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The hard numbers: Who has troops in Somalia?

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The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is planning to cut 1,000 troops from its peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa country in February, and later completely withdraw.

Somali National Forces are expected to take over the responsibility of securing the country from al Shabab militants once Amisom complete its withdrawal.

Amisom draws its troops from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Allowances for the troops are paid by the EU, and logistical support – from food to medical supplies – is provided by the UN.

Under a transition plan agreed in 2017, Amisom is required to conduct gradual handover to Somali security forces, secure main supply routes, reduce the threat posed by al Shabab and conduct targeted offensive operations that support the transition plan.

When President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was elected in February 2017, he promised to rebuild and reform the country’s military which has been crippled by corruption and lack of modern equipment. Three years later, a lot has been achieved but much needs to be done.

Amisom troops are in Somalia for 12 years now helping the government battle al Shabab and expand its authority outside Mogadishu.

Amisom plans to withdraw complete from Somalia by December 2020, and, if this happens, there would be security vacuum. The Somali army is not yet ready to take over the responsibility of securing the country.

Security gains by Amisom and the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in late 2020 and early 2021 respectively could be in jeopardy if Amisom goes ahead in its withdrawal plan.

Although the Farmajo administration undertook some reforms within the military, like paying soldiers regularly and increasing their pay, eliminating middlemen and cutting out commanders who siphoned soldiers’ meager salary, lack of capacity and basic supplies and weapons will hinder its performance against al Shabab group which has been weakened but still capable of conducting high-profile attacks against civilians as well as state installations.

When the African Union (AU) troops complete their mission in Somalia, a UN Security Council resolution was that a United Nations peacekeeping mission replaces them. That plan has now been scrapped. The AU troops will hand over the responsibility of securing the country directly to Somali forces. Already, some places like Warsheikh Forward Operating Base, Mogadishu Stadium, Somali National University and Jaale Siyad Military Academy were handed over to Somali forces.

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Politics

Kenyan-American Uber driver is challenging Ilhan Omar for US House seat

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Photo: Haji For House
   

A Minneapolis Uber driver is launching a campaign to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

Haji Yussuf is seeking DFL nomination to challenge Ilhan Omar to represent Minnesota’s 5th District in the US House of Representatives.

The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) is a center-left political party in the US state of Minnesota. It is affiliated with the Democratic Party. Formed by a merger of the Minnesota Democratic Party and the left-wing Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in 1944, the DFL is one of only two state Democratic Party affiliates of a different name, the other being the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.

Haji Yussuf said Ilhan has lost touch with the common people, and accused her of focusing too much on her national profile.

“Most of her ideas are national ideas, the larger progressive movement ideas,” said Haji.

“She’s just repeating those. It’s not something unique that she has come up with,” he said, according to Sahan Journal, a news site that reports on refugees and immigrants issues in Minnesota.

Ilhan is a rising in the Democratic Party, and won 78 percent of the total votes in the 2018 election.

He will be more of a presence in the district than Ilhan is now, Haji said.

Haji’s platform includes speaking out on the burden of paying student loans, fixing “a planet on the edge” of environmental catastrophe and raising worker wages.

He said he is still saddled with debt from his time as a student at St. Cloud State University in the mid-2000s.

The 44-year-old worked at the Minnesota Department of Revenue before taking a job with Uber. While driving for the company, he said he’s spoken with more than 250 people from across the city about what’s been affecting their lives.

During his campaign launch this weekend, Haji plans to introduce some of the people he met while driving for Uber.

Haji said some of his passengers were elders in the African diaspora who say Ilhan is not engaging with them.

“Sometimes they have little things that have to be done, like maybe their Social Security check document is missing,” he said.

“The connection with individual people and communities, the representation of everyone in our community — that is what I feel she’s missing.”

Ilhan is the most prominent Somali politician in the US, and the first elected to Congress. Like Ilhan, Haji is a Somali immigrant. He came to the United States from Kenya in 1999, first to Florida and soon to Minnesota.

In the 2018 election, Minnesotans elected first-timers to four of the state’s eight House seats, and confirmed appointed Sen. Tina Smith to continue in the place of Sen. Al Franken. Two years later, all representatives — and Sen. Smith — must run again to hang on to those seats.

Three other candidates are also in the race for Minnesota’s 5th District seat.

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Aden Duale is the lonliest man in Kenya

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The National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, appears to be isolated and the loneliest politician in Kenya, abandoned by his colleagues from Northeastern region and the government he wholeheartedly served, thrusting him to uncomfortable position I-can-do-it-alone.

Duale is the senior-most politician in the Kenyan parliament courtesy of the prestigious post of Majority Leader of Jubilee – the majority party in the National Assembly.  He has been the defecto political leader of Northeastern since 2013.

Duale’s political career sprung from the nationwide popularity of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2007, defeating a long time MP and Minister, Hussein Maalim, to claim Dujis Constituency. In 2013, he sought reelection on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket led by William Ruto which formed a coalition government with Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA).

In 2017, both URP and TNA dissolved to form Jubilee party and Duale was reelected for the third term.

Duale, 51, who is also the Garissa Township MP, is one of the few vocal politicians the country has ever had and has defended the Jubilee administration within and without the parliament, attracting praises from State House and Harambee House Annex.

His critics labeled him as a sycophant who says anything to please President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Now everything – from being the darling of the government to being the political leader of Garissa and other Northeastern counties – has changed.

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 and the introduction of a Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) meant to change the way Kenya is governed have limited his government engagements and, a growing rebellion from fellow politicians from the region, mostly from young and first time members of parliament, some of whom are calling for his removal as Majority Leader in the National Assembly, has dwindled his influence in Northeastern politics.

Emboldened by the BBI, Wajir County Woman MP Fatuma Gedi and Fafi lawmaker Abdikarim, both first termers, are breathing down on Duale’s neck.

They even called for his removal as Jubilee leader in the National Assembly. They perceive to be political heavyweights courtesy of the BBI.

It is unlikely Jubilee will replace Duale as its parliamentary leader. And if it happens, the position won’t return to Northeastern.

Despite his weaknesses, Northeastern doesn’t have a smart politician as eloquent as Duale who can replace him as Majority Leader in the August House.

Garissa political leadership has abandoned and accused Duale of undermining his colleagues and creating division.

His isolation is seen as the product of his close association with the deputy president, William Ruto. Governors from the region, previously seen as Ruto allies and members of Tangatanga – a political grouping backing Ruto’s 20222 presidential ambition, have now fled his camp, for fear of arrests and prosecution due to mismanagement and theft of county government resources, leaving Duale behind.

Other lawmakers are also backing BBI for selfish gains; most of them do not understand what it entails but believe it will go through because it is backed by the president and Mr. Odinga.

Duale was not seen in recent press conferences by Northeastern politicians, and hasn’t attended a Northern Kenya leaders’ gathering at Kempinski to ‘thank President Kenyatta’ for appointing Ukur Yattani, a fellow northerner, to be the substantive Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning.

Next week, the region is hosting a BBI rally in Garissa town, but Duale isn’t attending. He says until government fixes the education crisis and insecurity, the region will not support BBI.

The education crisis was as a result of Teachers Service Commission – the teachers’ employer – withdrawing thousands of teachers from the region over what it said al Shabab’s target of non-Somali teachers.

Duale’s support for BBI is unclear. He is trying to earn applause from State House and contrast between himself and Tangatanga movement.

He is in a catch-22 situation, he wants BBI because it proposes the creation of a prime minister’s position, which he believes a lawmaker from smaller community can get.

By supporting his position, he said he ‘wasn’t anyone’s title deed,’ referring to media reports that he had dumped Deputy President William Ruto.

It seems his remark was a rebuke to Ruto, who opposes any form of change to Kenya’s constitution.

The Majority Leader is also positioning himself as Northeastern region power broker in the likelihood that the constitution is changed and regional kingpins will have a say in the formation of the next government. He is taking a risk although he cannot influence how northeastern people vote.

He argues that the president’s and Raila’s initiative will cure the political dominance of the presidential seat by the big tribes.

At the same time, he cannot abandon William Ruto, the man who made him and gave him the position he holds in parliament.

Ruto is opposed to any change to current system of governance, believing any change made to the constitution will deny him any chance of him becoming Kenya’s fifth president.

In not making a clear decision on BBI, Duale has weighed the impact it can have on him, at least for the remaining two and half years as parliamentary leader.

For the 13 years he has been in parliament, he has been trying to reshape the Kenyan political landscape in favour of William Ruto. Now, he has to reshape his future.

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Al Shabab women

How women contribute to al Shabab resilience

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Somalia is ranked the fourth most dangerous country in the world to be a woman, fueled by a three-decade-long civil unrest. Women have borne the brunt of hardships as a result of poverty, conflict, and clan-based culture, according to UN Women, a UN organisation dedicated to gender equality.

Women face rape and other forms of violence both from the government and al Shabab militant group.

Al Shabab, since its formation in 2006, has inflicted serious sufferings and punishment for Somali women. The al Qaeda-linked group has stoned to death and flogged a considerable number of women, accused of committing crimes ranging from extra-marital affairs, to pre-marital sex, to theft.

Women are not given fair legal representation and they are not allowed to appeal. They are sentenced to death or flogged without clear evidence.

Despite women facing brutal violence, they form an important social base for al Shabab.

But why do women play an important role critical in the resilience of a terror group hell-bent on punishing them?

“While al Shabab imposes restrictions upon women, it can provide some security and its courts often uphold Islamic family law to their benefit,” a report by International Crisis Group said.

Some women recruit, fundraise, spy or smuggle arms for the group. Women’s cooperation with al Shabab is not out of sympathy. Their cooperation is a matter of survival.

“Where it controls territory it can, however, offer women and girls a degree of physical safety – hardly complete, but still appreciable – in a country where they are otherwise exposed to violence,” part of the report read.

Through its courts, al Shabab upholds tenets of Islamic family law that, to some degree, protect women’s rights in matters such as divorce and inheritance in a manner the official justice system does not. While many instances of forced marriage between militants and women and girls exist, for some families marrying daughters into al Shabab bring some sort of financial stability.

Women gather intelligence that enables military operations or extortion, or ferry explosives ahead of attacks, taking advantage of the fact that security forces tend to watch women less closely than they do men.

But women do not participate in military operations directly and they are not part of the group’s decision-making organ.

Although al Shabab deploys far fewer women suicide bombers than the Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram, in some cases it used women to carry out suicide missions because they attract little suspicion.

In July 2019, a female bomber blew herself up inside Mogadishu mayor’s office, killing eight people, including the mayor, Abdirahman Osman Yarisow.

Al-Shabab, which claimed credit for the attack, said it was targeting the UN special envoy to Somalia who visited the mayor’s office and left an hour before the attack.

Due to poverty and seeking ‘better future’, young Kenyan women have traveled to Somalia to join al Shabab or have been recruited within Kenya to aid in the group’s attacks.

Although the Somali government did some progress; enrolling more girls to schools in areas under its control and increasing the number of civil servants, the country’s broken justice system offers women little.

The country’s parliament is yet to pass a bill that seeks to promote women’s rights.

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