US threatens sanctions on Somali peace spoilers
Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:29pm GMT
* Clinton urges asset freezes, hints at greater US presence
* Al Shabaab vows to fight on
* Somali leader wants end to "horrendous memories" (Adds communique, piracy
By Adrian Croft and Arshad Mohammed
LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on
Thursday threatened sanctions on anyone blocking reforms intended to end
Somalia's "hopeless, bloody conflict" and counter militant and pirate groups
seen as a growing menace to world security.
Addressing a conference aimed at energising attempts to end more than 20
years of anarchy, Clinton also demanded greater efforts to cut funding for
al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants fighting Somalia's weak Transitional
Federal Government (TFG).
Al Shabaab is the most powerful of an array of militias spawned by the
conflict in Somalia, where armed groups have a history of wrecking attempted
political settlements and perpetuating war, instability and famine.
"The position of the United States is straightforward: attempts to obstruct
progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated," Clinton
told the one-day gathering in London of about 40 African, Arab and Western
leaders and government ministers.
"We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions,
including travel bans and asset freezes, on people inside and outside the
TFG who seek to undermine Somalia's peace and security or to delay or even
prevent the political transition."
A conference communique said participants agreed to "act against spoilers to
the peace process, and we would consider proposals" before a followup
conference in Istanbul in June.
In a statement, al Shabaab dismissed the London meeting as part of a
"concerted Crusade against the Muslims of Somalia" and pledged to fight on
to establish Islamic rule.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia's TFG said Somalis wanted to shake
off "horrendous memories of the past" but feared the gathering might be just
another diplomatic talking shop.
"Today we are looking for security. We are scared," he said. "We want to
know what happened to the resolutions, all those hopes in the past which
never saw the light of day and which remain as mere words on pieces of
Clinton and other speakers welcomed a Feb. 17 agreement among Somali leaders
on plans for a parliament and constituent assembly to replace the TFG when
its mandate expires in August.
Establishing a legitimate successor government seen as inclusive by the
fractious clans would be a vital step in restoring respect for formal
politics among Somalis who tend to equate state power with corruption and
In a remark likely to stir attention in Mogadishu, Clinton raised the
possibility of what she called "a more permanent diplomatic presence in
Somalia" as security improves.
U.S. diplomacy is currently managed from neighbouring Kenya. The United
States closed its embassy in Mogadishu in 1991, the year Somalia collapsed
into feuding between warlords, clans and factions after president Mohamed
Siad Barre was overthrown.
Up to a million people have since been killed, according to the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The TFG got a boost on the eve of the conference when the U.N. Security
Council voted to increase by nearly half an African Union peacekeeping force
in Somalia, seeking to press home a military offensive against al Shabaab.
The resolution expanding the AMISOM force to 17,731 from 12,000 troops and
police passed the council unanimously.
But some experts worry that the military campaign against al Shabaab may
divert the energies of the TFG, a body widely seen as corrupt, badly managed
and riddled with infighting.
Clinton said al Shabaab was weakening but pressure needed to be maintained.
"Especially in south central Somalia, it has turned an already bad situation
into a nightmare. It has dragged fathers and sons from their homes and
forced them to fight in a hopeless, bloody conflict," she said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told the gathering that a failure to
end Somalia's chaos would endanger international security, arguing that
Somalia's problems "affect us all".
"In a country where there is no hope, chaos, violence and terrorism thrive.
Pirates are disrupting vital trade routes and kidnapping tourists," he said.
Cameron announced several aid and development initiatives including a
proposal to set up an international taskforce on ransoms, the main tactic
used by Somali pirates who seize ships and their crews in the Indian Ocean
and Gulf of Aden.
Cameron told a news conference Mauritius and Tanzania had agreed to take
suspected pirates captured at sea for trial in their courts as part of an
effort to strengthen the Indian Ocean region's judicial capacity to address
British officials said the breakaway Somali enclave of Somaliland had said
it was prepared to take pirates into its jails who are currently being held
in the Seychelles.
"There will be no impunity for piracy," the communique said. "We reiterated
our determination to prosecute the kingpins of piracy."
(Additional reporting by William Maclean, Peter Apps, Jonathan Saul, Richard
Lough, Patrick Worsnip, Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Stamp and Giles
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
Baidoa hopes as troops search for Somali rebel remnants
Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:14pm GMT
* Al Shabaab left positions in the city on Wednesday
* Residents fear guerilla-style revenge attacks
By Mohamed Ahmed and Feisal Omar
MOGADISHU, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Ethiopian and Somali troops searched houses
for lingering al Shabaab militants in the captured rebel stronghold of
Baidoa on Thursday, said a regional official and residents hopeful of a new
The al Qaeda-backed militants suffered a significant blow when they
surrendered the strategic city on Wednesday after columns of Ethiopian
troops backed by tanks rolled through outlying areas.
"We were engaged in house-to-house inspections today. With the help of
residents, we collected bombs, grenades and explosive devices," Abdifatah
Mohamed Ibrahim Gesey, the governor of Bay region which includes Baidoa,
Ethiopian soldiers set up bases at the former government headquarters and at
the city's airstrip, as well as checkpoints on the road leading southeast to
Al Shabaab appear weakened as Ethiopian and Kenyan troops move on rebel
strongholds in southern Somalia, but they must be routed from the port city
of Kismayu, their main outpost, for any hope of a military victory, security
Addressing a conference aimed at energizing attempts to end the anarchy in
Somalia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded greater efforts to
cut funding for al Shabaab militants fighting Somalia's weak Transitional
Federal Government (TFG).
Some civilians who had fled Baidoa early on Wednesday having feared a bloody
battle for control of the city began trickling back, quietly celebrating
what they hoped was the end of al Shabaab's draconian three-year rule over
Any joy, however, was tempered with anticipation of revenge attacks.
"The capture of Baidoa reminds me of the good life when the government ruled
here. Life was pleasure and there was cash everywhere," Rukia Aden, a
mother-of-four, told Reuters.
Others forecast businesses would benefit from the end of taxes levied by the
militants infamous for amputating the hands of thieves, banning women from
wearing bras and forcefully recruiting youths into their rank.
Addis Ababa sent troops across the border into Somalia in November to open
up another front against the militants already suffering financial
constraints and internal divisions.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said last month his troops would stay
indefinitely in Somalia until AMISOM troops replace them, to avoid a power
vacuum that could see a resurgence of Islamist militants or warlords in the
country. (Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Richard Lough;
Editing by Sophie Hares)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
Life grim in Somali camps that Kenya wants to shut
Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:19pm GMT
> Print |
* Kenya wants to close world's biggest refugee complex
* Registration of new arrivals suspended in October
* Severe malnutrition among young children surged, says MSF
By Noor Ali
DADAAB, Kenya, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Nadifo Farah is traumatised by the death
of her baby as she fled Somalia, but she has no time to grieve as she
battles to keep her five other children alive in the world's biggest refugee
Farah hauled her family across the border into Kenya in December, two months
after U.N. agencies suspended non-lifesaving activities, including the
registration of new arrivals, after two aid workers were kidnapped from the
Kenya has borne the brunt of Somalia's exodus over the last two decades.
Among the 463,000 registered Somalis crammed into congested camps around the
town of Dadaab, 10,000 are third-generation refugees born in the camp to
refugee parents also born there.
While the U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) says Farah is still entitled to
emergency food rations, the reality is many who are not registered are
turned away from food distributions, camp elders said.
"I was sent away twice from a distribution in Dagahaley," Farah said,
referring to one of Dadaab's three sprawling camps.
"Then I tried again at another of the camps, Ifo, where the distribution
committee chased me away because I didn't have a food ration card," she
said, surrounded by a mass of makeshift tents in an area known as Bulo Bacte
or 'carcass dump'.
Farah fled the southern Somali town of Afmadow, afraid of a bloody assault
on the rebel stronghold by Kenyan troops who moved into Somalia days after
two Spanish aid workers were kidnapped from Dadaab.
Unable to register now, new arrivals are forced to settle on the camp's
outskirts, where they are vulnerable to bandits.
Aid workers have reported a surge in child malnutrition, diarrhoea,
pneumonia and respiratory diseases among those who most recently crossed
into the remote, arid corner of Kenya. Cholera broke out in the camp in
Inside one tented ward at a Dadaab clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres
(MSF), a mother cradled the emaciated body of her severely malnourished
child, stroking his leathery skin.
"The insecurity restricts our capacity to provide health care services and
limits the monitoring of our activities," Vittorio Oppizzi, MSF field
coordinator in Dadaab's Dagahaley camp, told Reuters.
"WE WANT THEM OUT"
"Unfortunately, these camps will still be there for some time to come unless
there is some solution in Somalia to allow these people to go back," UNHCR
spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing in Geneva this week.
The flood of Somalis fleeing famine last year added to the strain on
Kenya says Dadaab's booming population represents a mounting security
threat. Speaking ahead of an international conference on Somalia hosted by
Britain, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said Kenya wanted the camps
"We definitely want the refugees to go home. We want them out yesterday,"
Wetangula told Reuters in London.
Wetangula said the way was now clear for the refugees to return home because
Kenya's army had liberated "huge, huge" areas of southern Somalia.
Kenyan forces, however, remain subject to frequent hit-and-run attacks by al
Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group that still controls large parts
of central and southern Somalia.
Wetangula said it would be impossible to defeat al Shabaab without seizing
Somalia's southern port city of Kismayu, a nerve-centre of operations and
key revenue source for the militants.
"The head of the dragon is Kismayu. You cannot kill a dragon without hitting
it on the head," the minister said.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, speaking in London, said he expected the
conference there to map out "a firm and durable solution, including the
return of these populations to their home country."
But as the conference came to a close there was no immediate sign that the
issue had been definitively addressed.
Most aid agencies dispute Kenya's assessment that security levels are
adequate for refugees to return.
Even so, Dadaab's pitiful conditions are hard to bear, leaving some
contemplating a return to their lawless homeland.
"I regret my decision to come here, it has been a tragedy," Farah said.
(Additional reporting by William Maclean in London and Stephanie Nebehay in
Geneva; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia and Robin
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Thu Feb 23 2012 - 14:37:00 EST