Monday, July 24, 2017

Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga in Dead Heat — Infotrak Poll
MONDAY JULY 24 2017
Kenya Daily Nation

In Summary
The poll funded by Infotrak shows the number of undecided voters has fallen by two percentage points.
The Ipsos survey was conducted between July 2 and July 12 while Infotrak polled from July 16 to July 22.

By PATRICK LANG'AT

An Infotrak Harris opinion poll has given opposition leader Raila Odinga a one point lead over President Uhuru Kenyatta, showing him gaining four percentage points in three weeks.

The firm polled Mr Odinga at 47 per cent, up from 43 per cent in its June 30 poll.

TIGHT

It puts Mr Kenyatta at 46 per cent, down from 48 per cent.

It is a large improvement in Mr Odinga’s fortunes especially in a relatively quiet campaign period.

In the interval between the last survey and Sunday’s, Mr Odinga has visited western Kenya once and Mr Kenyatta twice.

Ms Angela Ambitho, the firm’s proprietor, on Sunday described the race as a “statistical dead-heat.”

Ms Ambitho said the dramatic gain resulted from Mr Odinga convincing undecided voters in his strongholds and making inroads into North Eastern and Rift Valley.

“Raila has reduced the number of undecided in his strongholds, while he has made significant inroads in Rift Valley and North Eastern,” Ms Ambitho said of the four per cent increase.

UNDECIDED

Western, which the poll treats as a Nasa stronghold, has the largest stock of undecided voters, according to Infotrak, at 18 per cent. The national average is six per cent, according to the poll.

That stock of undecided voters in Western declined from 18.1 per cent to 17.8 per cent in the three-week period, a change of less than half per cent which, given normal errors in measurement, is statistically irrelevant.

The changes in the provincial patterns of support for both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga with those three weeks are equally, if not more, dramatic than the national numbers.

Growth in Mr Odinga’s support in North Eastern, the poll claims, is in the double digits, rising from 20 per cent in the June 30 survey, to 36 per cent in yesterday’s survey, an increase of 16 per cent.

In Western, the Nasa candidate’s support is said to have grown by 13 per cent, from 53 per cent to 66 per cent yesterday.

Those who said they would vote for Mr Odinga rose by four percentage points, from 34 per cent to 38 per cent.

ERROR MARGIN

Conversely, according to the poll, Mr Kenyatta’s support has basically collapsed in the provinces, falling 15 per cent in North Eastern, 13 per cent in Western, nine per cent in Eastern and six per cent in Coast in three weeks, the poll claims.

“It is really a dead heat right now — a tie statistically.  And what will decide who wins in the first round is the number of undecided,” said Ms Ambitho when she released the poll results at her offices in Nairobi.                    

She went on: “Can this election be won in the first round?

Yes. From the numbers, it is the battle of the undecided that will carry the day.”

The poll, which Infotrak said it funded from its own pocket, consisting of computer-assisted interviews was conducted between July 16 and 22, sampling 2,000 respondents in 30 counties and 100 constituencies.

The claimed margin of error is 2.19 per cent and a 95 per cent degree of confidence.

Ms Ambitho, who released her results two hours after results for an Ipsos poll done on July 3-12, sampling 2,209 people showed President Kenyatta ahead with 47 against Mr Odinga’s 43 per cent, defended her results, citing the time the interviews were done.

IPSOS

“We did our interviews from Sunday July 16 and yesterday 22 (Saturday). Ipsos did theirs starting July 3, closer to our June 30 release than it is to the one we have done now.

In politics, one week can change everything,” Ms Ambitho told Nation by phone.

She also criticised Ipsos’ use of adult Kenyans and not registered voters.

“We used all registered voters in our surveys, and only polled (for the popularity), those who said they actually intended to vote,” she said.

Also for the first time, Jubilee and Mr Odinga’s National Super Alliance (Nasa) are tied at 45 per cent national approval ratings, down from 47 and up from 43 per cent, respectively.

In the Infotrak poll, at least half (49 per cent) of those polled said the country was headed in the wrong direction against 47 per cent who said it was headed in the right one, compared to June 30’s 50 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

Those that said the country was headed in the right direction picked President Kenyatta at 65 per cent as the man responsible, with a majority (40 per cent) of those that thought it was headed in the wrong direction blaming the cost of living.
Lagging Private Sector Puts Kenya Middle Income Plan at Risk
SUNDAY JULY 23 2017
Kenya Daily Nation

Vision 2030 director-general Julius Muia. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
Business activity dropped to 47.3 per cent in June from 49.9 per cent in May, the slowest since the survey began in January 2014 and the third decline in the past four months.

The private sector’s lacklustre performance is threatening the country’s dream of attaining middle-income status by 2030, Vision 2030 director-general Julius Muia has said.

Kenya’s private sector business activity slowed in June, hurt by a decline in credit growth and worries among investors about violence during next month’s General Election, according to the latest Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) market survey by Stanbic Bank Kenya #ticker:CFC.

Business activity dropped to 47.3 per cent in June from 49.9 per cent in May, the slowest since the survey began in January 2014 and the third decline in the past four months.

“For Kenya to achieve a middle income status by 2030, the government should continue improving the ease of doing business in the country.

“It must also make sure that laws governing business are attractive, appropriate and supportive for the growth of the economic pillar of vison 2030,” said Muia at a press briefing on Friday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta last year assented to the Companies Act, the Insolvency Act, the Special Economic Zones Act, the Business Registration Service, the Companies and Insolvency Legislation (Consequential Amendments) Act 2015 and Finance Act amendments 2015 to make the economy more business-friendly.

The new law makes it possible for one person to set up a company whereas in the past it required at least two people to register a company.

It also remove the condition that small companies should have a company secretary just like big firms, as well as the removal of the requirement that private firms should have an annual general meeting each year.

The Special Economic Zones Act, the first of its kind in Africa, aims to create an enabling environment for global and local investments in specially designated zones.

Kenya has set aside 3,400 square kilometres of land to be used for development of special economic zones in Kisumu, Lamu and Mombasa.
Works Stoppage at Kenya Hazina Center to Cost Pension Savers
SUNDAY JULY 23 2017
Kenya Nation

The Hazina Trade Centre in Nairobi on June 10, 2014. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In Summary

The NSSF-owned Hazina Trade Centre was under construction to raise the building to 39 stories but a court case by a tenant, Nakumatt, halted it
The State-backed pension scheme later mid-last year sought an audit report on the soundness of the building’s foundation and beams
The High Court order was lifted in January this year, paving the way for NSSF to continue building.

By HERBLING DAVID

Delays in releasing a report on the structural integrity of Hazina Trade Centre in Nairobi risks sinking workers’ hard-earned retirement savings invested in the stalled building by the National Social Security Fund.

Works to build an additional 36 floors to the existing three-floor structure stalled in September 2014 after Nakumatt Supermarket, the anchor tenant, was granted court orders stopping construction of the tower.

The State-backed pension scheme later mid-last year sought an audit report on the soundness of the building’s foundation and beams to hoist a 39-floor structure from the buildings inspectorate.

“We are still waiting for the opinion from the Public Works ministry before we take next course of action,” said NSSF acting managing trustee Anthony Omerikwa.

The pension scheme was eyeing higher returns from the upgraded Hazina Trade Centre, which would offer commercial space for both retail and offices given its prime location in the city centre.

Order lifted

The High Court order was lifted in January this year, paving the way for NSSF to continue building.

NSSF in February 2013 awarded China Jiangxi the tender to construct the additional floors at a cost of Sh6.71 billion.

Construction began in June that year and was to be undertaken in 155 weeks with an expected completion date of July 2016, says a report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko.

The supreme audit officer now warns that stoppage of works is likely to result in higher project cost, putting at risk workers’ contributions.

“The continued stalemate may lead to escalation of costs due to legal suits filed by Nakumatt Holdings Ltd and possible claims for compensation by the contractor,” said Mr Ouko who issued a qualified opinion on NSSF’s latest books of accounts to June 2015.

At the time of stoppage of building works, NSSF had already paid China Jiangxi a total of Sh1.9 billion. By that time, the builders had reached the 15th floor.

Disrupting business

Nakumatt had argued in court that the construction was disrupting its business; and questioned whether the structure’s beams could support a skyscraper of such magnitude.

In a dramatic twist, the National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee in February opened contempt proceedings against Nakumatt chief executive Atul Shah after he failed to disclose to lawmakers that the earlier temporary court orders against building Hazina Trade Centre had been lifted.

The headwinds hitting the upgrade of the trade centre becomes the latest NSSF housing project to attract audit queries.

Workers also risk losing more than Sh215 million in a stalled housing scheme located in Nairobi’s Embakasi area dubbed Nyayo Embakasi phase six whose building came to a halt due to lack of approvals from the county government.

Chinese firm China Jiangxi is said to have already left the construction site having built only 52 units out of the planned 324 mix of apartments and maisonettes which were to cost a total of Sh2.15 billion, according to an audit report.

Phony land deal

The retirement scheme also risks losing another Sh115 million in a phony land deal for a prime plot located in Nairobi’s Upper Hill area whose title deed has now been revoked, according to the Auditor General.

Other audit queries raised by the auditor general relate to collecting Sh748 million from unknown contributors, and wasteful spending that saw NSSF spend half of workers’ contributions collected in 2015 for administrative expenses.

NSSF’s bulging waistline saw returns to pensioners shrink to an all-time low of 3.0 per cent as at June 2015 from 12.5 per cent in 2014.
Egypt Investment Bank Gets Brokerage Licence
MONDAY JULY 24 2017

The Nairobi Securities Exchange. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In Summary

The firm is looking to use Kenya as a base for regional operations targeting neighbouring bourses of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
Stockbrokers with strong foreign desks have in the recent past outperformed their peers who rely mainly on local investor trades.
International players have increasingly sought a foothold in Kenya as an entry point into the regional capital markets.

By CHARLES MWANIKI
Kenya Nation

Egypt-based investment bank EFG-Hermes has been licensed to operate a stockbroker unit in Kenya with an eye on an investment bank permit, targeting institutional and high net-worth investors from the Middle East.

EFG had stated its intention to come into the Kenyan market earlier this year, later saying in June that its licence application with the Capital Markets Authority (CMA was at an advanced stage.

The firm is looking to use Kenya as a base for regional operations targeting neighbouring bourses of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

“We have been granted a stockbroking license by the CMA. We hope to enhance this with an Investment Banking license in the future,” said EFG Hermes in an email response.

“We will focus on foreign institutional investors, domestic institutional and high net worth Investors. We will also look to work with strategic and corporate investors, especially from the Middle East who are looking to acquire assets in East Africa.”

EFG Hermes also operates in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia UAE and the US. It plans to enter the West African market in the near future.

The licensing of EFG will bring the total number of authorised market intermediaries in Kenya to 25. There are already 14 investment banks and 10 stockbrokers operating in Kenya, who are differentiated by capital requirements.

Ali Khalpey, the chief executive officer of EFG-Hermes frontier markets division, told Bloomberg last month that the Kenyan unit will initially have between 10 and 15 employees.

Stockbrokers with strong foreign desks have in the recent past outperformed their peers who rely mainly on local investor trades.

Last year, the top four stockbrokers by market share — Kestrel Capital, Renaissance Capital, SBG Securities and Equity Investment Bank – accounted for 64 per cent of total trades worth Sh294.4 billion at the #ticker:NSE.

International players have increasingly sought a foothold in Kenya as an entry point into the regional capital markets.

In 2014, Ecobank launched its investment banking unit in the country, while Exotix partners, a UK-based investment bank, entered into a partnership with Equity Investment Bank.

In November last year, the CMA granted Securities Kenya Ltd an investment banking licence.

The unit is a member of global financial services firm Altree Financial Group, which has presence in New York, London, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos and Bermuda.
Agony as Family Members Die Amid Nurses’ Strike in Kenya
SUNDAY JULY 23 2017
Kenya Nation

Family members and relatives of Mapenzi Juma who died while seeking maternal care at a public hospital in Mombasa on July 22, 2017 mourn her death. The family wants the nurses' strike to end. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
Nurses went on strike last month demanding salary incease.

By WINNIE ATIENO

A family in Kisauni is in pain after two members — both expectant mothers — died while seeking maternal care at public hospitals in Mombasa County.

The family blamed the double tragedy on the nationwide nurses’ strike that has paralysed services at the health institutions.

POVERTY

The relatives called upon the government to step up efforts to end the job boycott.

“If I had money, I would have taken my wife to a private hospital to give birth but she died due to poverty. I have been robbed of my wife and aunt due to poverty,” 39-year-old Juma Kanda said.

FREE MATERNITY

His wife, Mapenzi Juma, 34, was expecting their fifth child but she died on Saturday evening while searching for a hospital where she could give birth under the free maternal care programme.

STRIKE

He said she died on arrival at the Sayyida Fatima Hospital.

Mr Kanda said his aunt, Ms Halima Kenga, was recently rushed to three different public hospitals but she was turned away by the guards due to the nurses’ strike.

“Two weeks ago, my aunt died at the same hospital. We buried her last week. It has been one tragedy after another,” he said.

He added: “It is sad that politicians are failing to address the health crisis. How can they ask for votes from a sick nation?”
Funding Crisis Hits Kenyan Schools
MONDAY JULY 24 2017
Kenya Nation

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli (right) confers with Mary Rotich, the director of teacher management at the TSC, during the headteachers conference at Wild Waters in Mombasa on June 22, 2017. Mr Indimuli has said schools are yet to receive capitation funding. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary

The government has allocated Sh32.7 billion for secondary schools and Sh14 billion for free primary education. The delay has forced school heads to send home students on several occasions in a bid to have them pay full fees.

By OUMA WANZALA

Secondary schools are yet to receive about Sh5 billion in capitation with less than two weeks to closing day, giving headteachers a challenge in managing the institutions.

Primary schools are also yet to get their money, as a teachers’ union claimed the government was using money in election campaigns.

CAPITATION

The government has allocated Sh32.7 billion for secondary schools and Sh14 billion for free primary education this financial year.

In late May, the government released Sh3.8 billion to secondary schools and Sh1.7 billion to primary schools.

School capitation are released in phases with schools getting 50 per cent in the first term, 30 per cent in the second and 20 per cent in the third.

SCHOOL FEES

The delay has forced school heads to send home students on several occasions in a bid to have them pay full fees with some demanding payment for up to the third term.

On Sunday, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said head teachers are finding it hard to manage schools as suppliers are on their neck.

“Schools are starting to close this week and we have to keep the students comfortable with no money,” Mr Indimuli lamented.

“We are also required to pay support staff and board of management teachers yet we have no money.”

ELECTIONS

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion criticised the government for the delay, saying: “I wonder where the government expects school heads to get money to run schools.

“This is unfair to headteachers.”

August 4 is the last day to close, although several schools, especially private ones, have already closed.

The closure is to allow schools to be used as polling stations during the August 8 polls.

UNREST

They will reopen on August 24 for the third term.

Mr Indimuli lauded principals for having worked hard to minimise cases of school unrest.

“We have done well and it’s our prayer that the situation will remain calm until the end of this term,” he said.

Last year, more than 100 cases of school unrest were reported across the country, leading to loss of property running into millions of shillings.
Graft the Bane of Kenya's Terror Fight — US
MONDAY JULY 24 2017
Kenya Nation

Amisom soldiers in Kismayu. The State Department says the force has been "unable to degrade Al-Shabaab’s ability to plan and execute attacks". PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary

Initiatives aimed at preventing terrorists from entering Kenya were further limited by inconsistent or minimal use of monitoring tools, including biometric screening, at some border posts and airports, the US observes.

Kenya's Financial Reporting Centre is building its monitoring capacity, the report adds, but notes that the government has not appointed a permanent director.

This financial intelligence unit is also hampered by inadequate staffing and the lack of an electronic system for analysing suspicious transactions.

“Corruption at multiple levels” is undermining Kenya's efforts to prevent cross-border attacks by Al-Shabaab, the US State Department says in a new report on terrorism trends worldwide.

But the assessment is partly positive in regard to Kenya, calling the country “a strong counter-terrorism partner of the United States throughout East Africa.”

COURTS

The US lauds progress it says Kenya is making in strengthening its institutions, particularly the judiciary, which “continued to demonstrate independence” last year.

The report notes, however, that “allegations of corruption in the judiciary, including in the High Court, have persisted.”

The Trump administration's first global terrorism assessment criticises Kenyan government shortcomings in terms similar to those used by the Obama-era State Department.

“Border security remained a challenge for Kenya due to vast, sparsely populated border regions and largely uncontrolled land borders,” the review finds.

“This was exacerbated by security agency and other government resource gaps and corruption at multiple levels.”

Initiatives aimed at preventing terrorists from entering Kenya were further limited by inconsistent or minimal use of monitoring tools, including biometric screening, at some border posts and airports, the US observes.

AMISOM

Kenya's Financial Reporting Centre is building its monitoring capacity, the report adds, but notes that the government has not appointed a permanent director.

This financial intelligence unit is also hampered by inadequate staffing and the lack of an electronic system for analysing suspicious transactions.

In Somalia, the federal and regional governments are still proving incapable of preventing most Al-Shabaab attacks, the State Department says.

While the national army and the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) were able to maintain their hold on key rural areas in the south-central part of the country, these security forces “were unable to degrade Al-Shabaab’s ability to plan and execute attacks,” the report states.

The Islamist militant organisation is said to have “several thousand members,” the US says.

SOMALIA

The insurgents' resilience partly reflects their “leveraging of clan politics and exploitation of poor economic conditions to recruit fighters,” the State Department adds.

The Somalia section of the 2016 review offers a generally pessimistic perspective despite what it views as progress on the military front and in security operations in major population centres.

“Somalia remained a safe haven for terrorists who used their relative freedom of movement to obtain resources and funds, recruit fighters, and plan and mount operations within Somalia and in neighbouring countries, mainly in Kenya,” the report concludes.

The number of attacks carried out by Al-Shabaab sharply increased last year, as did fatalities associated with them, the State Department reports.

359 ATTACKS

A total of 359 Shabaab attacks and 740 deaths resulting from them were counted in 2016, compared to 241 attacks and 659 fatalities in 2015.

Official corruption also hinders efforts to block terrorists from entering both Tanzania and Uganda, the US says.

“Border security in Tanzania remained a challenge for a variety of reasons, including corruption; the lack of a dedicated border security unit in the Tanzania Police Force; and vast, porous borders,” the State Department says.

In language almost identical to that in its Kenya section, the report cites “corruption at all levels of government” as a factor impeding Uganda's ability to respond to terrorism threats.

In addition, the Ugandan government and members of the long-ruling party “at times labelled domestic political opposition as 'terrorism' and individuals challenging government or party interests as 'security threats'”.

UGANDA

Such accusations have the potential to divert attention and resources from focusing on “core counter-terrorism goals,” the State Department says.

The Ugandan Police Force is “highly motivated,” the report observes, but points to limitations in UPF anti-terrorism operations due to insufficient funding and training.

“Further,” the State Department remarks, “UPF officials were susceptible to corruption due to low and inconsistent pay.”

Mobile money systems in Uganda can be abused to commit “a multitude of crimes, including terrorism,” the report adds.

While Uganda’s Anti-Money Laundering Act requires financial institutions to conduct comprehensive customer due diligence, it does not put the same requirements on mobile money transfers.”
Over 2,000 Ugandan Troops Leave for Somalia
By Andante Okanya
New Vision
15th July 2017 11:23 AM

Chief of defense forces, David Muhoozi addresses the Ugandan contingent battle group XXII and United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU) during their send off for deployment on a peace keeping mission in Somalia at the Peace Support Operation Training Centre in Singo, Kapeka, Nakaseke district, July 14, 2017. Photos by Maria Wamala

A batch of over 2,000 Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), has left for Somalia to beef up the African Union backed Africa Mission to Somalia(AMISOM).

The troops were seen off on Friday at the Peace Support Operation Training Centre in Singo, Kapeka, Nakaseke district. Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen David Muhoozi, presided over the ceremony.

The troops, categorised as Battle Group XXII and United Nations Guard Unit IV(UNGU IV), will join other troops in the UN funded mission.

Others in attendance were Land Forces commander Maj Gen Peter Elwelu, army spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire, and Battle Group XXII commander Col Bony Bamwiseki, among others.

Muhoozi tasked the troops to maintain UPDF’s solid reputation of successful combat operations, and the unwavering commitment to African solidarity.
Uganda Army’s Battle Group 19 Leaves Somalia
By Vision Reporter
22nd July 2017 10:07 AM

“Battle Group XIX has been operating in a very difficult area; that is in Marka district in Lower Shabelle region but have done a good job,” Brig. Muhanga said.

The troops who were given a sendoff at a ceremony officiated by Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga, the Commander of the Uganda Contingent. Photo/Courtesy

Mogadishu, 21 July 2017 - AMISOM troops from Uganda Army’s Battle Group 19 departed Somalia Friday after a year’s tour of duty. The troops which were given a sendoff at a ceremony officiated by Brigadier Kayanja Muhanga, the Commander of the Uganda Contingent had served the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Marka, Lower Shabelle region.

Brigadier Muhanga decorated the first batch of departing troops with medals and also presented them with certificates of recognition. “Battle Group XIX has been operating in a very difficult area; that is in Marka district in Lower Shabelle region but have done a good job,” Brig. Muhanga said.

“They have been protecting the civilians. You know we have Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps. They have offered security to the populations in different areas in different IDP camps and in centre,” he added.

Lower Shabelle region is one of the regions in Somalia severely affected by the drought that saw thousands of families flee their homes to live in settlements for internally displaced persons. Most of these camps are protected by the Somali security forces jointly with AMISOM troops.

Brig. Muhanga said the troops had also succeeded in opening and securing Main Supply Routes (MSR), to allow delivery of humanitarian supplies and free movement of people.

A new Battle Group (Battle Group 22), which replaces Battle Group 19, arrived in Somalia this morning, where they were received by Brigadier Muhanga. “We expect them to achieve much more than even Battle Group 19. Of course (ensuring) security along the Main Supply Routes (MSR) is paramount and the security of the population is very important and also fighting to degrade the Al-Shabaab. That’s why we are here to support the Government in its functions,” Brig. Muhanga noted.
United States Escalates Intervention in Somalia and the Lessons of Somaliland
By Michael F. Harsch, Maximilian M. Meduna and Teresa Krug
Washington Post
July 18

Somali soldiers at the scene of a suicide car-bomb attack on a police station in Mogadishu last month. The explosion killed five people and wounded 10. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The United States is getting more involved in Somalia, the nation in the Horn of Africa that has been wrestling with violent conflict and political instability for nearly three decades. Since June, the United States has conducted multiple military operations against al-Shabab militants in the country, pledged $126 million in humanitarian assistance, and announced plans to reestablish  permanent diplomatic representation in the capital in hopes of helping to stabilize the government.

Somalia’s central government’s failure has continued for years — despite hosting a large African Union peacekeeping force and many international military advisers, and receiving a significant amount of development aid. The nation’s trajectory sharply contrasts with that of Somaliland, a major region of 4 million people that declared its independence from Somalia in 1991. While the rest of the world hasn’t recognized Somaliland as a state, Somalilanders have governed themselves autonomously for decades now. Without significant foreign aid, and through local conferences facilitated by clan elders, Somalilanders rebuilt their leveled capital of Hargeisa and improved access to education, safe drinking water and essential health services. They have even elected their past two presidents through a general vote — something Somalia has yet to accomplish.

Here’s the difference: Somalia’s central government has been propped up by foreign powers with military support and food aid. Somaliland, by contrast, has a decentralized political system that produces leaders who are respected and supported by its citizens. Instead of relying on international charity, Somaliland has relied on revenue generated by remittances and trade.

So what can the United States and the international community learn from Somaliland’s experience?

An imperfect island of stability amid conflict

Somaliland isn’t Switzerland. The latest presidential election has been repeatedly postponed for two years. Citing fears of potential voter fraud and a crippling famine, the electoral commission is projecting this November for the big day. There are growing concerns about corruption, clan-based nepotism and whether minority clans and women can make their voices heard politically.

But when we interviewed two dozen Somaliland leaders in April and May as part of a research project on islands of stability in conflict zones, we came away with a picture of a vibrant polity in which local communities feel invested in the success of the state. According to Haroon Yusuf, director of the Social Research and Development Institute in Hargeisa, Somalilanders have united behind the common goal of establishing a government that is independent from Mogadishu. Somaliland today features all the hallmarks of an aspiring state, with its own currency, courts and coast guard. As a result, Yusuf said, Somalilanders are “happy to invest everything here.”

Somalilanders’ unity and local investment reveal three common fallacies that guide international responses to state collapse.

Fallacy #1: There’s no stability without a strong central state.

Despite a clear pattern of failure, senior U.S. officials and some academics keep aiming to establish a strong central state in Somalia, assuming that only national government institutions and security forces can maintain stability.

But cautiously reinforcing effective subnational authority might be a more promising and efficient approach. Somaliland has benefited from the steady leadership of its own presidents and autonomy from the political infighting in Mogadishu. Somalilanders consider their political representatives in Hargeisa to be legitimate — which is not how Somalis feel about the government in Mogadishu.

A more decentralized political system might help other Somali regions as well.

Fallacy #2: Elder representation and democracy are incompatible.

In societies emerging from conflict, a combination of traditional and democratic governance may provide stability and help more citizens feel included in the political process.

That, at least, is how it’s working in Somaliland, where the parliament combines an elected House of Representatives with a House of Elders known as the Guurti. This ensures that policies are made through negotiations between formal state institutions and the informal clan system.

The system has its challenges. Despite a constitutional term limit of six years, Guurti members have stayed in power since 1997, when a grand conference of the Somaliland communities appointed them. Over the past two decades, this body has become an exclusive club in which membership is inherited. In our interviews, we spoke with leading politicians — including Muse Bihi Abdi, head of the governing Kulmiye party — who said they wished to reform this. The House of Representatives has proposed making the Guurti an elected body. If that happens, traditional authorities could play a meaningful, more accountable role in Somaliland’s political system.

Fallacy #3: Exploring alternative statehood models is dangerous.

Secession is often seen as one of the bad results of state collapse, and much of the international community is strongly biased against changing international borders. But there are many ways to give autonomous entities opportunities to develop without becoming universally recognized independent nations. Consider, for instance, Taiwan and Kosovo. Both lack U.N. membership but are reasonably well integrated in the global economy. Pragmatic alternatives to the full nation-state can sometimes offer a way out of stalemate.

There are limits to de facto statehood. Part of what has worked to keep Somaliland unified and democratizing is that its various clans have been united by their shared hope of international recognition. They’re becoming frustrated, however. “We are stuck,” foreign minister Saad Ali Shire explained to us, emphasizing insufficient access to foreign aid and investment to develop the economy.

With a more secure legal status, whether as an autonomous part of Somalia or as a separate territory, Somaliland could negotiate directly with international financial institutions, gain easier access to trade networks and attract more foreign investors. We found that many Somaliland politicians have quietly accepted this scenario as more realistic than full independence.

“Somaliland has learned to hold its breath … for 27 years,” Edna Adan, Somaliland’s former foreign minister, told us.

That won’t continue forever. If it wants to keep Somaliland out of the trouble engulfing Mogadishu, the United States may wish to offer its people a credible path forward — and encourage its approach of local governance and entrepreneurship across Somalia.

Michael F. Harsch is an assistant professor of practice at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and a visiting fellow at NYU’s Center on International Cooperation. He is a principal investigator of the project “islands of stability in fragile countries” at NYUAD.

 Maximilian M. Meduna is a research associate at New York University Abu Dhabi and a former policy analyst and head of the global trends unit at the International Peace Institute. He conducted the interviews with Somaliland’s political elite in April and May.

Teresa Krug is an international affairs journalist whose work has appeared in the Guardian, Al Jazeera English and Die Zeit. 
Somalia Food Deficit Worsens Amid Continuing Insecurity
By Michael Gerson
12:00 am, Saturday, July 22, 2017

More than 3 million Somalis — about one-fourth of the population — are in critical need of help.

BAIDOA, Somalia — This town was liberated from the control of al-Shabab (an Islamist insurgent group) five years ago. But “liberated” is a relative term. The security bubble created by the presence of United Nations and Ethiopian military forces reaches less than 10 miles outside of town, leaving just a short hike to terroristland.

In sophisticated propaganda videos, the Islamist insurgency claims to having a working, parallel government, with schools and medical facilities. When I mentioned this to Somalis, they laughed. Al-Shabab is best at taxing movement and businesses, conducting targeted assassinations, and importing al-Qaida bomb experts. Last year, a double bombing in Baidoa killed more than 30 people. In 2015, three fighters wearing Somali army uniforms breached the Baidoa green zone and killed several people across from the compound where I was writing this column.

Most of the men you encounter in the street are armed, and travel outside of town requires a small platoon of guards. The periodic gunshots you hear are disconcerting but usually indicate weddings and other celebrations.

The relative stability of the town attracts IDPs (internally displaced persons) fleeing famine like conditions caused by three years of inadequate rains, further complicated by conflict. More than 700,000 Somalis — well over half of them children — have left their homes due to the drought. At one IDP camp, I spoke with a woman who had all her food and money confiscated at al-Shabab checkpoints. I spoke with a woman who started her trek with six children and ended with four — the other two taken by cholera, which can kill within hours.

Somalia generally gets bad press, focused on starvation, terrorism or piracy. But it’s not a country comprised mainly of hungry, Islamist pirates. It is a country in the midst of re-founding itself. It recently elected a promising new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who has Somali-American dual citizenship and once worked for the Department of Transportation in Buffalo, New York.

American drones fly over Somalia and America helps train the Somali military. There are rumors that Farmajo may soon undertake a military offensive as a show of strength.

But any rational account of American interests must also include the well-being of the Somali people.

More than 3 million Somalis — about one-fourth of the population — are in critical need of help. Poverty and despair do not cause terrorism, but they can contribute to the failure of states, which provides the chaos in which terrorism thrives. Somalia is exhibit A.

Time-compressed disasters — events like earthquakes and hurricanes — tend to result in concentrated generosity. But a slowly unfolding nightmare is no less frightening. Across South Sudan, northern Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, we are hearing not urgent shouts but gradually fading voices. This is one horrifying aspect of meeting severely malnourished children in Baidoa’s hot, crowded, reeking hospital ward. Some are too weak even to cry, and their quiet bleat may be the saddest sound I have ever heard.

There is little question that the already generous response of the United States and other donors will need to be stepped up even further. But those who find that statement ideologically objectionable — those who believe that our government shouldn’t respond in this fashion — can still show their generosity to private and religious groups doing front-line work in the region.

It is difficult to describe the scale of Somali suffering — a quarter of the population wrestling with hunger and despair. These people require more than a flash of empathy. They need empathy and action as sustained and implacable as the drought itself.

michaelgerson@washpost.com
20 Killed as Militias Clash in Herale, Somalia
SUNDAY JULY 23 2017

Fighters allied to Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea, a Sufi militia, take rest in this undated photo in Herale. PHOTO | ABDULKADIR KHALIF | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF

At least 20 people were killed in a two-day fierce gun-battle between rival militias in central Somalia.

More than 40 others are said to have been injured after Galmudug forces and Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea, a Sufi militia, in central Somalia, clashed in Friday and Saturday.

CAUSE

The two sides reportedly locked horns over control of Herale town in the Galgadud region.

Local media reported relative calm in the area on Saturday after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo called for immediate ceasefire Friday.

“An ugly war has taken place at Herale over the last several days,” said President Farmajo.

“It is intolerable and must be stopped immediately.”

Tensions, however, remain high as the two sides are said to have been sending fighters into Herale.

TALKS

According to reports, residents began fleeing the town last week.

President Farmajo said he would dispatch a fact-finding mission to the area.

Herale is located about 600km north of the Somali capital Mogadishu.

The Ahlu Sunna controls large parts of Galgadud—an administrative region in Galmudug State.

The Sufi militia does not recognise the Federal government-backed Galmudug administration and peace talks to resolve the dispute collapsed in April in Mogadishu.
Soldiers Killed in Somalia Blast
Anadolou News Agency

Armed group al-Shabab claims responsibility for attack on security convoy near Baidoa in country's southwest.

At least four soldiers were killed and several others wounded when a roadside blast targeted a security convoy in southwest Somalia, police said.

The attack took place near the town of Baidoa, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, on Sunday.

Somali-based armed group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Four soldiers from the southwest state forces were killed in the blast, Mowlid Mohamed, a police officer in Baidoa, told Turkey's Anadolu news agency.

"Four soldiers were killed and more than two others were wounded after a security convoy was targeted," he said.

The wounded soldiers were rushed to Bay regional hospital for treatment as they sustained life-threatening injuries, he added.

The convoy was travelling from the village of Daynunay to Baidoa, capital of the Bay region.
Somalia: Three Soldiers Killed in Roadside Bomb Near Baidoa Town
BAIDOA, Somalia- The militant group Al-Shabaab claimed the deadly attack with improvised explosive device on a military pick-up truck, 25 km east of Baidoa, the interim capital town of Southwest state, Garowe Online reports.

Three soldiers were killed after a roadside bomb planted by militants hit a convoy of Southwest state army on Sunday morning at Bundo Madow area, located in the outskirts of Baidoa, according to local residents.

The convoy was transporting soldiers from Baidoa, and en route to their base in Deynunay town when it was struck by a landmine explosion. The state officials were not immediately available for comment.

This was the latest in series of IED bombings, as the regional forces backed by AU, and national army (SNA) are making gains in the battle, to push out al-Shabaab from its remaining rural strongholds.

The al-Qaida-linked militants have once controlled many parts of Somalia, however, in 2011 it was driven out of the capital Mogadishu and has since lost most other areas in south and central regions.

Despite losing ground, the fighters remain a formidable threat and constantly carry out bombings against both military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the horn of Africa country.

GAROWEONLINE
United States and France Stage Military Exercises in Djibouti
Photo By Staff Sgt. Eboni Prince | U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Rojas from the Naval Mobile Construction.

DJIBOUTI
07.19.2017
Story by Staff Sgt. Eboni Prince
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti— U.S. Navy Sailors with the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and French rescue and medical personnel stationed in Djibouti participated in the first bilateral medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) exercise at a Seabee humanitarian assistance construction site in the Djibouti’s Arta region on July 19 and 20.

To kick off the exercise scenario, a Seabee simulated falling off a ladder and suffering multiple lacerations and injuries. Several others rushed to his aid and immediately began conducting tactical combat casualty care procedures.

In deployed environments, it is essential for military personnel to be well versed in tactical combat casualty care. A quick response by personnel to attend to the injured and care for critical wounds can be the difference between life and death.

For the past several months, Seabees have been working diligently to construct a medical facility near a small village in the outskirts of Djibouti City. Due to the construction site’s remote location and the unfortunate fact that injuries on a construction sites may happen, this exercise helped set the stage for an opportunity to work with French forces for MEDEVAC.

MEDEVAC is the timely and efficient movement and en route care provided by medical personnel to wounded individuals needing to be evacuated from a battlefield or from the scene of an accident to a medical facility using medically equipped ground vehicles or aircraft.

“Should MEDEVAC be needed at that site, it takes about an hour or an hour and a half of ground travel time depending on the type of vehicles you’re driving,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Christopher Joseph, operations officer from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, a maneuver unit of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. “If something were to happen, depending on the severity of the injuries, ground transportation may not be feasible.”

The exercise also required the coordination of multiple agencies on Camp Lemonnier to include: the Joint Operations Center, Personnel Recovery Control Center, Emergency Medical Services and the Fire Department.

“This [exercise] is a good opportunity for all agencies involved to practice their roles and responsibilities,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Christopher Venissat, intelligence officer from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, a maneuver unit of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Once the injured Seabee’s minor wounds were treated and he was mobilized for MEDEVAC, a French Air Force Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopter landed in a nearby dirt field for loading.

“We were dealing with a Seabee who suffered a compound fracture to his femur, spinal injuries and several lacerations on his arms,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Rojas, who gave initial treatment at the simulated accident site. “We addressed the issues, relocated the patient to the casualty collection point and made the call for assistance to get the patient to a facility where he could receive medical care.”

French medical personnel assisted Rojas, through the assistance of a French language interpreter, with patient transport to the aircraft. The SA 330 Puma helicopter took off within minutes of the injury and headed toward Camp Lemonnier where emergency medical personnel were on standby to receive the casualty.

“Exercises like this are important because, if the situation should arise, you don’t want to fail your fellow team members,” said Rojas. “Working with our international partners and their assets helps ensure that no matter the circumstance, a patient will receive medical treatment as soon as possible.”
Djibouti Secures $27m Loan from Kuwait for Geothermal Drilling Campaign
Lake Assal, Djibouti (source: Fishercd, commons Wikimedia)

Alexander Richter
21 Jul 2017

The Kuwait Development Fund has granted a $27 million loan to the Geothermal Energy Development Office of Djibouti, for the drilling of up to 10 wells and the construction of a 15 MW geothermal power plant.

Reported last week, Kuwait has granted funding of $27 million to support the geothermal development program in Djibouti, Africa.

This was reported in a statement from the Djiboutian Geothermal Energy Development Office (ODDEG). According to the statement, The Kuwaiti Development Fund (FKD) will provide a $27 million loan for the drilling of 10 wells (eight production boreholes and two re-injection boreholes) and a geothermal power plant with a capacity of 15 MW by the year 2021.

The agreement was signed last week and is hailed by both sides as helping to propel the national geothermal development program of Djibouti.

“The signing of this agreement is mainly the result of two weeks of intensive work between the FKD and ODDEG officials, who focused on the financial and technical evaluation of the Gale-Le-Koma geothermal project in the region. Lake Assal, located in the north of Djibouti.

Launched in October 2016 by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, the project has been fully funded by the Djibouti government and executed by the ODDEG.

Djibouti has for this purpose acquired two drilling rigs (a first in the country) capable of drilling more than 2 km deep and greatly strengthening the training of its human skills.

The first results of the project, the first slim-hole drilling in the country, confirmed an intermediate geothermal reservoir on the site, according to the ODDEG.

“With these results in line with our expectations and the expectations of a whole country, we were finally able to carry out a feasibility study for the construction of a geothermal power station with a capacity of 15 MW in its first phase, which will reach 50 MW in its final phase, “the statement said.

The ODDEG also recalls in this document that the signing of this loan agreement to finance this project announces “how much in such a short time this courageous bet of the Djiboutian government was a real success”.

Indeed, the Djiboutian president has made the development of clean energy, permanent and accessible to all and everywhere one of the priorities of the road map of its new five-year plan.

For the President of Djibouti, the energy independence of his country will be “based on renewable energies and especially geothermal energy whose potential is estimated at more than 1,000 MW”.

Djibouti, which currently uses 65% hydroelectric power from an electricity interconnection line with neighboring Ethiopia, also aims to become the first African country to use 100% of green energy by 2025.
Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway to Start Commercial Operations in October: Minister
Xinhua
2017/7/21 8:35:14

The Chinese built 756 km electrified rail project connecting landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti will start commercial operations in October, said the Ethiopian transportation minister on Thursday.

Speaking to Xinhua, Ahmed Shide, Minister of Ethiopia's Ministry of Transportation, said the rail project is a showcase of China's support for Ethiopia's efforts to transform its economy through infrastructural development.

Shide says Ethiopia is currently doing test runs on the railway and is finalizing preparations to form a joint venture company with Djibouti to manage it.

"We hope the rail project will facilitate expansion of industrial manufacturing and boost Ethiopia's competitiveness by significantly cutting time needed for Ethiopia's exports to reach Djibouti port," he added.

The electrified rail line is expected to cut transportation time needed for goods to reach Djibouti port from the Ethiopian hinterland and vice versa from at least two days to 10 hours.

The rail line will also provide a passenger service, with an average speed of 120 km per hour and a single coach holding 118 passengers at a time.

The first 320 km of the rail project from Sebeta to Mieso was carried out by China Rail Engineering Corporation while the remaining 436 km from Mieso to Djibouti port section was built by China Railway Group.
Eritrea Government Denies Interference in Religious Affairs
By Daniel Finnan
Radio France International Africa Service
19-07-2017 to 15:57

Orthodox Eritrean priests take part in the festival of Meskel, September 2007.
AFP Photo/Peter Martell

Eritrea’s Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel told RFI that "the country is a secular state and does not intervene in purely religious affairs".

However, French state news says Eritrean authorities have stage-managed the first public appearance in 10 years of Patriarch Abune Antonios, rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has told RFI. The former head of the country’s Orthodox Church had been under house arrest for opposing the government's attempts to control one of the country’s largest Christian denominations.

“Everything points to trying to manage a narrative because of international pressure,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Khataza Gondwe, referring to Antonios’s appearance during mass at a cathedral in Asmara on Sunday.

Despite being present at the service, Antonios was not allowed to say anything, people were forbidden from taking photographs and afterwards he was returned to where he is being detained, said Gondwe. “There were suspicions that this might not be all that it cracked up to be,” she added.

The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution calling for the patriarch’s release, while the French government in June said that his continued house arrest showed the Eritrean government’s “serious and persistent violation of the freedom of religion or belief and fundamental freedoms”.

“There’s been mounting international pressure about his case, he recently turned 90 years old, there was no justification for holding a 90-year-old under house arrest for all these years,” said Gondwe, who heads up the London-based religious rights group’s Africa team. “I think it was becoming an embarrassment.”

Last seen in public in 2006

The former leader of Eritrea’s Orthodox Church had protested against the government’s meddling in church business and was last seen publicly at the end of 2006.

“He had increasingly been objecting to government interference in church affairs. The government wanted to tighten its control of the main Christian religious group,” said Gondwe.

“He was progressively deprived of his powers, including administrative oversight of the patriarchate, then he was confined in his residence and later in 2007 he was taken to an unknown destination and held under house arrest that became increasing stringent,” she added.

The European Parliament’s resolution outlined the patriarch’s refusal “to excommunicate 3,000 parishioners who opposed the government” as one of the reasons for his detention. Since then “he has been held in an unknown location where he has been denied medical care”, the adopted text said.

A statement by Eritrea's Orthodox Church said that the "issue" with Antonios had "come to an end" on 11 July following a meeting of the Synod, according to a translation of the Tigrigna statement by the church's diocese in the US and Canada. It said the meeting of the church's council had "come to conclusion with full reconciliation, peace and love".

Eritrea’s Orthodox Church plays an important role in a society that is reported to be approximately half Muslim and half Christian. It is the largest Christian denomination in Eritrea in terms of membership, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Gulf Arab Governments Military Presence in Eritrea - Will It Worry Ethiopia?
OPINION
By Worku Belachew

The latest Horn dynamics ensued from the presence of Arab coalitions at the port of Assab, with the intention of fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, seems to have opened a window of opportunity for Asmara's regime to escape the UN Security Council's sanction which includes arms embargo.

Mainly tasked with maintaining international peace and security, the UN body has imposed the stringent measure in 2009 as part of putting pressure on the regime to refrain from assisting the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab militants.

On the contrary, the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) in its report on October 2016 reported that Eritrea forged "strategic military relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates" which may undermine the outcome of the sanction. It also proved the construction of permanent military base at Asseb International Airport and a sea port adjacent to it. The SEMG, however, indicated that using the land, airspace, and territorial waters do not explain violation of sanction in itself. But, the Monitoring Group expressed worries on a direct and indirect compensation for the use, that may include benefiting the Eritrean Army, would constitute violation.

As the port is close to the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, a strategic neck between Red sea and Gulf of Aden, any country that wishes to secure its maritime trade or whatsoever may forge alliances with Eritrea, and this should not be worrisome to Ethiopia, Mogus T. Michael, Deputy Executive Director of Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute argues.

"I do not think that we should be much concerned with what the Middle Eastern countries would or wouldn't do regarding Ethio-Eritrean issues. The point should be to find a solution that may help resume the interaction between the two countries," he adds.

However, there is a looming problem in the region. Eritrea's engagement in destabilizing the region has not shown any sign of decline. It rather lies-in-wait until favorable situation unfolds, as it has recently been seen from Djibouti's accusation over Eritrea's troops' occupation of Dumeira mountain following the Qatari withdrawal from the area. Al Shabab's attacks on Somalia and Kenya continued while the regime trains, arms and equips groups that Ethiopia labeled as terrorists. Thus, Asmara's policy of Horn destabilization looks like to persist.

Mentioning the increasing red sea militarization with the advent of non-African and African, Mekele University Peace and Conflict Studies Asst. Prof. Meressa Tsehaye firmly believes that Eritrea's adamant policy should carefully be dealt with for Issias is attempting to throw Ethiopia's national security in a complicated sphere of influence. In addition, the alliances are likely to complicate any possible effort of dealing with Eritrea."

Be this as it may, the regime's internal and external problems look like to put it at a heartbeat away from its death, Meressa believes, and if this is to unfold soon, Eritrea's fate would either end up in the wrong hands or get into the woods, a succinct threat to Ethiopia's national security.

Addis Ababa University African Human and Economic Development graduate students, Mussa Adem and Getachew Melaku also share their views on the topic.

Mussa was unequivocal to argue that Ethiopia is big enough to play a constructive role both in Eritrea and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC). For him, the GCC's presence is not a problem, but it is their possible assistance of various kinds to the regime. In this case, the political clique would resume flexing its muscle. "Thus, Ethiopia should devise another policy towards Eritrea that helps to ensure our security and economic interests."

The existing Ethiopian policy towards Eritrea does not completely slam doors for peaceful relations with the country. It states that the two countries can enter into an era of cooperation, the former to get sea access and the latter to get electricity and market for its products, provided changes in Eritrea's regime or its policies. But, what is at stake is both seem far- fetched goals. Thus, the policy change seems timely.

Mogos also upholds the proposal. He says Ethiopia should clearly understand the prevailing Horn dynamics and devise another policy that would invite Eritrea to come to negotiation table. If the status quo is maintained, obviously, Eritrea would continue twisting any event available to its advantages, whether it affects individual countries in the Horn or not.

Meressa also sees the importance of a new policy but never sees any docile nature of the Issias regime. The regime has long failed to decide its own fate, and has no time to succumb to peace deals. He backs his argument mentioning the shaky foreign relations Eritrea long pursues. The fair weather friend had been a close ally of Iran and Qatar, but now taking sides with Saudi and its alliances. "So, the policy needs to consider the adamant character of the regime."

Though the Ethiopian government hinted a possible policy change towards Eritrea, details are yet to come.

Besides, any development in the Horn is linked with Ethiopia's import-export trade directly or indirectly. "A country which is home to over 90 million people can't afford to see any unholy Horn relations with others," argues Getachew, suggesting that countries creating alliances with Eritrea should make sure whether their relationship is against the interest of Ethiopia or not.

Mogos also hopes that separate relationships of Ethiopia with the GCC countries cannot come to stalemate. "I haven't seen any motive from the GCC or Arab league to get into conflict with Ethiopia, diplomatic relations with the countries is by and large normal."

The bigger opportunity to Ethiopia is to tap its ever maturing relations with the Arabian countries to put pressures on Eritrea besides the policy option. The agriculture, investment and market potential of Ethiopia are important elements in their relations, apart from the historical, religious and cultural similarities.

Equally, peace in the Horn is no less important to the international community. Almost all the maritime trade of Europe and Asia, worth well over 700 billion USD [Center for International Maritime Security, 2016], passes through the narrowest strait. Thus side by side with Ethiopia's promised policy changes, the UN, AU and IGAD should take the matter more seriously than ever before.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Eritrea-Djibouti Border Dispute: China Offers to Assist in Mediating Conflict
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Africanews.com
DJIBOUTI

China has offered to mediate in the lingering border dispute in the Horn of Africa region, where Eritrea and Djibouti are both claiming ownership of the Dumeira mountains and Islands.

The Chinese Ambassador to the African Union suggested that China will consider sending troops to the border between the two East African countries. Kuang Weilin, however, told the Associated Press that Beijing was ready to help with mediation if requested.

There is currently no mediator in the impasse after Qatar withdrew its peacekeeping forces in the area in the wake of the Gulf crisis, that saw Doha blacklisted by Saudi and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Eritrea has maintained that they will stick to Qatar as the only mediator in the matter. Reports indicate that the Qatari withdrawal was in the wake of Djibouti’s decision to openly back Saudi and allies. The latest request for mediation was by Djibouti to the African Union.

Asmara denounced reports that Eritrea had also taken sides in the crisis. They also held off an African Union team that planned to meet authorities in for talks. Eritrea says its relations with Qatar remained intact according to an Al Jazeera report.

The area under contention, a small island lies off the coast of both countries, specifically at the southern end of the Red Sea. It is close to a vital shipping route for global trade, the Baba-el-Mandeb strait.

At the African Union summit in early July, Djibouti sought arbitration from the pan-African institution and pleaded for a demarcation of the border after an “occupation” its described as an act of war by its neighbour.

China, an Asian giant, is increasingly extending its military role in the world, in line with its diplomatic and economic offensive.

This month, in particular, the country installed its first military base abroad in Djibouti. China – a global economic giant was following the steps of countries like France, the United States and Japan. Approximately 400 men are expected to be part of the force.

According to China, this base has only logistical and not defense objectives. In particular, it should be used for anti-piracy, peacekeeping and UN humanitarian missions in Africa and West Asia.
Ethiopia Forced to Withdraw Tax Hike That Resulted in Protests
Ethiopian authorities have withdrawn a proposed tax hike for small businesses, the Addis Standard news portal has reported.

The withdrawal comes in the wake of protests by the affected business people. Shops were closed in the Oromia State early last week in defiance of the new tax, by Friday, the action had spread to the capital Addis Ababa, with shops in bustling parts all closed.

The portal cited the head of the Ethiopia Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), Kebede Chane, as saying the decision to scrap the tax hike was hinged to the complaints they had received from affected persons.

He is also quoted by other local portals to have said that micro business owners including barbers / hair dressers, tailors, laborers, and street coffee vendors will be encouraged to pay “what they agree to pay.” The class of protesters are those

The tax in question targets businesses in category ‘C’ of the taxation bracket. Such outfits had an annual turnover of up to 100,000 Birr (about $4,300), it was aimed primarily at boosting government revenue. Business people said their opposition to it was because it was over-estimated and the authorities are demanding too much.

As at last week, the Addis Standard described the situation on the ground as a case of ‘testing the streets again.’ They report that police and military were deployed to parts of the region as at Monday, July 17, 2017.

The portal also reported some skirmishes in a city located about 120km west of the capital Addis Ababa. Aside the closure of shops in Addis Ababa, people were also said to have weighed options of returning their business licenses or filing complaints with the tax authorities.

Ethiopia’s biggest problems in the recent past has been of political nature with spreading anti-government protests in Amhara and Oromia regions. On the economic front, Addis Ababa has been lauded by major finance institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Militias Renew Attacks in Central African Town, Kill Peacekeeper
DAKAR (Reuters) - Christian militias in Central African Republic have launched several attacks in the town of Bangassou in recent days, attempting to seize a cathedral housing displaced Muslims and killing a Moroccan peacekeeper, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The incidents, including one on Sunday, came after attacks on the same diamond-mining town in May that killed at least 115 people and point to the inability of U.N. peacekeepers to contain violence in a country where government control barely extends outside the capital.

"The attack took place as the peacekeepers from the Moroccan contingent were escorting water trucks filling up in the river in order to meet the humanitarian needs of the town," Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the 13,000-strong U.N. mission (MINUSCA), said of the Sunday incident.

Three others were injured, he added, in an attack he attributed to anti-balaka fighters drawn from the country's Christian majority.

Fighters from the same group launched a foiled attack on Friday on the town's cathedral that is housing hundreds of displaced Muslims who have been sheltering there since the May killings, Monteiro said.

Like some 500,000 others displaced in the country, many of those inside the cathedral have nowhere to return to since their homes were destroyed in the May killings.

Thousands have died in the ethnic and religious conflict that broke out when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

The latest incidents this weekend have prompted some 14 humanitarian organizations to suspend their activities in the town, 700 km (435 miles) east of Bangui on the Congolese border, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters.

An official at French medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres, which operates the local hospital, confirmed fresh shootings on Sunday. But she said the charity remained present.

Violence has escalated since former colonial power France ended its peacekeeping mission in the country last year that once had as many as 2,000 soldiers. It continues despite a peace deal signed between the government and rival factions in Rome last month.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Peter Cooney
Diamonds Bring New Life to War-Torn Central African Republic
By Fleury Koursany
Bloomberg
July 23, 2017, 6:01 PM EDT

Partial suspension of diamond export ban revives local trade
While calm is restored in west, fighting flares in east

Rough diamonds enabled Abdoul Raouf to marry three women and put his nine children through school. Now that his town in western Central African Republic can legally export the gems to world markets again, his neighbors are expecting similar fortunes.

“Diamonds are my life,” said Raouf, who trades the stones bought from artisanal miners in the town of Gamboula, near the border with Cameroon and a 10-hour drive to the capital, Bangui. “It’s because of diamonds that I can take care of my family.”

Gamboula is one of five areas in the west that can freely trade in diamonds again after the gradual easing of an export ban imposed three years ago. While fighting has flared in the southeast, forcing tens of thousands to flee, the western Mambere-Kadei prefecture has embraced a tentative peace, enabling residents to return to the diamond sites.

The government estimates that at least 20 percent of the population in the west, or about 60,000 people, earn an income from diamond mining. It’s not unusual to see children skip school to accompany their parents and help them sift gravel to search for the gems.

“The partial lifting of the embargo has been very important for the government, enabling us to collect taxes and strengthen the state coffers,” Mining Minister Leopold Mboli-Fatrane said in an interview in Bangui.

Green Zones

In May 2013, several months after an alliance of mainly Muslim insurgents seized power, the Central African Republic was suspended from the Kimberley Process, an international group representing the industry, civil society and governments that seeks to halt the sale of diamonds from war zones. This meant that the country could no longer export the gems, even as buying houses could still purchase and store them locally.

Until the embargo, diamonds were the country’s biggest export, with annual production capacity estimated at 840,000 carats, according to the organization. The United Arab Emirates is an important buyer.

As fighting subsided in the west, the Kimberley Process last year proposed a partial lifting of the blanket suspension to allow diamond exports from so-called green zones while keeping the ban in force in regions where fighting continues and diamonds are likely to fall into the hands of militia. The first town to start trading internationally again was Berberati, in the prefecture of Mambere-Kadei, in May 2016.

Mambere-Kadei is home to one of two main river systems in the Central African Republic that together hold an estimated 39 million carats in diamond reserves, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“We’ll continue to collaborate so that diamond exports can resume from the entire country, which is our hope,” Mining Minister Mboli-Fatrane said.

The government also cut the cost of a license for diamond collectors by more than 30 percent to 680,000 CFA francs ($1,200).

‘Black Market’

While Raouf, who is a Muslim, said armed groups have left Gamboula and that communities of different religious faiths get along well, the United Nations warned on July 18 that other parts of the country are wracked by violence on a scale not seen since 2014. Towns in the southeast have witnessed an upsurge of conflict, with rapes, kidnappings and violence against children, prompting some 60,000 people to seek refuge in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

As long as the armed groups in the country aren’t brought under control, the partial lifting of the export ban is likely to encourage smuggling as ‘legal’ diamonds from the west can easily be mixed with gems from elsewhere, Global Witness said in a report in June, citing evidence from traders who are selling via Facebook and WhatsApp.

“Smugglers and traders are thriving in the parallel black market,’’ the London-based advocacy group said. “The violent armed groups that still control large diamond-rich areas in the east, and the strongmen that retain influence in parts of the west, may still be profiting from diamonds that reach international markets with ease.’’

Mboli-Fatrane said the government doesn’t agree with the group’s accusations and considers lifting the embargo the best way to combat smuggling.

The Central African Republic ranked bottom of the list of 188 countries in the 2016 UN Human Development Index, which measures indicators such as income inequality and life expectancy. The conflict has forced a million people to flee their homes, while close to half of the population of 5.5 million needs humanitarian assistance, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Many artisanal miners in the relatively peaceful western region still cross the border to neighboring Cameroon to sell their stones, said collector Raouf. “My wish is that we get more local buying offices in the area so that here will be less smuggling.”
Fuel Subsidy, Pipeline Repairs Hinder NNPC’s Profitability
July 23, 2017
0hineme Okafor in Abuja
NIgeria ThisDay

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is currently unable to make profits from its operations because it is subsidising consumption of petrol by Nigerians and also paying heavily to repair and maintain its networks of pipeline that run across the country, its monthly financial and operations reports have revealed.

According to the first five operations reports the NNPC has released so far in 2017, it has raked up as much as N67, 718,819,452 on under recovery for importation and sale of petrol in the country.

The NNPC also recorded a trading deficit of N3.55 billion in May; N5.27 billion in April; N5.62 billion in March, as well as N14.12 billion and N14.26 billion respectively in February and January 2017.

The reports, which were obtained by THISDAY yesterday in Abuja, explained the operations of the corporation in Nigeria’s downstream sector from January to May. They also suggested this was impacting heavily on the NNPC’s books.

In the downstream petroleum sector, under recovery happens when the expected open market price of petrol (pump price per litre), which comprises the cost of importation and distribution of petrol like marketers’ margins; landing cost; freight cost; administrative charges; and lightering or ship-to-ship charges, is below the federal government’s approved official retail price at the service stations.

The corporation at the moment has become the sole importer of petrol in Nigeria, doing close to 100 per cent of importation, and as such bearing the burden of keeping up the country’s petrol supplies.

Its monthly financial reports for January, February, March, April and May, however indicated that it had been doing this at the expense of its corporate profitability.

The reports quoted NNPC’s under recovery from its supplies and distribution of petrol in January to be N37,263,846,591; that of February was N6,297,594,169; while for March, it recorded a N8,206,727,836 under recovery. For April, it was N8,206,727,836; and N7,743,923,020 in May, to bring the corporation’s total under recovery on petrol supplies for these months to N67,718,819,452.

THISDAY also learnt from sources in the NNPC and ministry of petroleum resources that subsidy on petrol was back but that the government was quiet about it.

These sources explained to THISDAY that since subsidy payments was not provided for in the 2017 budget, the NNPC was asked by the government to ensure that it keeps up petrol supplies in the country.

The corporation though has a products supplies framework –Direct Sales – Direct Purchase (DSDP)- in which it commits parts of its 445,000 barrels a day (bd) daily domestic allocation to third parties or refiners in return for equivalent worth of products.

Similarly, in May, 2017, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, confirmed in a podcast message that the NNPC was recording under recoveries in its petrol importation and supplies.

Kachikwu explained that the operational environment had changed since May 2016, when the government opted for a price modulation mechanism in the downstream petroleum sector, as against full deregulation of the sector, hence the under recoveries.

He stated then: “When we did all these, pricing for crude oil was more in the $25 to $30 per barrel; today, it is in excess of $54, which is fantastic because it means that our revenue stream is improving.

“But, it is a twin window, whenever the price of crude oil goes up, obviously the price of refined petrol goes up and we begin to have systemic challenge in terms of the pricing on the local base.”

“So, that gap has begun to return and today, what you find is that the NNPC continues to import massively on behalf of the federal government. It has gone back to about 90 to 95 per cent for the whole country; therefore, its books are absorbing some of the cost implications of this,” he added.

The minister also confirmed that independent marketers were no longer importing petrol into the country. According to him, “The second is that once this happens the marketers begin to shift backwards. Participation by individual marketers to help us continue the normal business and marketing cycle that should be what you expect does no longer exist. Most of them are not importing.”

But it was not only subsidy for petrol that has kept NNPC on a deficit trend in its operations, as its reports indicated that crude oil and products losses, as well as expenditure on repairs of its pipelines had equally contributed in great measures.

For crude oil losses within the periods, the report noted that in January, the corporation recorded a loss of N1,117,572,295; February – N1,569,328,834; March – N2,024,222,976; April – N2,388,208,668; and May – N4,121,733,826, to bring the total to N18,168,376,586.

On product losses, NNPC in March lost N680,504,246; in April, it was N1,245,703,210; and May – N1,328,119,100, to sum it up to N5,845,008,232. No product losses in January and February, 2017 were recorded.

Similarly, expenditure on pipeline repairs and management for January was N11,223,583,353; February – N15,803,186,300; March – N11,530,599,643; April – N8,571,810,550; and May -N7,786,598,978.
BURATAI TO THEATRE COMMANDER: GIVE ME SHEKAU WITHIN 40 DAYS
By Fidelis Mac-Leva, Hamza Idris & Ronald Mutum
Nigeria Daily Trust
Jul 23 2017 2:00AM

The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, has given the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, deadline to capture Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, dead or alive.

A statement by Army spokesman Brigadier General Sani Usman said, “Buratai, has directed the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, to capture Abubakar Shekau, the so-called and self-styled leader of Boko Haram terrorists group, dead or alive.”

The statement reads: “The Theatre Commander has further been directed to do so within 40 days. He is to employ all arsenals at the disposal of the Theatre Command to smoke out Shekau wherever he is hiding in Nigeria.”

“The general public is please requested to also assist and volunteer information that would lead to the accomplishment of this task,” the army statement said.

The directive by Buratai is coming about three months after the Federal Government had confirmed that the dreaded Boko Haram leader was still alive. Addressing journalists shortly after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari of his ministry’s activities on Tuesday March 28, 2017, Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali reportedly said it had been difficult arresting the sect leader because the insurgents normally wear masks to conceal their identities and divert attention.

While assuring that Shekau would be arrested soon, Dan Ali said: “I believe it is just a matter of time. It took America about seven to ten years to get Bin Laden. So we will get Shekau as soon as possible.The sect’s spiritual headquarters has been ransacked and vandalised. He (Shekau) is on the run.

“He may be hiding in one of the enclaves of Sambisa Forest which we are dominating.We have opened up the place. We are using the place as a training area. The Army engineers will open up roads and we shall be patrolling and be ransacking that forest for the whereabouts of Shekau.”

The man Abubakar Shekau

Abubakar Muhammad Shekau took over leadership of Boko Haram in 2009 following the death of Mohammed Yusuf, the group’s founder. Fondly called imam or leader by his followers, he was born in Shekau village in the North-Eastern state of Yobe. There is, however, uncertainty about his real age. While some say he is in his late 30s, others believe he is in his mid-40s.

The Boko Haram leader is said to be a fearless loner, a complex, paradoxical man - part-theologian, part-gangster. Since he took over, Boko Haram had become more radical and carried out more killings. The most shocking revelation about him was the video clip of him laughing as he admitted the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April 2014, promising to sell them.

“I abducted your girls,” he said. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off.”

When Muhammad Yusuf was killed, Shekau was said to have married one of his four wives and adopted their children, presumably to preserve Boko Haram’s cohesion or “purity”.

 Shekau’s ‘Disappearing Acts’

The military had severally claimed that the Boko Haran leader had been killed, after which a man claiming to be Shekau would reappear in a video and dismiss such claims. Shekau was once said to have been killed by security forces in 2009 - only for him to reappear in videos posted on the internet less than a year later as Boko Haram’s new leader. Similar subsequent claims of his death also turned out to be false.

For instance, the Police had claimed that Shekau was killed in the 2009 clampdown that saw 1000 Boko Haram supporters killed, including the group’s founder, Muhammad Yusuf. Some reports suggested that Shekau had been shot in the leg, and subsequently went into hiding in Chad and Sudan.  Another narrative suggested that Shekau was held captive among other Boko Haram members, but was not recognized by Nigerian security forces and was subsequently released. Nigerian security forces had argued that the ‘real’ Abubakar Shekau was killed in 2009, and that the later Shekau seen in videos had claimed his name.

But in July 2010, Shekau re-appeared in a video interview with a journalist who was taken to Shekau’s hideout in Maiduguri. However, Nigerian security forces claimed those images were digitally manipulated

Again in 2011: Shekau was reported by media to have been killed by Nigerian security forces in Kano city; possibly arising from media reports that his wife was arrested in Kano, which possibly involved a shootout involving Shekau himself. But on January 21, 2012 Shekau reappeared in another video, claiming responsibility for attack on Kano.

On October 7, 2012 Shekau reportedly shot by the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) in Damaturu, Yobe state, along with 30 Boko Haram fighters in what was described as an ambush.

In January 2013, Nigerian security forces claimed Shekau was injured in apparent reference to the fighting in Damaturu) and had fled to Gao in Mali, to receive treatment.

There was yet another claim by the Nigerian military that Shekau had died between July 25 and August 3, 2013 in Amchide, Cameroon, after being severely wounded. The Military further claimed that a video of Shekau, released on 13 August, was “dramatized by an imposter to hoodwink the sect members to continue with the terrorism.”

Again on September 25, 2013: Shekau re-appeared in another video where he made reference to unfolding events at the time, implying that he was still alive and kicking.

On September 17, 2014 The Nigerian Army claimed to have killed Shekau in Konduga, Borno State. There was a dramatic twist to the claim as the military debated if ‘Shekau’ was Isa Damsaka or Bashir Mohammed, since both men were reported to have been posing as Shekau since June 2013.

Again on September 23, 2014 the Cameroon military released imagery of a man they claim was Shekau, killed in a combined airstrike and ground raid at Ngala, in Borno State. However, the Nigerian military denied the claim, and that the raids never even took place.  “There was no raid whatsoever in any part of Nigeria’s territory in pursuit of terrorists … All operations on-going in the environs of Konduga and all associated border locations within the country are completely being undertaken by Nigerian troops”, the military was quoted as saying.

Then on October 2, 2014 Shekau reappeared in a video obtained by the AFP news agency to dismiss claims of his death. In the 36-minute video Shekau was shown firing a machine gun mounted on the back of a truck, into the air.

Between March and August 2015, Shekau went silent as a multinational intervention appeared to inflict several significant defeats on Boko Haram, driving militants into hiding in Sambisa Forest. This raised speculations that Shekau may have died or rendered incapacitated, or may have been removed from the group leadership. Chadian President Idriss Deby made claims to the effect that Shekau has been neutralized. Yet on August 16, 2015, an audio clip was released to media in which Shekau responded directly to Chadian President Deby refuting claims that he (Shekau) had been killed, incapacitated, or replaced.

On August 23, 2016, the Nigerian Air Force claimed to have killed or at least injured Shekau in an airstrike in Taye Village Sambisa Forest, Borno State. But on December 29, 2016, Shekau appeared in a 25-minute video denouncing President Buhari’s claims that Boko Haram had been crushed in Sambisa forest.

On May 4, 2017, Shekau appeared in a 15 minute video mocking NAF’s claim to have injured him, and killed other Boko Haram leaders in strikes near Damboa. Shekau claimed the video was recorded on May 4, barely a day after the NAF announced the 28 April airstrikes, making it the quickest turnaround in the claim/counter-claim game, to date.

The recent abduction of some women, including civil servants, along the Maiduguri-Damboa axis in Borno State which is believed to be a new kite by the Boko Haram to sustain its relevance is also viewed by security analysts as another statement by Shekau that he is alive and kicking.

Security experts react

Security experts yesterday reacted to the order by Buratai. A security expert, Henry Mic, said the order by Buratai was diversionary. “There is no substance, our leaders have ways of diverting the attention from serious issues; several people have been killed by suicide bombers and villages attacked in recent times and the military high command is now talking of capturing Shekau in 40 days, the very man they killed severally in the last seven years. I am finding it difficult to make meaning out of all these,” he said.

For a retired Colonel of the Nigerian Army, Mohammed Abdul, it would be possible to catch Shekau, only if the political will to do so is applied.

“Shekau is around Borno State and, he is not far from Sambisa and adjoining forests; when the some women were arrested few weeks ago, they were taken to Alagarno Forest along Damboa Road and Shekau appeared in video where he said they are in his custody.

“But my concern is the political will which is not there; they have been looking for Shekau since 2010, it is now seven years and they said they killed him countless times. When Sambisa forest was captured they said they couldn’t get Shekau even though they got his flag and holy book,” he said.