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Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter-Volume 14

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Saturday August 20, 2011 - 20:13:05 in Reports by Super Admin
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    Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter-Volume 14

    Issue 1, Volume 14 Dear Readers,

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Issue 1, Volume 14 Dear Readers,

Mogadishu (Sunatimes) It has been two weeks since militant Islamist group al-Shabaab pulled out of its major bases in Mogadishu, but pro-government forces still have not secured the capital. The insurgents have so far lived up to their promise of a tactical change, and the advancing African Union peacekeepers and government troops have been harried and ambushed as they spread out through the city.



President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed declared a three-month state of emergency in the former al-Shabaab areas, which will allow government forces to deal harshly with any suspected al-Shabaab members, and sweeps have turned up several arms dumps and bomb-making factories.

Al-Shabaab also marked the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister, who was in town to further encourage famine aid from Muslim nations following a $350 million pledge by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, by aiming shells at the presidential palace and attacking a government checkpoint.

These actions will have done little to convince observers that the capital is indeed much safer, with civilians still being killed in the crossfire and former military men criticizing the efforts to secure the city.

There are still concerns that if the government does not quickly bring the former al-Shabaab areas under its control, the warlords who once ruled the roost could take the chance to reawaken from their hibernation and seize control. Residents in particular are worried that these warlords, many of whose forces are currently with the government, could simply choose to go their own merry way.

Since the withdrawal, observers have said that al-Shabaab could use forces spared the carnage in Mogadishu to shore up other positions in areas like Gedo, where they have come under pressure this year. There were signs of just that happening, with residents in Bay region saying at least 100 insurgent fighters were redeployed to Gedo.

Humanitarian

There was little change in the humanitarian situation, with the amount of aid entering the country and the money available to fund a response still falling short. The UK government did, however, pledge an extra GBP 25 million to UNICEF alongside an apocalyptic warning of the possible deaths of up to 400,000 children from starvation and a call for a stronger response.

What won't help fundraising efforts are concerns highlighted by the Associated Press over alleged widespread aid diversion.

AP's battle-hardened Katharine Houreld witnessed many sites where large amounts of WFP aid were being stored in warehouses and sold in markets, and spoke to displaced people and businessmen who accused subcontractors and those running camps of being in on the theft. The WFP says it is investigating, and a posse of Somalia Report journalists is also looking into the issue, which many feel will only get worse as the WFP gets set to significantly ramp up its deliveries.

The theft of aid is nothing new, and led to military intervention to secure deliveries during the last famine in 1992, while Mogadishu's markets have long been flooded with aid sold by the intended recipients in order to fund the purchase of other goods. However, given the international focus currently on Somalia and the reticence of governments and private donors to dig deep into their pockets, aid agencies who have long accepted small-scale examples of such practices as the inevitable price of doing business in Somalia will be keen to ensure the problem does not get out of hand.

At least Somaliland wasn't put off by these corruption and theft allegations, with the government announcing that ministers and other government employees would be asked to take a 'voluntary' pay cut. Although the Somaliland authorities do seem a little hazy on the meaning of the word voluntary, the money garnered will be sent to help those suffering in southern Somalia, no doubt soothing the feelings of those who were volunteered.

Piracy

The pirates still don't have much to cheer about, as they have still been unable to take any new vessels, but one group did at least find itself with a wad of cash to blow on fancy cars, khat, booze and working girls, when the Maltese-flagged MV Sinin was released for a reported $4 million.

Somalia Report has also been told by multiple sources that a package deal has been agreed for the release of the Danish family seized from their yacht and the MV Dover. We've been here before, but this time around the information seems more concrete, and all indications are that the hostages will be released by the end of Ramadan.

For more detailed information on this week's piratical pranks, please see today's weekly report.

Special Features

While politicking remains muted, we took the chance to have a look at exactly how the cabinet positions were shared out, and tried to shed some light on the newcomers to Somali politics.

Our roving reporter Muhyadin Ahmed Roble, who has been detained by a militia during his wanderings but is still sticking his neck out for good stories, took an in-depth look at Somali women who are being forced to marry foreign fighters.

That's it from us for another week.

On a final note, we received a flood of feedback asking us not to bombard you all with daily updates, so we will be sticking to the weekly newsletter format.

As usual, feel free to drop a line to [email protected] if you have anything on your mind.

Regards,

The Editor


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