of 2009 access constraints remained significant. These constraints resulted in instances of humanitarian organisations withdrawing, temporary suspensions of programmes in certain areas, or delays in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Access in Somalia is organic, meaning that access can change rapidly, and that there are significant differences in access depending on the region in question. Broadly stated, access in the North and North/East (Somaliland and Puntland respectively) generally is better than any region in South/Central Somalia. While there are a number of factors that can explain this difference, a dominant factor is that the North and North/East are governed and controlled by a single political entity, with no serious challenger to that authority. South/Central has significant and on-going power struggles, which directly or indirectly impact humanitarian workers and activities.

Hunger hotspots: Somalia

MV Marwan and MV Semlow are expected to reach Mogadishu: MV Marwan H being loaded with 8,000 mt of food and MV Semlow carrying 850 mt mostly Inter-Agency NFIs was expected to arrive in Mogadishu on 14 August. Meanwhile a fleet of tugboats, barges, crane and dredging machine under a separate EU naval escort were expected to arrive in Mogadishu from Mombasa last weekend. The machines and facilities are for the Special Operation project aimed at port rehabilitation.

Bulgarian Kidnap Victim Back Home from Somalia

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Rumiana Jeleva welcomed today the Bulgarian citizen Danka Panchova who was held hostage in Somalia for nine months Dr. Jeleva and Ms. Panchova made statements for the media during the welcoming ceremony at the government VIP lounge at Sofia Airport. Minister Dr. Rumiana Jeleva said: "I am extremely happy that we can mark today, 19 August – the World Humanitarian Day, with a marvellous event: the return of our compatriot Ms. Danka Panchova. It is my extreme pleasure to welcome her, safe and sound. Her mother is also with us. Welcome!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire institutional mechanism of the EU for their efforts. I would also like to thank all our European partners, our missions in Paris and Belgium, all Bulgarian diplomats who took part in the actions to free the hostages, the colleagues from the other services, and the entire institutional mechanism of the Bulgarian State, of the previous leading figures in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the members of that mission. You know that Ms. Panchova, together with her colleagues, was in the terrible situation of a hostage since last November.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank her for her work, for joining humanitarian missions and for working for the humanitarian network “Action against Hunger” for the past five years, which was extremely helpful in the freeing of Ms. Panchova and her colleagues. I must say also that this is a day on which we need to pay tribute to the UN efforts and to the efforts of all people who join humanitarian missions, and to remember those who have given their lives for such missions. This is an extremely important initiative and I think that we are going to mark this day every year in the future.

I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you that as EU Member State Bulgaria has its commitments to the development policy, and this falls to a great extent within the scope of my ministry, being also an expression of the solidarity demonstrated by our European partners to us in this concrete case as well.

Therefore, I would like to assure you – on the occasion of the safe return home of our compatriot and on this special day, 19 August – that we shall do our best at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to draft the legal framework for the development policy and to create the necessary resource unit for its practical implementation.

We must be fully aware that it is precisely the development policy and our humanitarian activities as EU Member State that constitute a part of our obligations and responsibilities, and this must be a source of self-confidence for the citizens of Bulgaria. Moreover, it is an important symptom that we must stop feeling like a state which is still in its accession phase and we would rather acquire the self-confidence of a full member of the European Union.

Thank you once again for sharing this beautiful moment with us and with Danka. She is very emotional indeed and I’ll appeal for your indulgence for her patience and for her readiness to make a statement for you." To which Mrs. Danka Panchova responded: "I am extremely happy to be back in Bulgaria after these difficult nine months, which were a period of great trial in my life. I was released on 11 August and at this moment I am feeling very well. You can see for yourselves, too, that I am in good shape. The most important thing for me now is to be able to express my great happiness to be with my family again, and I hope to see my friends in Bulgaria as soon as possible.

I would like to thank first and foremost my organisation Action against Hunger, my friends and colleagues who worked day and night for my release. I would also like to thank the Bulgarian authorities for the enormous support rendered to my parents and to my family here. I know that during all that time many people were concerned about me; I learned it from the Internet, from all my friends who wrote to me and from people whom I don’t know. I would also like to thank you for the commitment and empathy of all of you at that moment.

I am in good shape and in good health, I need an enormous rest and I shall be extremely happy if you respect my intention to have a real rest in Bulgaria. Minister Dr. Rumiana Jeleva closed by stating: "I just want to say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ready to offer you one week of rest and recreation in our recreation facilities, if you would accept this gesture, which is the least we can do for you. Thank you very much, colleagues, for being here to share with us Danka’s return and to mark together World Humanitarian Day."

Mrs. Danka Panchova, who was released on August 11 after being held captive by Somali militants for nine months met earlier with her parents and a representative of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry in France last week and underwent a medical check-up in Paris at the expense of "Action against Hunger", the humanitarian organization that she works for.

Mrs. Panchova, who spent nine months in captivity in Somalia, has declined to talk to the media over a ban by "Action against Hunger". She was kidnapped together with five other colleagues in November 2008. Last week the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry thanked France, Oman, and Egypt for helping with her release.

Sad anniversary for hostages' families

"Together , the two families continue to work tirelessly to secure
Nigel's and Amanda's safe release. With little outside support, the families, who have been united as one throughout this horrendous ordeal, continue to do everything
and anything to gain the earliest possible release for their loved ones, Amanda and Nigel. Our thoughts and all our love are with Amanda and Nigel, today, just as they have been for the past 365 days, and just as they will be until they are safely home with us.

In issuing this brief joint statement the families hope that the media respect their wishes to be left alone during this particularly emotional time"

Families of kidnapped pair in Somalia commemorate anniversary (AAP)

The families of kidnapped Brisbane photographer Nigel Brennan and freelance Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout say they will continue doing everything possible to secure their earliest release. Mr Brennan and Ms Lindhout were abducted on August 23 last year in Somalia on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu. On the eve of the anniversary of the kidnapping, the Brennan and Lindhout families issued a joint statement on Saturday saying they continued to work together tirelessly for the safe release of the pair. "With little outside support, the families, who have been united as one throughout this horrendous ordeal, continue to do everything and anything to gain the earliest possible release for their loved ones, Amanda and Nigel," the statement said. Last month the Brennan family appealed to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to go public with their loved one's hostage ordeal in Somalia. The government has asked the media to be cautious in its reporting of Mr Brennan's situation, worried that it might harm his chances of release or jeopardise his life.

Amanda Lindhout's family speaks out by Stephane Massinon, Calgary Herald
Amanda Lindhout was abducted at gun point on August 23, 2008 in Somalia, Africa.
The family of a Canadian journalist being held hostage in Somalia have broken their silence just before the one-year anniversary of her abduction — suggesting in a joint statement they have received little support in their efforts to gain her release.

For 12 months come Sunday, Amanda Lindhout, 28, of Sylvan Lake, Alta., has survived in captivity somewhere in the African country. There have been death threats, fluctuating ransom demands, lurid speculation about her situation and heart-wrenching pleas to television stations for help from the abducted woman. Through it all, her family have not spoken for fear they might make her situation worse.

In their first statement since the ordeal began, the Lindhout family issued a joint statement with relatives of Nigel Brennan, the Australian photographer who was captured with Lindhout. How long the ordeal might continue remains unknown, like much about the case. Few people, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, have spoken at length about the situation.

Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's Office on Friday, urging renewed efforts to secure the journalists' freedom. She's also awaiting an update on what is happening on the ground, since so little has been said publicly. "It's extremely unusual for a Canadian journalist to be held, frankly, anywhere in the world — and then to be held this long," said Welch.

She believes the fact the ordeal has gone on for 12 months reflects the difficult political and security situation in Somalia, as well as the fact Lindhout was a freelance reporter. "She's basically on her own, from what we can tell. She doesn't have a big (broadcasting) network behind her or a big newspaper chain behind her, or even a whole bunch of colleagues on the ground in Somalia who know her and can gather some intelligence and do what they can," said Welch."In many ways, it's the worst of the worst."

Daniel Clayton, CEO of Calgary-based Diligence Ltd., a "risk management" firm that does kidnap and ransom support and teaches businesspeople who travel to volatile places how to be aware of kidnapping risks, has been following the case.In his experience with kidnappings, he said hostage-takers want to make their efforts worthwhile and will keep hostages as long as necessary. "They could literally hold her forever. There's hostages around the world that have been held hostage for 10 years. No one knows their location, their country, where they are," said Clayton.
"The group sees it as: If they keep them, then they're not losing anything. If they kill them, they've got no chance whatsoever at that ransom money." Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, has said it never expected the kidnapping to drag on this long. "It's true that we feel weak. It's one year now; it's a completely chaotic situation," said Benoit Hervieu.

Anniversary of abduction of Canadian and Australian journalists:

Two foreign freelance journalists are about to complete a year in captivity. Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were taken hostage by an armed group as they were returning to Mogadishu from Afgoye refugee camp, 20 km west of the Somali capital, on 23 August 2008. “We are very worried about these two hostages, given the length of their ordeal and the extreme dangers prevailing in Somalia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We reiterate our support for their families and we hope they will be released without delay.”

At the time of their abduction, Lindhout and Brennan were being accompanied by Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, a Somali freelance journalist who was their fixer and interpreter, and two Somali drivers, Mahad Isse and Marwali. Elmi and the two drivers were released on the night of 15 January, after being held for 177 days. Elmi said he was separated from Lindhout and Brennan immediately after their capture.

A woman claiming to be Lindhout called CTV headquarters in Toronto on 10 June and appealed to the Canadian government to do everything possible to obtain her release. In tears, she said she was being held in appalling conditions. “I’m being kept in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and very little food or no food,” the caller said. “I’ve been very sick for months without any medicine.” A similar call was made to OMNI Television, another Canadian TV station, at the end of July.

The kidnappers have been demanding a ransom, the size of which has changed over the months. Rumours have circulated about the hostages but Reporters Without Borders has been unable to confirm any of them. According to one rumour, Lindhout was pregnant and several Somali sources have said in the past two months that she gave birth to a boy.

Journalist still captive one year later by Victoria Handysides for METRO Edmonton
One year after she was snatched off a Somalian roadside at gunpoint, Alberta-born journalist Amanda Lindhout remains held by her captors. “There are a lot of unanswered questions — it’s not the conventional kidnap and ransom case whatsoever,” said Calgary-based anti-terrorism expert Daniel Clayton.

Clayton met Lindhout two years ago in Afghanistan. The tall, attractive, white woman represented the ideal target for kidnappers, he said. “I remember telling someone ‘she better be careful,’” Clayton said. In the year she’s been held captive, conflicting reports on her condition have surfaced, and the ransom has been raised and lowered significantly. Sources in Somalia tell Clayton the 28-year-old woman now could be released for as little as $250,000. Though the government does not negotiate with terrorists, a visit from a political figure to the Somalian government could mean a chance for freedom, Clayton said.

impacting reports from the global village: Al-Shabab listed as terrorist group by Australia

The Rudd government has listed Somali-based Al-Shabab as a terrorist organisation.
In a Commonwealth Gazette statement dated August 21, 2009, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith listed the group under subsection 15 (1) of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945. No comment was immediately available from Attorney-General Robert McClelland's or Mr Smith's offices. The government has been under pressure to proscribe the group, which has been listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States since February 2008. Earlier in August, Australian police arrested several men with suspected links to al-Shabab. It's alleged the men intended to launch a suicide attack on the Holsworthy army barracks in Sydney.

According to the United States National Counter-Terrorism Centre website, senior members of the al-Shabab leadership are affiliated with al-Qaeda and are believed to have fought with them in Afghanistan. It says al-Shabab is the militant wing of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council that took over most of southern Somalia in late 2006.
"In December 2006 and January 2007, Somali government and Ethiopian forces routed it in a two-week war," the NCTC says. "Since the end of 2006 it has led a violent insurgency, using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the continued Ethiopian presence in Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and non-governmental aid organisations."

Australia lists Somalia's Shebab as terror group

Australia on Friday listed Somalia's Shebab extremists as a terror organisation after five men allegedly linked to the group were charged with planning a suicide assault on a Sydney army barracks. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith issued a notice in the official gazette outlawing the Al-Qaeda-inspired group that Australian police say was linked to a plot uncovered earlier this month. The listing, which makes it a criminal offence to be a member or an associate of Shebab in any way, was made on the advice of Australia's security organisations, Smith said.

"Elements of al-Shabaab (Shebab) are linked to Al-Qaeda through leadership contacts and training, both recent and historical, and by Al-Qaeda senior leadership endorsement of its activities," a statement explaining the move said.
Shebab has denied any connection to the alleged Australian suicide plot or to the men charged, at least three of whom are of Somali origin. Another is accused of having travelled to the African country to fight and train there.

But the government had been under pressure to ban the group, which has been listed as a terror organisation in the United States since February 2008, following the August 4 arrests of the men in Melbourne. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said at the time Australia was considering listing Shebab as a terrorist organisation but had delayed acting for fear of compromising the police operation, which had been running since January.

Police say the men planned to storm Sydney's Holsworthy army base, home to thousands of troops including a major anti-extremist unit, with firearms in what would have been Australia's worst militant attack. Prosecutors claim the men wanted to become "martyrs" and sought a fatwa, or religious ruling, to justify their actions.
"The alleged offenders were prepared to inflict a sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed," said Tony Negus, acting chief commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, following the arrests.

"The men's intention was to go into these army barracks and to kill as many people as possible... This would have been, if it had been able to be carried out, the most serious attack on Australian soil." The outlawing of Shebab as a terrorist group means it is an offence to be a member of, associate with, train with, provide training for, receive funds from, make funds available to, direct or recruit for the organisation.

Under the United Nations Act charter, it is a crime to use or deal with the assets of, or to make assets available to, a listed person or group. The government will also freeze the assets of anyone involved in the commission of terrorist act under its UN obligations, it said. The hardline Shebab group is engaged in a deadly military offensive against Somalia's internationally-backed government.
In recent months, the Shebab group has increasingly resorted to recruiting foreign jihadi fighters and members of the Somali diaspora but is not known to have actively taken part in terrorist attacks on foreign soil.

Many of its members nevertheless proclaim their allegiance to Al-Qaeda, whose leaders have repeatedly urged fighters there to take the jihad (holy war) beyond the borders of Somalia, a country with a large diaspora.

Important: UAE lifts ban on cattle imports from Somalia

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted a ban on cattle imports from Somalia, the WAM news agency reported Friday citing the environment ministry. Cattle imports from the two Somali cities of Bosaso and Barabara will now be allowed in the country, UAE Environment and Water Minister Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad said Thursday.

As per the latest government directive, the importers must obtain certificates from laboratories stating that the animals were not vaccinated for bovine plague.
In the UAE, all imported animals are subject to the veterinary and animal care regulations and legislations.

Somali Woman stranded in Kenya sues Ottawa for $2.5-million

The lawyer for Suaad Hagi Mohamud, the Toronto woman trapped in Kenya because federal officials didn't believe she was Canadian, says an independent probe is needed to find whether she was treated that way because of her Somali ethnicity.

Six days after she got home thanks to genetic tests proving her identity, Ms. Mohamud is suing Ottawa for $2.5-million, saying she wants to get to the bottom of the bureaucratic screw-ups that left her stranded overseas for three months.
“The question that needs to be posed and answered is whether the colour of her skin and her cultural background as a Somali had anything to do with her treatment,” her new lawyer, well-known Toronto barrister Julian Falconer, said in an interview.
“The question has to be asked whether a Caucasian in the same circumstances would have been treated the same way.”

The Canada Border Services Agency and Foreign Affairs Canada have opened internal investigations into the handling of Ms. Mohamud's case. However, she and her lawyers are calling for an independent inquiry and a public apology. “I was alone when my government let me down,” Ms. Mohamud told reporters Friday. “I don't care about money. I live [simply]. … I only go to court so this never happens to another Canadian citizen.”

Her comments came as a second Canadian of Somali origin, Abdihakim Mohamed, a 25-year-old autistic man, is getting a travel document to return to this country after being marooned in Kenya for three years. Ms. Mohamud's notice of action in Ontario Superior Court details a series of blunders that began in May when Kenyan authorities questioned the validity of her passport as she tried to board a flight to Canada.
The notice says that rather than help her, Liliane Khadour, who was then vice-consul at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi, wrote “a false and defamatory letter” that told Kenyan officials that a consular investigation confirmed that Ms. Mohamud wasn't the rightful holder of the passport.

The consular officer also handed Ms. Mohamud's passport to the Kenyans, resulting in the Toronto woman being charged, jailed for nine days until she got bail, and facing deportation to Somalia. “Ms. Mohamud was robbed of her identity, denied her rights as a Canadian citizen and abandoned to the whims of Kenyan authorities for three months,” the notice said.

The notice, a summary filing preceding a more substantive statement of claim, says she is seeking damages because the government defamed her and acted in a negligent, malicious fashion. The lawsuit names as defendants Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, and three of his department's diplomats, including Ms. Khadour. The notice also cites as defendants Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who is responsible for the CBSA.

Mr. Kenney and Mr. Cannon knew of Ms. Mohamud's predicament as early as June, the notice says. It also notes that, as late as July 23, the Foreign Affairs Minister was expressing doubts to reporters about whether she was a genuine Canadian.
After appearing at a press conference Friday, Ms. Mohamud, who is in poor health, will no longer speak to the media because “she needs some healing time,” Mr. Falconer said.

Gov't. to issue docs to another stranded Canadian by The Canadian Press
Travel documents will be issued to a Canadian stranded in Kenya, after he applies for a passport, federal officials said Thursday. Abdihakim Mohammed, an autistic 25-year-old Somali-Canadian, has been unable to leave Kenya for three years. He was taken to Somalia five years ago by his mother because doctors thought being near extended family could help him.

But when Anab Issa tried to bring Mohammed back to Canada through Kenya three years ago, she was told the person with her was not her son because he didn't look like his passport photo. The case has remained unresolved until now, despite offers from Mohammed's mother to undergo DNA testing. But the government will issue documents to Mohammed as soon as it receives an application from him, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday. "Passport Canada stands ready to process an application as soon as it is received," Natalie Sarafian said in an email to The Canadian Press. "Once an application is submitted the Government of Canada will proceed with issuing a travel document.

Kenyan NGO officials on the run over terror probe

Kenyan Police have launched a manhunt for officials of NGOs linked to Somalia’s al-Shabaab terror group. The officials of the Nairobi-based NGOs eluded arrest in a botched raid on a Eastleigh hotel last Friday. The NGOs’ agents have been recruiting unsuspecting young Kenyans into the ranks of the terror group. The raid, set up by intelligence officials, was bungled when police moved in prematurely after nine young men drove up to the hotel, resulting in the NGO officials keeping away. Launched raid The youths were released after being interrogated at Buruburu police station. Acting on intelligence reports, police had hoped to net the NGO officials and 25 youths, but some of youngsters escaped while others had not arrived when the raid was launched.

Al-Shabaab, linked to the al-Qaeda terrorism network, has been fighting the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. The group was planning to recruit 1,500 youths with the help of the NGOs, police investigations revealed. As a cover, the NGOs are registered as humanitarian agencies and recruits only realise they have been enlisted for combat duty once they get to Somalia. The NGOs’ agents lured unsuspecting young Kenyans with promises of jobs, offering salaries as high as US$2,500 (Sh190,000).

They were told they were being employed as store managers and drivers to distribute relief food and medicines in Somalia. A source familiar with the operations, but who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, told the Nation how a 15-year-old Kenyan boy was killed when explosives strapped to his body blew up as he was undergoing suicide bombing training at Ras Kamboni in 2007.

The NGO officials would distribute cash to the recruits to pay hotel bills and other expenses. The recruits, who are not required to have any form of advanced training or education, would get as much as US$150 (Sh11,400) weekly.

Bogus NGOs lure Nairobi youth to join Somali al-Shabaab militia

NGOs based in Nairobi are being used by Somalia’s al-Shabaab militia group to recruit young Kenyans. The al-Shabaab militia, which is linked to the al-Qaeda terrorism network, has been fighting the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and imposed Sharia law in areas under its control. Agents for the NGOs with offices in Westlands and the city centre have been luring unsuspecting Kenyans with promises of jobs, offering salaries as high as Sh190,000 ($2,500).

The agents, usually flush with US dollars, have been operating for more than a year in North Eastern Province and recently moved to Nairobi. Police struck Intelligence officers and undercover police raided a hotel in the city’s Eastleigh area yesterday and arrested 10 young men being prepared for missions in Somalia. The NGO bosses and their agents escaped the 4 pm raid and a manhunt has been launched. Maalim Hassan, 24, is one of 20 recent recruits who was waiting to be taken to Mogadishu when the police struck. He was approached by a man he barely knew who he had met in Mombasa last year. “He kept calling me saying he would help me get a job in Somalia.

Initially, I ignored him but after a while, I agreed as the pay offer was good,” Hassan told the Nation. A year later, he met the man in Eastleigh and he was introduced to an agent supposedly contracted by one of the NGOs. Two NGOs have been identified as recruiting youths for al-Shabaab. As a cover, they are registered as humanitarian organisations which supply relief food and medicines to citizens trapped in Somalia.

“I met the chief agent a few metres from his office building and he told me he was contracted by an NGO to recruit drivers and store managers for its humanitarian operations in Mogadishu,” Hassan said. But a source familiar with the NGOs’ operations told the Nation that recruits only got to know they had been recruited for war after they cross the border and start training. Others are used as suicide bombers, according to the source, who has worked in Somalia for a long time but who could not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Hassan has no education beyond Form Four but was told he had qualified for the well-paying job because he is a Muslim, is young and has Caucasian hair. The agent asked him to help recruit others and gave him US$150 (Sh11,400) for his personal upkeep, including payment for food and hotel bills for a week. Hassan was also warned of the secrecy of the mission and urged to divulge the information only to young men willing to take up the jobs. The agent also told him that his target was to recruit 1,500 young men and that 600 had already left for Somalia. “I was introduced to 10 other young men at Eastleigh but the number had since increased to 25,” Hassan told Nation.

Ten of these were arrested in Friday’s raid but the rest escaped. More than 10 plainclothes officers, together with intelligence officials backed by two dozen uniformed officers, all armed with rifles took part in the raid. Hassan said the group was under instructions not to spend more than one night at the same hotel.

“For the last five weeks, we have stayed in almost all the hotels and lodges in Eastleigh. We book in for the night and check out the following morning. At times the agents visit us but mostly they contact us by phone,” said Hassan. The recruitment raised suspicion because of the secretive and odd manner in which it is done.

Recruits are not required to have any form of professional training and their educational background does not matter. Young Muslims aged between 15 and 25 years are targeted and those from other parts of Kenya who got wind of the job offers and tried to enlist were turned away, Hassan said. Among the recruits awaiting transportation to Somalia were six youngsters of Arab origin, one Indian while the rest were Somalis, the Nation found out.

Hassan said they are all Kenyans. “Every Friday, we meet the agents at a petrol station and they give us our weekly allowance. One time I got US$400 (Sh30,400),” he said. “We do nothing the whole day. We just sit in hotels chewing miraa and at night we drink alcohol and take prostitutes to our rooms. We just wait for the agent or his associates to call and give instructions,” he added. When the call comes, they tell the agents where the group is booked and are instructed to move to another hotel in the morning. “There is no way we can reach them because they conceal their mobile phone numbers,” said Hassan. * Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who spoke to the Saturday Nation.

US policy on Somalia unchanged: If we can not have it - nobody else shall!
US Africa Command Chief Vows Support for Somali Government by Alan Boswell (VOA)
The top general from the U.S. military's Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, said on Friday that the rise of radical Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia makes East Africa a central focus of the U.S. military on the continent.

General William Ward has pledged continued support to Somalia's transitional federal government and the African Union forces operating there. He made his remarks during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya, which is a key U.S. ally in region.

The general said that al-Shabab's alleged link to international terrorist group al-Qaida means that the region is a priority for AFRICOM on the continent. The commander thanked Kenya for its ongoing partnership with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
General Ward highlighted the U.S. military's support of the African Union troops in Somalia and said that the United States would continue to offer logistical assistance.

"The work being done by the African Union through its African Mission there, AMISOM, is work we all support," he said. "It's work we will continue to support. We have had roles in helping to train some of those AMISOM forces. We have had roles in helping provide logistical support to the AMISOM forces. And we would certainly look forward to continuing to do that as the number of AMISOM forces continues to rise."

The commander predicted that the "stalemate" in Somalia between the pro-government forces and rebel Islamic militant groups would be broken as the number of AMISOM forces rises.

AMISOM is technically neutral in the conflicts between pro-government forces and the rebel groups but has been accused of fighting with the anti-government militias. AMISOM forces protect key sites in Mogadishu including the airport, the presidential palace, and the seaport.

When asked about U.S. warnings to Eritrea against its alleged support of al-Shabab, the U.S. general condemned any outside support for the Somali rebels. "Any time a nation or a state is purposely doing things that incite, contribute to instability, insecurity - that is something that none of us would agree with. And we would hope that any legitimate government, any legitimate nation would in fact be doing otherwise," he said.

AFRICOM was created in late 2007 and formally activated a year later. The new command structure oversees military relationships with all African countries except Egypt.
The military command is based in Germany. Reports that AFRICOM headquarters could eventually be based within the African continent have generated controversy and some open hostility from African leaders. Liberia is the only African nation to have publicly announced its willingness to host the U.S. military African Command.

General Ward also used the visit to praise Kenya for accepting captured Somali pirates that have plagued the waters off of Africa. He said AFRICOM's role in the continent is to help friendly African countries build their security capacities through mutual partnerships.

Kenya falls short of goals set by Hillary Clinton

The land is parched in Kenya, while it deals with smoldering political violence. Kenyans appear helpless to change despite Secretary Clinton's entreaties in the country that gave birth to President Obama's forefathers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's whirlwind safari of sub-Saharan Africa, to deliver messages from President Barack Obama, has fallen on helpless ears.

The population here is helpless to improve its condition in the face of widespread corruption and elitism. Water rationing in is the norm. Water sources have been drying up, and huge forested areas given out for settlement, for political reasons. Ten million people are at risk of starvation, one third of the population.

As all know, Obama traces his roots to this nation, but he deliberately by-passed it on his lightning trip to the continent, choosing Ghana instead. So he sent his Secretary of State to give the Kenyan authorities a piece of his mind. Namely that in the wake of the post-election violence last year, reforms are dragging on too long, and the culture of corruption and impunity is not being tackled with anywhere near enough determination.

In more developed democracies like the United States it is unthinkable that anyone should consider himself above the law; in democracies that are still finding their way around, such as those of most of sub-Saharan Africa, it is almost taken for granted that the kind of justice you receive is in proportion to your wealth and power. For example, a couple of days before Mrs. Clinton arrived two youths were sentenced to death in the coastal town of Malindi for stealing forty shillings (half a dollar) from a fisherman. The magistrate issuing the sentence said she was convinced that the robbery had been carried out by violent means. Robbery with violence is a capital offence in Kenya.

While Secretary Clinton was "overwhelmed" by what she saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she said that it is ultimately up to the locals to sort out the violence committed against women and children. President Obama deliberately avoided visiting the land of his forefathers but instead chose Secretary Clinton to deliver a stern message on political violence there.

These two youths may still be lucky. As Mrs. Clinton was arriving in the country, the President commuted the sentence of hanging to that of life imprisonment for four thousand inmates on death row. The President has invited his countrymen to initiate the debate on the death penalty, which they have eagerly taken up, and which may be one way of saying that its days are numbered. The last person was hanged in Kenya in 1987.

Although she was invited to Kenya to attend the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Conference, the main item on her agenda was human rights. And among ordinary Kenyans there has been hardly a murmur about “American interference.” According to Dr. Boni Khalwale, chair of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, who attended one of the closed-door meetings with Mrs. Clinton, she was concerned about the lack of reforms aimed at ending impunity and promised to name, shame and ban the violence and corruption suspects from visiting the United States.

Economic sanctions against the country would not be a solution as it would mean that only the poor would suffer. She was also unhappy that the government had retained key figures in the fight against corruption and extra-judicial killings by police, such as the Attorney-General and the Police Commissioner, as well as the head of the Judiciary and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

In another forum, she said President Obama had asked her to deliver a very tough message, which she did, word for word, on the lack of accountability and failure to prosecute those responsible for last year’s violence; not to humiliate anyone or interfere, but because of his connection with the country. If this forceful stance works, it will be ironic and a sign of the times. It will be a case of a Kenyan “emigrant” bringing about much-needed change in the country of his roots but from his position as the world’s most powerful politician.

For obvious reasons, Mrs. Clinton did not visit Somalia. Instead top Somali government officials met with her in Nairobi. The United States has good reason to be worried about what is going on in that country, both ashore and off the coast-line patrolled by pirates. The Somali government is beleaguered by al-Shabab, an extremist group, supported by extremist groups elsewhere and linked with al-Qaeda. This group is intent on imposing the sharia law in Somalia and northern Kenya where Kenyan Somalis live. Needless to say, they are heavily armed and ruthless in achieving what they want.

Fittingly, the Secretary of State laid a wreath at the memorial site in Nairobi where over two thousand Kenyan and American citizens died when the U.S. Embassy was bombed eleven years ago this August. The threat of terrorism has not left the region yet, and the extensive coast-line and vast wilderness in the semi-desert frontier area dividing the two countries doesn’t make it any easier to confront it and wipe it out. Kenya does not have oil or mineral wealth, like some of the other countries on her itinerary: South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola, but Kenyans do have strategic importance for this part of the continent.

Kenya’s many other problems must have passed over Mrs. Clinton on her three-day trip, busy as she was in the corridors of power, addressing the students at Nairobi’s public university, and meeting whatever ordinary Kenyans she managed to fit in. The last five rainy seasons have been below expectations, and the dams that supply electric power are drying up. The country is on daylight power rationing three days every week, starting the day she flew in. The rapid expansion of the capital city, with hundreds of migrants moving in every day, cannot keep up with the dwindling water supplies.

Kenyans hope that Mrs. Clinton’s visit will have shaken up their government’s complacency and persuaded it to put its act together. Eighteen months on from what nearly ended in a civil war and the fragmentation of the country, yet most of what Kenyans have got since then is hot air.

Obama then Hillary: U.S. scrambles for Africa

Following up on President Barack Obama's Africa trip in July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned for a seven-nation tour. The trip was touted as the solidification of Mr. Obama's “Partner not Patron” message to Africa. But some observers are sceptical about U.S. motives, saying the trip was basically an economic-motivated move to strengthen America's position in the modern day scramble for African resources against China, France, India and the European Union.
Starting Aug. 4 in Kenya—the home of President Obama's father—Mrs. Clinton held bilateral talks with members of Kenya's government and addressed the opening session of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum, an initiative from President Bill Clinton's administration that allows tariff free and lenient trade policies for select African exports to the United States.

Sec. Clinton reiterated some of President Obama's themes from Ghana, such as “good governance attracts aid,” “responsibility” and “forgetting the past to move forward.”
“We believe in Africa's promise,” said the top U.S. diplomat. “We are committed to Africa's future and we will be partners with Africa's people.”
While in Kenya, Mrs. Clinton chided common stereotypes of Africa, such as “poverty, disease, and conflict” as “stale, outdated and wrong,” while highlighting the continent's potential. “Africa is capable, and is making economic progress. In fact, one doesn't have to look far to see that Africa is ripe with opportunities,” said Mrs. Clinton. The secretary of state also announced U.S. plans to double foreign assistance to Africa by 2014.

However, while Mrs. Clinton applauded Africa in one hand, she backhanded the small country of Eritrea for its involvement in opposition politics in Somalia and promised more financial and military backing of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), led by President Sheik Sharif Ahmed. Experts maintain U.S. military posturing in the “Horn of Africa” is wrongheaded and fears the Obama administration will increase weaponry in the region through the conflict.

“U.S. support for the TFG is nothing short of disastrous, so we've just doubled disaster,” Peter Pham, an Africa specialist told Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper.
According to the Daily Nation, Mr. Pham said that some American weapons intended for the TFG ended up on Mogadishu's black markets—and ultimately in the hands of al-Shabaab, an opposition militia.

The secretary of state continued on to South Africa to refresh relations with the post apartheid regime and its newly-elected President Jacob Zuma.
According to Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary,Bureau of African Affairs, the stop was to “encourage” South Africa to play a leadership role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to help resolve major political issues confronting the region such as Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

“South Africa has three million refugees from Zimbabwe and every one of those refugees represents a failure of the Zimbabwean government to care for its own people and a burden that South Africa has to bear,” Sec. Clinton said.
But some say Mrs. Clinton is espousing the same U.S. policy of “regime change” in Zimbabwe that has existed since President Robert Mugabe took control of White-owned land for redistribution back to Black Zimbabweans, a position the former liberation fighter undertook after England and the U.S. reneged on the post independence “Lancaster agreements” where the two Western powers were to finance the transition of land from White ownership back to Black ownership.

Refuting the skeptics, a State Dept. press statement said the Clinton visit was only to underline “America's commitment to collaborate with governments” and other sectors to “build Africa's capacity.” Observers further noted that all seven countries are either oil producers or strong magnets for multi-national corporate greed for natural resources, specifically naming Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Liberia.

In Nigeria's Delta region, tremendous oil wealth never reached the exploited masses whose environment was polluted by multi-national conglomerates like Shell Oil. It is estimated that Nigeria has reaped an estimated $280 billion from oil in the past 30 years; the Delta communities have seen almost nil of the revenue, resulting in violent resistance against the multi-nationals and the Nigerian government.

According to reports, Clinton warned Nigeria about corruption and electoral fraud—comparing it to the fraudulent U.S. election that brought George Bush to power in 2000—albeit little pressure was placed on President Umaru Yar'Adua, whose administration has been accused of widespread corruption and extra-judicial killings, as in Nigeria's Borno State recently.

In Angola, which is on line to be Africa's number one oil producer, the secretary of state witnessed the U.S. Agency for International Development sign a memorandum of understanding with the Chevron Corporation and the Cooperative League of the United States of America. Mrs. Clinton said, “We are making a down payment on the future” of Angola, which is struggling to establish itself after years of an independence war and a civil war.

America has a history with the former Portuguese colony going back to the 1960s when the U.S. was the benefactor of Jonas Savimbi and his brutal National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), who fought against the anti-colonial struggles for the liberation of Angola. Mr. Savimbi was America's tool to disrupt the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the wars for independence (1961–1975) and then in a vicious civil war from 1975–2002. UNITA was America's “cold war” proxy against the MPLA who were backed and financed by the then Soviet Union.

Angola's increased oil and diamond production and intensive infrastructure rebuilding following the end of the civil war offers huge business opportunities. Economists expect Angola will reach double-digit growth over the next five years. The U.S., however, has fallen behind the Chinese since the end of Angola's civil war. China is Angola's number one trading partner for oil, according to a UK Chatham House report.
The U.S. struggle to compete with China on Africa trade appears to be the real motivation for Mrs. Clinton coming so soon after President Obama, said Bahati Jacques, an analyst with the African Faith and Justice Network.

“China has made a lot of contracts with the DRC and that makes the U.S. unhappy because they want to get those contracts or be part of what's going on,” said Mr. Jacques to The Final Call. The French are involved in DRC and there is a clear scramble to get into the Congo before everything is taken. War zone resources like coltan—used in cell phones and computers—are going not only into the U.S. but into Europe and Asia, said Mr. Jacques.

The African Faith and Justice Network has called on Mrs. Clinton to retract the U.S. call for Africans to forget the past and move on in light of America's historical meddling in Congolese affairs. No we can't forget the past. How can we forget that six million people have died, how can we forget that (first Congo Prime Minister Patrice) Lumumba was killed under a CIA conspiracy, how can we forget that (Laurent) Kabila came to power by force sponsored by Rwanda, Uganda and the U.S.?” asked Mr. Jacques.

“We are calling Clinton to apologize” for that position, he added.
The trip took Mrs. Clinton to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Liberia, and ended in Cape Verde.

Ghana: Is Obama shaking his head in disbelief?
Where is President Mills in all these? Why has he maintained his silence despite the call for him to step in? Obama decided to choose Ghana out of about 48 countries in Africa South of the Sahara for his maiden visit because of what he calls Ghana's strong democratic credentials, human rights record, rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly and economic performance.

But barely one month after his visit he must be shaking his head for praising the country and authoring those praising words. He now wished he had not visited the country at all. He has now realised that Ghana too is an African country where nothing good could come from. The question he is asking is, "Is this the country that I visited just one month ago? I thought they were peaceful democrats who respect the rights of their citizens" shaking his head in disbelief. He is now angry with his advisors for deceiving him into choosing Ghana. "Ghana is no better than my father's Kenya" he might be exclaiming.

"In my father's Kenya they steal, they arrest, they detain, they kill and they engage in violence during elections. In Ghana too they steal, they arrest, detain, kill and now in Akwatia election violence is ongoing. So what is the difference he might have asked Mr. Johnnie Carson his top envoy to Africa.

Ever since Obama's visit a lot has happened in the country. Barely a day goes without an opposition member been arrested and detained by the BNI or someone been beaten to death or shot dead by the Police and the BNI.

Ghana is slowly joining the likes of Zimbabwe where the state security apparatus arrest and detain Movement of Democratic Change MPs or members at will. Like Guinea where life has become so cheap that Ghana's ambassador was attacked by the state security forces, our nation too is slowly turning into a police state with the BNI arresting and detaining people and interrogating them without their lawyers being present.

We are told that Lawyers who followed Asamoah Boateng to the BNI were pushed and heckled by operatives of the Organisation. The lawyers were also not allowed to sit in during the BNI meeting with their client even though the laws of our land dictates that a person must have his lawyer present when being interrogated. Even though the BNI claims to have secured a bench warrant for Asamoah Boateng's arrest his lawyers were not shown a copy of the warrant.

Besides, the BNI operatives did not spare the wife of Asamoah Boateng. She too was dragged and pushed into a gutter. Like all unprofessional security agencies who use brute force, threats, intimidation, harassment the BNI is increasingly showing itself as no exception. Any cultured organisation treat women with respect and dignity but the behaviour of Atta Mills' BNI leaves much to be desired. Their unprofessional behaviour at the airport where they allowed Asamoah Boateng and his family to finish going through departure formalities only for them to enter the plane and ground it is a continuation of what they did in 2001 under Kufour regime where they harassed members of then NDC opposition members. Why did the BNI allow the family to board the plane before going in to disturb everyone there?

Betty Mould Iddrissu the Attorney General who should know better is as pathetic as the BNI itself. Instead of rising to defend Mrs. Asmoah Boateng and her children she has joined the BNI wagon in mistreating them. Women are their own enemies indeed. Consider the trauma Asabee's children are going through having to watch their parents being forcefully removed from the plane. What examples are we setting for them? Two times they have seen their parents being yelled at, being dragged, being pushed around at the airport, in the plane. How can the peace lover Mills explain to these kids what is happening to their parents? Father of all indeed!

When a court ruled that the passport of the former foreign minister be handed to him the BNI and the Attorney General say no way. We will give to him at our time and place of choice. This shows that neither the BNI nor the A-G respect the court and its ruling. Contempt of law? Well Not in Atta Mills' Ghana. The BNI says it arrested and detained Asamoah Boateng because they could not locate him. Instead of going to Asabee's house the BNI went to his in-law's house as if Asabee lives in his in-law's house. What effort did the BNI make to contact Asabee's lawyers when the BNI could not find him?

There is no indication that the BNI called Asabee's lawyers to find out about his whereabouts. Did the BNI leave a note in Asabee's house to the effect that he was being sought? The only excuse the government has given concerning Asabee's arrest is that he was arrogant when he was in government. But no where in our constitution has it said that a person should be arrested if he is arrogant.

Asamoah Boateng was prevented from travelling by the BNI even though he had told the court he would be travelling for a week. He was later arrested and detained for days and when his sympathisers organised themselves to hold a candle vigil for him they were tear gassed, beaten and murdered by the BNI and their police counterpart.

"Can't the BNI go about its work professionally without the drama that it is creating? Is the BNI aware that public opinion is against it?" a panel member retorted on Joy FM's program News File on Saturday 15 August 2009.

The culture of violence and impunity seem to be growing by the day. The recent election campaign violence in Akwatia where people have been killed and several vehicles destroyed all point to growing insecurity and lawlessness in the country. NPP General Secretary Nana Ohene Ntow claims he has been assaulted by NDC supporters with NDC's Asiedu Nkatia also making similar allegations. Supporters of both NPP and NDC are causing mayhem forcing a curfew to be imposed on the town. Due to the violence the Eastern Regional Security Council has been forced to issue a directive to the effect that the election cannot go on.