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Somali Migrants Returning From Libya Tell of Abuse, Horror.

Qoyste/VOA)

It was an emotional moment for the nearly dozen Somali migrants who were repatriated to Mogadishu from Libya on Saturday.

Some fell to their knees, crying; others placed their foreheads to the ground in prayer; while some chanted the Somalia national anthem as they disembarked from a Turkish Airways plane that had flown them from Libya, where some had been stranded for years, to the Somali capital.

Since 2014, Libya has become a major transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are trying to get to Europe to flee instability and violence.

Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled, members of parliament and representatives from civil society organizations welcomed the migrants at the airport. The migrants then told stories of abuse, fear and horror they had experienced in Libya.

Survivor‘s tale

Abdikarim Mohamed Omar, 22, who shared his story with VOA’s Somali service, was among those repatriated Saturday. He said he left Somalia in 2016 and traveled to Libya via Ethiopia and Sudan.

Before reaching Libya, Omar said, he lost several of his Somali friends during the journey. At one point, he said, they fought with Eritrean migrants.

“I was among 150 migrants packed into a truck by smugglers from Sudan — 100 Eritreans and 50 Somalis. They mercilessly forced us into a truck that fit only 30 people. Some of the Somali migrants were thrown out of the truck into the desert. Then we fought with the Eritreans for survival. Several of my friends were killed during the conflict,” Omar said.

Earlier this week in Libya, a truck packed with more than 200 illegal migrants, mainly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, overturned near Bani Walid, killing 19 of them. Sixty others were injured.

Omar said that once he reached Libya, he was filled with painful memories that he could not forget. He and other migrants were taken to the Kufra detention center, in southeast Libya.

“They lock us up in a room, where we hardly eat. You have no place to urinate. The room is overcrowded with migrants. Some of us sit the whole night, and some sleep a few hours. Every morning, they severely beat you with iron rods and sticks,” he said.

“To taste the pain and convince our parents to pay them, the smuggler woke us up with beatings early in the morning and send us to silence or sleep at night with beatings,” Omar said. “It was like our daily greetings and the first communication between the smugglers and the detainees.”

He continued, “Because of the constant torture [and] hunger, many of the migrants in the detention room where I was died, including my Somali friend who shared a blanket with me.”

Fleeing Africa, Middle East

Since 2014, more than 600,000 people have crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy. But the number of illegal migrants housed in Libyan detention centers has risen dramatically this year since armed groups in the western city of Sabratha began preventing boats from departing for Europe.

After clashes in Sabratha in September, thousands of migrants held near the coast were transferred to detention centers under the nominal control of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli.

However, Amnesty International said in December 2017 that up to 20,000 people were being held in detention centers and were subject to “torture, forced labor, extortion and unlawful killings.”

Other human rights organizations have said similar things in recent months.

Late last year, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commissions, said an estimated 400,000 to 700,000 African migrants were being detained in dozens of camps across the chaotic North African country, often being held under inhumane conditions.

Omar said he was lucky to escape from the Kufra detention center months ago, but he has since lived in Tripoli, in constant fear and hiding.

On Saturday, he was among 10 migrants repatriated to Mogadishu.

The repatriation effort was ordered by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo after U.S. broadcaster CNN showed footage of a slave auction in Libya where migrant Africans were shown being sold.

“Following the order of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the government has repatriated 10 Somali migrants from Libya and 30 more will be repatriated soon,” said Guled, the deputy prime minister.

Seeking to repatriate Somalis

The Somali government is working to return to their homeland a large number of Somali migrants who are in Libya. Earlier this week, that effort hit a snag, however, when the delegation sent to Libya was unable to persuade migrants to abandon the dangerous journey to Europe and instead return to Somalia.

The migrants have told government officials behind the repatriation effort that they have suffered during the journey to Libya but feel they have “nothing else to lose.”

Upon arrival, the 10 Somalis were registered with the government. For six months, they will have their relocation expenses paid for by the Somali government. The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are providing some training to help the recent returnees rejoin their communities and build their lives.

Mariam Yassin, special envoy for migrants and children’s rights of Somalia, was among the delegation sent by the Somali government to Libya this week to try to persuade migrants to return home. She said those who returned Saturday had survived a harsh journey.

“Among them are migrants who have spent three years in the hands of smugglers in Kufra, [in] south Libya. And now Allah saved them from the unbearable torments and torture they have been mentally and physically subjected to,” Yassin said.

Ahmed Abdikarim Nur, Somalia’s commissioner of refugees and internally displaced persons, said because of the extent of the abuses they faced, some migrants could not openly tell their horrific stories.

“They told us that they feel ashamed and embarrassed. … They have been subjected to all inhumane abuses against mankind,” Nur said.

The Somali government plan was to repatriate more than 5,000 migrants stranded in detention centers in Libya, but so far only about 40 migrants have accepted the repatriation.

“Our plan is to repatriate all those who want to return home,” Nur said.

Hassan Kafi Qoyste contributed this report from Mogadishu.

—-VOA

China’s Somali pirate-catching commando gets a hero’s welcome back home.

Turkey’s outreach hints at Ottoman revival.

RBP

Four questions about the Ethiopian PM’s resignation.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned unexpectedly on Thursday, the first leader to do so in the country’s recent history.

As Africa’s second most-populous country enters uncharted political territory, here are four questions about what happened — and what comes next.

– Why did he resign? –

Rumours that Hailemariam would go have been circulating in the capital Addis Ababa for months, but his announcement came as a surprise.

Guesses abound as to why he left when he did, but analysts say among the key drivers are the country’s spiral into crisis, and the divisions within Hailemariam’s party that have kept him from responding decisively.

“We know that he’s not a real decision-maker in Ethiopia,” said one Ethiopia analyst, who requested anonymity.

Hailemariam’s resignation followed a week that began with two days of strikes and road closures across Ethiopia’s most-populous region Oromia, and a mass prisoner release that saw some of the country’s most-prominent dissidents leave jail.

Hailemariam had announced the prisoner release last month amid growing disenchantment with his government.

Anger with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition exploded in December 2015 when the country’s largest ethnicity, the Oromo, began mass protests. Months later the next-largest ethnicity, the Amhara, rose up too.

A 10-month state of emergency declared in October 2016 quelled the worst of the violence, but only after hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of arrests that were condemned by rights groups.

Still, anti-government protests continue to occur, and a separate spate of clashes between the Oromo and Somali ethnicities displaced a million people late last year.

“The situation is getting out of control right now, so he might have decided to resign by himself,” the analyst said, pointing to his decision to leave both the premiership and his own party.

The EPRDF has engaged in a bout of self-flagellation since the protests, promising it would reform itself to address the population’s grievances.

Hailemariam cited that goal in his resignation, saying he intended “to become part of the solution”.

– What happens next? –

Hailemariam’s resignation has been accepted by the executive committees of both the EPRDF and his own party within the coalition, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM).

He will remain in office until parliament and the full EPRDF coalition confirm his request to leave.

Local media has reported that they may be considering another state of emergency as a way to calm the protests and ethnic clashes.

 

Homicide victim Egal Daud buried Friday after mosque service.

Egal Daud, 30, was found dead in his car Sunday morning in a parking lot on Northview Road in Nepean after being reported missing by his family five days earlier.

Police said Daud, the city’s fifth homicide victim of the year, had been shot. No arrest has yet been made in the case.

A funeral service was held for Daud at the Assalam Mosque on St. Laurent Boulevard where friends and family gathered to pray for him alongside regular Friday worshippers. His body was carried into the crowded prayer room in a simple wooden coffin draped with a green cover — the colour of Islam.

In his sermon, visiting Edmonton Imam Osman Ali told worshippers they must always be prepared for death by immediately embracing a righteous path. “Today he (Daud) is gone,” he said, “but yesterday he was here.”

Ali warned that life can end suddenly and unexpectedly in a plane crash, with a slip on the ice or with a gunshot, and that every Muslim must be prepared at any moment to face Allah with the completed “book” of his own life.

Daud was later buried in the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery on Manotick Station Road.

Daud had gone back to school in 2015 to study heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air conditioning at Algonquin College after working for several years at a local janitorial company. Earlier in his life, he had served jail time for drug trafficking.

Friends have described Daud as a kind-hearted man who had been working to improve himself. He was one of five siblings in a tight knit Somali-Canadian family.

“It is a really tough time for us,” said his sister, Zuhur Daud.

Anyone with information about Daud’s shooting is asked to call the Ottawa police major crime unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5493.

 

U.S. issues Ethiopia alert, warns of tricky security situation.

The United States has issued a security alert for Ethiopia in the wake of political and security developments over the last week. About ten people were reported dead during protests in the Oromia region.

The terse statement read: “As a precautionary measure, the U.S. Embassy is temporarily suspending all travel outside of Addis Ababa for Embassy personnel.”

They also gave five key actions for U.S. citizens to follow in the light of the current situation. Monitoring local media for updates, avoiding large gatherings and demonstrations, employing sound security practices.

“Remain aware of your surroundings, including local events. Remember that the security environment in Ethiopia is fluid and can deteriorate without warning,” completed the list of precautionary measures.

The country’s Premier Hailemariam Desalegn resigned his post on Thursday following protests in Oromia. The country has released a number of political prisoners following the promise of political reforms in January.

The ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is set to name a successor to Desalegn at its next congress. Desalegn became Prime Minister in 2012 after the death of Meles Zenawi. The PM is head of government in the country’s political structure.

Ethiopia declares national state of emergency.

A national state of emergency has been declared in Ethiopia just one day after the unexpected resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

A statement by the state broadcaster said the move was necessary to stem a wave of anti-government protests.

Hundreds of people have died in three years of unrest in the country.

A 10-month state of emergency that ended last year failed to stop the protests, as did the release from jail of thousands of opposition supporters.

No details were given of how long the latest state of emergency will last or what the restrictions are.

The government has been under pressure because of continuing street protests.

In recent weeks it has released hundreds of prisoners including opposition politicians but the protests have shown no sign of ending.

On Thursday, Mr Hailemariam said he had made his decision to stand down in the hope that it would help end the years of unrest and political upheaval.

“I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy,” Mr Hailemariam said.

The political demonstrations in Ethiopia began in Oromia in November 2015. Protests later sprung up in the Amhara region.

Oromia and Amhara are the homelands of the country’s two biggest ethnic groups.

Many people in these communities feel they have been marginalised since the current government took power in 1991.

BBC

Media & politicians unite, push for more war.

The United States has been engaged in some state of warfare almost continuously since World War II. Some wars have been major ones, such as in Korea and Vietnam, and resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of American service personnel. Other wars such as in Grenada and Panama, were more like police actions. Air actions in a dozen nations such as Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria are not counted by most as being in a state of war, although they actually are. We have ground forces in Syria today and have established bases there – that is a state of war.

Yet, after fighting to a stalemate in Korea, losing in Vietnam and accomplishing nothing in Libya, Iraq and Syria other than destroying those nations’ infrastructure and creating a fertile ground for Sunni Muslim terrorist groups, American generals now have a renewed high level of confidence. This over-confidence – along with the support of neocons in Congress – could lead to a devastating war against either Russia, China or both. And these wars could easily lead to the use of nuclear weapons, because such wars cannot be won on the ground, despite the incredible technological advantages of American forces.

Russia looks like a pushover to American military brass. Russia has a population less than half that of the United States and an army of only 270,000 active duty members. Russia only has 1,046 combat capable aircraft vs. over 5,000 American warplanes. Teamed up with NATO, the American advantage in air power is about 18 to 1. Russia would have no choice but to rely on her nuclear capacities to be able to counter any major NATO action.

With Russia’s only deterrent being nuclear, the Pentagon on Jan. 18 announced plans for an “updated” nuclear arsenal that would include sea-based nuclear tipped cruise missiles. Despite the limitations in recruiting a professional army (paid volunteers rather than draftees) the military brass see the United States as able to fight Russia in Europe and China in Asia at the same time.

Officially, more than 200,000 American service personnel are stationed overseas. This number does not include military contractors, many of whom are “Blackwater” type armed personnel paid by the Defense Department, CIA and other agencies. Official numbers are hard to get, but in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, there were three war-zone contractors for every one member of the U.S. military. In fact, during the Obama administration more military contractors died in action in Afghanistan than did military personnel.

There are 800 American military bases in foreign nations, and the Pentagon claims to have personnel active in 177 nations.

The sheer power and number of men and machines available gives the generals and the politicians supreme confidence of victory, despite having accomplished nothing but a state of chaos in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa ever since 2002, after spending nearly $3 trillion.

Woefully, American politicians are ready and willing to put up the money to go to war. The official military budget for fiscal 2017 was $611 billion, which is more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the U.K., Japan and Germany combined. The 2017 Russian military budget, including the war in Syria, was $70 billion, and China’s was $215 billion. The 2018 U.S. budget, more than President Trump requested, is over $700 billion – a whopping 10-to-1 ratio with that of Russia.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2018/02/media-politicians-unite-push-for-more-war/#mhidjvJy20it0bHi.99

Germany arrests suspected member of al-Shabab militia.

German authorities have arrested a 20-year-old Somali man on suspicion of being a member of the extremist militia al-Shabab.

Federal prosecutors say the man was detained Thursday in the central state of Hesse.

Prosecutors said in a statement Friday that the suspect, identified only as Abduqaadir A. in line with German privacy laws, is suspected of attempted murder and accessory to murder.

He is alleged to have joined al-Shabab in Somalia in 2012, undergone weapons training and then taken part in the killing of a person at a mosque.

The suspect is alleged to have later attempted to kill a member of the Somali government, who survived the attack.

After being detained by al-Shabab for failing to carry out the killing, the suspect fled Somalia and reached Germany in 2014.

IGAD confronting violent extremism in East and Horn of Africa.

East Africa’s security landscape is currently confronted by a significant increase in the activities of violent extremist groups, chief among them being the Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda and the so called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Violent extremism has increasingly become a transnational security threat that is undermining international peace and security as clearly expounded in the 2016 UN Secretary General Plan of Action for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE).

This PVE plan of action urged national governments and regional bodies to develop strategies on how to coherently prevent and counter violent extremism.

Strategies

Commendably, Kenya and Somalia took a bold move and developed national strategies. We encourage the other countries to follow in their footsteps.

It is in this context that in July 2016, we at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), embarked on developing a regional strategy for preventing and countering violent extremism through a highly comprehensive and inclusive consultative process that also involved Tanzania.

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The first challenge we encountered was agreeing on a common conceptual definition of violent extremism.

We defined it as an ideology that rejects the principles and values that underpin a peaceful orderly and non-violent society, instead espousing violence, terror and coercion as a pathway to change and to realising specific beliefs and vision of society.

We therefore see preventing and countering violent extremism as a grand strategy that highlights non-coercive approaches designed to address the drivers, enablers or root causes of extremism in order to deny extremists an environment to radicalise and recruit followers to violence.

We are excited to note that regional experts on prevention and countering violent extremism drawn from governments, civil societies, academia and development partners met in Djibouti on March 1-2, 2017 and adopted this strategy.

Our region is historically volatile. Terrorists are taking advantage of a mix of civil wars, conflicts and insurgencies, tapping into criminal networks, occupying weakly governed and sparsely populated spaces.

They exploit widespread grievances relating to poverty, joblessness, exclusion, injustice and repression to radicalise and recruit to violence using radio and social media platforms to spread messages of hate against sections of communities.

Counter terrorism

Since 2006, Igad has been engaged in building capacity of the criminal justice system to prevent and counter terrorism through the framework of Igad’s Security Sector Programme.

The contemporary global shift has refocused attention to local solutions to the challenge of radicalisation to violence and Igad welcomed the recommendations and initiatives arising from the series of high-level meetings which called for new commitment to broad-based partnerships involving governments and non-state actors such as civil society, women, youth, private sector and religious leaders.

These consultations at the regional and global levels culminated in the launch of the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism in January 2016, which embraced the “whole of society” approach.

Efforts

Igad has directed its efforts to enhancing the soft power capabilities, co-ordination and partnerships.

First, through the development of the regional strategy and secondly, by the establishment of Igad Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE) in Djibouti.

The regional strategy deepens our understanding of the drivers and the push-pull factors of violent extremism and offers concrete measures to diminish the appeal of radical ideologies and messages.

It also stresses the role of research and analysis to deepen our understanding of the drivers of extremism and sites of radicalisation and recruitment such as refugee camps, remand facilities and prisons, social media, religious and educational institutions and to underpin evidence-driven policy responses.

Second, the newly created Igad Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent extremism will support the region’s efforts by providing a dedicated platform for research, capacity building, strategic communication as well as a framework for civil society organisation and other non-state actors to engage and support the work of the region’s governments.

Cooperation

Together with regional and international partners, the centre will enhance the capacity of local communities to offer alternative narratives and counter messaging.

The centre will also provide guidance to ensure the effectiveness of activities and programmes proposed by the strategy.

The implementation of the strategy and setting up of the ICEPCVE signals a new beginning in our determination to rid the region of extremist ideologies.

It is our trust that these regional initiatives will contribute to the region’s peace and security architecture.

Mahboub Maalim is the executive secretary of Igad and Dr Simon Nyambura is the director of ICEPCVE