UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
SOMALIA: IRIN News Briefs, 2 July
Ethiopia extends involvement in southwest
Ethiopia moved to extend its defensive 'buffer zone' in southwest Somalia by seizing two more towns, Garbahaarrey and Burdobo, in Gedo Region this week, security sources told IRIN on Thursday. Some 3,000 Ethiopian troops and about 50 armoured vehicles helped capture the towns, former strongholds of the Somali National Front (SNF), according to media reports. A regional analyst said the seizure of the towns was the latest move in Ethiopia's bid to create a security zone inside Somalia and clear the border area of Ethiopian rebel movements and Somali factions armed by Eritrea. Reuters on Thursday reported SNF claims that they had retaken the two towns. Ethiopia has repeatedly denied having a military presence in Somalia.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has seized communications equipment in order to minimise reports of its presence and operations in the area, a security source told IRIN on Thursday. Observers have noted a desire on the part of the Ethiopians to maintain "credible deniability."
Warlord claims Ethiopia hampering humanitarian efforts
Faction leader Omar Haji Mohamed 'Masale' of the SNF on Tuesday claimed the presence of Ethiopian troops in southern Somalia was creating food shortages by hampering international and local aid agencies and commercial activities, media sources reported. He also accused Ethiopia of looting vehicles used by humanitarian agencies in Gedo to discourage aid groups from operating there and prevent them from being credible witnesses to the attacks.
SACB calls for suspension of relief efforts in Gedo
Meanwhile, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) - comprising donors, UN agencies and international NGOs - on Wednesday called for the suspension of all rehabilitation and development assistance to Gedo Region in protest at the lack of justice from local authorities and community representatives after the murder in January of Dr Singh Bhogal, a veterinarian working on a rinderpest vaccination programme with the Italian NGO, Terra Nuova.
Community leaders had accepted an SACB demand that the perpetrators, the identity of whom was known, be brought to justice and that money and equipment stolen from Terra Nuova be returned, but no action has been taken, a statement said, adding that the Somali people had to take responsibility for guaranteeing secure conditions for aid agencies and their staff.
Kenyan military action averted with return of stolen weapons
In a fresh indication of the increasing regionalisation of the conflict, Somali militiamen on Friday returned vehicles, equipment and weapons stolen from a Kenyan military camp in Amuma in Kenya's north-eastern province, an army spokesman told IRIN. Kenya had threatened to launch "robust military action" inside Somalia if the stolen items were not returned by Thursday. About 400 Somali militiamen - aboard eight armoured trucks - had on Tuesday attacked the Amuma base, disarmed some 23 Kenyan soldiers and stolen the military supplies before returning to Somalia, news agencies said.
Kenya's military spokesman Nicholas Simani told IRIN on Friday that army personnel at Amuma had received the stolen items and that "tensions have eased" at the border. He said Omar Haji Mohamed 'Masale' of the SNF had apologised to the Kenyan government, terming the incursion an act by "junior officers who did not know border boundaries". Following the incident, Kenya had closed its border to prevent any Somali refugees from entering, local media reported. A UNHCR official told IRIN on Friday that the agency was talking to the Kenyan government to "keep the border open."
Imported money sparks inflation, street protests
Mogadishu has seen hundreds of people take part in street protests against rapid increases in the price of transport, food and other commodities as a result of the recent introduction of millions of dollars worth of Somali shillings by militia leader Hussein Aideed and Mogadishu businessmen, AFP news agency reported on Wednesday. An unconfirmed number of people were killed and injured as armed guards opened fire on mobs trying to break into businesses where the money was being kept.
RRA seeks funding to establish administration
The RRA is looking for sources of finance to establish a regional administration in the Bay and Bakool regions in the southwest of the country, the 'Mogadishu Times' reported on Wednesday. A delegation has visited Hargeisa and requested financial assistance from the president of the self-declared state of Somaliland, Mohamed Egal, but was understood to have been turned down, according to IRIN sources.
Community water scheme builds health and peace
A project whose main aim was to resolve serious water problems has also managed to overcome clan rivalries and sustain peace in Jowhar, 90 km north of Mogadishu. Fed up of having to fetch water from the polluted and cholera-infested Shabelle River some way distant, the community set up a water management company called Farjano ("spring of heaven") to manage a water system rehabilitated by UNICEF in 1997 with EU funding, according to a report by Child Newsline received by IRIN. The company, comprising 14 directors from a cross-section of Jowhar's clans, was now supplying clean water at a number of kiosks for 1,000 Somali shillings (US$ 0.10) per 200-litre drum - one-third of the price before the system was rehabilitated - and Jowhar has not had one case of cholera in the past year, the report added.
With only 31 percent of families having access to safe water in northwest Somalia and just 19 percent having access in the northeast, UNICEF has tried to replicate the Farjano model by having company directors conduct management workshops elsewhere in Middle Shabelle region and in Hiraan to the north.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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