As stability returns after three decades of anarchy, Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, is becoming a magnet, attracting the country’s diaspora to invest and to help out those who stayed behind.
The country’s diaspora is coming back to make a difference and take advantage of what Mogadishu and the rest of the country have to offer, bringing in expertise and creativity, and innovative ideas.
They have come back to advance women’s rights agenda, start businesses to rebuild a shuttered economy, set-up civil society institutions to teach civilians on the dangers of joining radicalised and terrorism groups and the importance of public institutions and to put the government on check.
But not everyone likes them. They became targets of al Shabab and ‘unknown gunmen’ because they are disrupting the old ways of doing things. Al-Shabab, which is fighting to topple the Somali government, does not like them and its reaction is deadly.
The group accuses the diaspora returnees of importing Western culture to erode the Somali society. The group targets hotels in the capital where the returnees reside.
Most of Somalia’s businesses are managed unprofessionally by people with no or less knowledge, and some are owned by warlords or politicians. When the Somalis from the diaspora with university education and exposure returned, they disrupted everything; they brought in new innovations and new ideas. Some returned to help and advise the government in different fields, taking key positions in the federal and state governments.
This week, Almas Elman, a Somali-Canadian peace activist, was shot dead in Mogadishu, inside the heavily-fortified Halane Camp, near the international airport. She was driving to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre.
Almas, a former diplomat, becomes the latest member of Somalia’s diaspora to be killed after returning home to help rebuild the country after decades of conflict.
Almas’ family founded a prominent peace centre in Somalia in the 1990s, and her sister Ilwad Elman was a nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The rest of Alma’s family had returned to Somalia in recent years to help run the peace centre working to end the violence. Their work includes a programme called ‘Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen’ that encourages child soldiers conscripted by militia gunmen to return to peace.
Hodan Nalayeh, another Somali-Canadian and a journalist returned to Somalia to tell positive stories—the she was killed. Hodan shaped a new Somali narrative.
At least 26 people have been killed and more others wounded when al-Shabab gunmen struck a hotel in southern Somali city of Kismayu on Friday, July 12.
The attack began with a suicide bomb ramming a car laden with explosives into the main entrance of Asasey Hotel followed by gunfire. Politicians, government officials and the diaspora Somalis visiting the city frequent the hotel.
Those killed include journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband Farid Jama. Nalayeh recently returned from Canada to tell positive and inspiring stories about Somalia.
Hodan was born in Las Anod in northern Somalia in 1976, but lived most of her life in Alberta and Toronto, after her family move to Canada in the 1980s.
In 2014, Nalayeh founded Integration TV, the first English language online TV, where she shared positive, uplifting and inspiring stories among the Somali people. She wanted to change the international media narrative on Somalia, which mainly focused on war, poverty and piracy.
Hodan travelled across Somalia as well as the world to promote the Somali culture and art and tell success stories in Somalia and its diaspora. She focused on ordinary Somalis doing extra ordinary things in the fields of business, technology, art and culture, among others.
“Our stories are not that are not about suffering are valid and should be told more often. We are more than our pain. We are living and thriving,” one of her tweets said.
A day before the horrific attack on the Asasey Hotel took her life; Nalayeh spent the day in the Island of Ilsi near Kismayu, meeting and documenting the lives of a local fishing community.
“The island of Ilsi is an hour away from Kismayu and only local fishermen live there. It is so clean and breathtaking. A perfect place for a day swim with the family. Somalia,” she tweeted.
Although minor security incidences have been recorded, Kismayu has been relatively peaceful since 2012 when Somali forces backed by Kenyan troops forced al-Shabab militants out of the city.
Hodan was among a large number of Somalis who returned to the country in the recent past after realisation of relative stability to set up businesses and innovation centres and to help rebuild their country devastated by a three-decade-long unrest, and disrupted everything with new ideas and innovations. Most of the diaspora community who returned to the country did so after al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu in August 2011.
In August of last year, gunmen shot and dead Mohamed Ali , the first person to open a flour shop and a drycleaner in Mogadishu.
Mohamed opened the first dry cleaning shop in Mogadishu in 2012 and set up the city’s first and only flower shop. He also started Start-up Grind, a Google-sponsored global independent start-up community that nurtures start-ups in more than 150 countries. The local media described him as “the face of young entrepreneurs.”
Most members of the Somali diaspora community began returning in 2012 – a year after al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu.
The returnees are not fully appreciated; they accused of stealing jobs from the ‘locals’ – those who remained behind after the civil war and never left the country. They are paid more than the locals for the same work done. Because of these and other factors, the diaspora Somalis continue to be targeted by those who do not want change.
What comes next after Janan’s surrender?
By Siyad Abdigedi
The surrender of Abdirashid Janan to the Federal Government of Somalia ushered in a period of calm for the citizens of Gedo. Residents of Mandera and Beled Hawo towns, which are located on the border of Kenya and Somalia, respectively, feel a big weight lifted off their shoulders, they no longer have to worry about a potential conflict of armies, which has always been reported to result in civilian casualties.
Just a few months ago, an aggressive dawn assault by Janan’s men on the Somalia federal army in Beled Hawo resulted in the killing of an entire family of six, with only the mother surviving the attack. A number of Janan’s men were also captured.
Janan, a former Jubaland state government security minister, was detained in Mogadishu in August 2019 for suspected human rights violations but fled in January 2020 and had been on the run before his recent surrender.
The surrender was secretly orchestrated by Janan’s loyalists and Somali Chief spy Fahad Yassin. Janan was later fired from his position as a security minister by Jubaland’s leader, Ahmed Madobe, for surrendering to the federal government in Mogadishu. He was flown to Mogadishu and met with top security officials before handing over his militia and weapons days later as talks between him and the federal government continued.
The Federal Government of Somalia and the administration of Jubbaland have been at odds. The Farmajo administration had previously rejected Madobe’s re-election but later accepted its legitimacy to serve as a transitional government for two years.
Possible results of Janan-Mogadishu negotiations
Rub my back, I rub yours, will most definitely be the compromise between the two parties. In return for cutting ties with Madobe’s camp, Mogadishu can grant him amnesty from his case.
The surrender of Janan to Mogadishu represents a significant political breakthrough for Farmajo because it ensures the stability of the Gedo region. Janan was a crucial figure in Jubbaland administration, and his surrender, along with his forces, weakens Madobe’s camp morale. He not only defected with troops and arms, but also with secrets, which is a critical asset in countering Ahmed Madobe.
Farmajos’ administration could also be planning to advance troops in the near future in order to capture Buale town with the help of Janan and his men and make it Jubbaland’s capital city. Middle Jubba is made up of four districts: Buaale, Sakow, Salagle, and Jilib, all of which are now under the rule of Al Shabaab. Planting an alternate regional government here would undermine the Madobe administration, which is headquartered in the port of Kismayu.
The talks between the two could follow a separate path, yielding a myriad of other possible outcomes that would undoubtedly have a significant effect on Jubbaland politics in the coming months.
Siyad is a security analyst with an emphasis on the Horn of Africa.
ICJ to hear Somalia, Kenya maritime case despite Nairobi withdrawal
The International Court of Justice is scheduled to begin hearing the oral arguments in the maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya, despite the latter pulling out of the proceedings in protest after being denied a fourth extension to postpone the case.
In a rare move, Kenya informed the court earlier this week that it would not be participating in the oral arguments, citing its unpreparedness brought on by the global pandemic and the presence of Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, a Somali national, on the international court’s bench.
Somalia’s legal team will present its oral arguments first, between 3 PM and 6 PM on Monday and will continue its presentation on Tuesday between 3 PM and 4:30 PM.
The ICJ will hold the hearings in a hybrid format – another feature Kenya objected to – in light of the COVID pandemic. The hearings will be aired on a Livestream on the court’s website and UN Web TV.
Somalia launched legal proceedings against Kenya at the international court based in The Hague in August 2014 after failing to settle the issue through diplomatic channels. Kenya questioned whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the case, pointing to the 2009 MOU signed with Somalia’s then Minister for National Planning and International Cooperation, Abdirahman Abdishakur. The court rejected that claim and ruled in June 2019 that the court was within its legal rights to adjudicate the case. Since then, the issue has been delayed and postponed several times at Kenya’s request.
At stake is a potentially lucrative, triangular stretch of 100,000 square kilometres of offshore territory believed rich in hydrocarbons and fish.
Despite Kenya’s withdrawal, the ICJ can still proceed with the case and render a verdict since Kenya has already submitted its written arguments to the court. The ruling cannot be appealed, but its enforcement relies on the UN Security Council, of which Kenya is a non-permanent member.
Kenya withdraws from ICJ maritime case with Somalia
Kenya has notified the International Court of Justice that it will not participate in the maritime case against Somalia just a day before it is scheduled to begin. Kenya has cited the court’s perceived bias and its unwillingness to delay the case – for a fourth time – due to the pandemic as the main reason for withdrawing from the legal proceedings.
Kenya’s Attorney General, Paul Kihara Kariuki, notified the ICJ of the decision to pull out in a letter written on March 11 to Phillippe Gautier, the court’s registrar.
“Kenya wishes to inform the court, through the Registrar, that it shall not be participating in the hearings in the case herein, should the same proceed from March 15, 2021, as presently scheduled,” the letter from Kenya’s attorney general states.”
Despite Kenya’s withdrawal, the ICJ can still proceed with the case and render a verdict since Kenya has already submitted its written arguments to the court.
Kenya, who referred to the move as “unprecedented in its history in relation to any international adjudication mechanism,” told the court that its latest legal team did not have adequate time to prepare for the case. Various Kenyan media outlets reported that top-level international lawyers were brought in to lead the maritime case in late February 2021, just weeks after the court rejected Kenya’s request to have the maritime delimitation case with Somalia postponed for the fourth time. Kenya added that the global pandemic had stripped it of financial resources to fund the case.
“The consequence of this is that Kenya and its legal team were deprived of the opportunity of having necessary preparatory meetings and engagements, ” Mr. Kariuki states.
In addition to the refusal to postpone the proceedings further, the letter to the ICJ cited further causes to justify its withdrawal from the international court.
Kenya objects to the hybrid format the hearings will be held in due to the current COVID pandemic, although some members of the court will attend the oral proceedings in person. Kenya argued that since its defence is based on demonstrations, the current format is “unsuitable for the hearing of a case as complex and as important as the present one.” The court said that the representatives of the parties involved in the case would participate either in person or by video link.
“Since the case is not urgent for any reason, Kenya least expected that the court would make this into the first cause to heard on its merits via video link, despite one party’s sustained, well-grounded objections, Kenya stated.
In building its case for withdrawal, Kenya wrote to the ICJ that one of its jurists, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, could potentially curry favour in support of Somalia. Yusuf, a Somali national was President of the Court until February this year .
“Kenya’s concerns and perception of unfairness and injustice in this matter are exacerbated by the inexplicable rejection of Kenya’s preliminary objections to this court’s jurisdiction and the dismissal of the request for the recusal of Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, given his past exposure, on behalf of Somalia, o the issues in this case. This is notwithstanding the fact that Kenya has taken extensive measures that are illustrative of its good faith and seriousness in defending this case, including by filing pleadings within the timelines directed by the court.”
Somalia launched legal proceedings against Kenya at the international court based in The Hague in August 2014 after talks with Kenya failed to settle the dispute. The case has fuelled the diplomatic fallout between the two East African neighbours.
Somalia dispatched its team led by Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Guled last week. Guled expressed confidence that his country was winning the case.
“Our duty is to unite and defend our land and our real estate, which is a historic responsibility and the most precious legacy we will leave to future generations of Somalis,” said the deputy prime Minister before departing from Mogadishu.
The ICJ is tasked with deciding who has jurisdiction over the 62,000 square-mile triangle in the Indian Ocean, which is believed to be rich in hydrocarbons. Neither party can appeal the decision. The court will then rely on the UN Security Council, of which Kenya is a non-permanent member, to enforce the ruling
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