Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Monday, October 24, 2005

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Traders Shot Dead By Somali Bandits

Three people were killed and two others seriously injured when armed Somali militiamen opened fire on their lorry yesterday.

The militiamen in the Somali town of Dobley sprayed bullets on a Kenyan lorry ferrying goods from Liboi Town in Kenya to Somalia, after it defied orders to stop at a road block they were manning, said Garissa District police chief Richard Ngatia.

Trouble started when the lorry attempted to drive through the barrier after the businessmen disagreed with the militiamen on how much money to pay them. The businessmen complained that roadblocks that had mushroomed on the Somali side of the border, were adversely affecting their business, said Mr Ngatia.

The lorry drove back to Liboi, with the militiamen in hot pursuit, but they abandoned their mission shortly before Haraharka, manned by Kenyan security forces.

A Kenyan who sustained several gunshot wounds during the thirty minutes shooting has been moved to Garissa Provincial general hospital in critical condition, said the police boss. Reports of the shooting caused many travellers to abandon the busy Dobley-Liboi route, in favour of other roads, to escape the bandits who threatened to paralyse operations unless Kenyan traders met their demands to pay hefty charges at the barriers.

Initial reports indicated that Somali traders had hired militias to disrupt border business, said Mr Ngatia, adding that relations between businessmen from the two countries have been tense in recent months, following accusations that the Kenyans have unfairly dominated the lucrative cross-border business.

However, Kenyan businessmen counter the allegations, saying unscrupulous Somali traders have formed a smuggling ring with their relatives living in refugee camps in Garissa District and were importing goods without paying revenue to custom officials at the border.

Hagaldera Ifo and Dagahaley refugee camps in the district had become havens for smugglers, with all the goods sold at the camps being imported from Kismayu free port in Somalia. Security would be increased on the border, following threats by the militias, so that normal business can resume for the communities living on the frontier, whose sole source of income is trade.

He also said the allegations of smuggling would be investigated. The shooting comes barely a week after six Kenyan traders were killed and 10 seriously injured when their mini bus exploded in a land mine at the border.

Source: Daily Nation, Oct. 24, 2005

A Banadiri Calls for Arab Support

-Banadir is the coastal region of southern Somalia extending from Warsheikh in the north as far south as Ras Kiamponi. As many of your readers will know, Somalia represents one of the worst cases of state failure in post-colonial Africa.-
Since 1991 Somali people and communities have struggled to survive without a central government. Political loyalties are based on clan and region than party. For over 14 years, the Banadiri ethnic groups have remained under the occupation of thugs and armed militias and people continue to have no civil rights.
With the exception of Mogadishu, no schools were ever built, no clinics ever planned, while the most oppressive police units were always assigned to this region. Extortion, kidnapping and blackmail are the order of the day, while men and women are at the mercy of bandits.
We do not have support from Arab governments, agencies or NGOs. As members of the Banadiri community living in Somalia, we want to establish networks and develop our community to reduce poverty. We will develop ourselves, but we are looking for Arab civil society organizations that would be willing to sponsor our efforts. Thank you.
Source: Middle East Times, Oct. 24, 2005

Crew Speak of Terror At the Hands of Hijackers

They were in an upbeat mood when they bade farewell to their families. The vessel was in perfect condition as the cheery captain beckoned his crew to get aboard, ready to set off.

Some of the Kenyans who were held hostage by Somali warlords celebrate on arrival at Mombasa after their release. On June 23, on the calm sea, the ten seamen on MV Semlow left Mombasa port for Bossaso in Somalia.

Even as they entered the Somalia territorial waters, all seemed well, save for some waves brushing the vessel. But the serenity did not last for long. Between Haradheere and El Maan port, the night fell. Suddenly, they were greeted by shouts of "Stop! Stop!" as three speedboats sorrounded their ship.

Within seconds, a burly Somali, armed to the teeth and accompanied by about 20 armed men, struck. Patrick Ogutu narrated the harrowing ordeal of how the Somali militiamen captured their vessel on the fateful June 25 shortly after 7pm, and not on June 27 as it had been reported earlier.
Ogutu says a chill ran down his spine when the gunmen took command of the ship. "Everybody was badly shaken, we could smell death. As they cocked their guns, we shuddered with horror," said the 36-year-old seafarer.

He says the commander whipped out his rifle before confronting him as his colleagues watched, aghast. The "brute", he said, placed the gun on the back of his head before bellowing orders to lead him to the ship captain, Mr S Mahalingham, a Sri Lankan

"I could feel the coldness of the rifle on the back of my head as I led the commander to the captain, if only to save my life," says Ogutu. The commander then took the captain and the ship's chief officer aside, demanding they surrender all the cash they had.

Mahalingham says he led the gun-totting men to the Sh630,000. They then embarked on a looting spree, taking almost anything they could lay their hands on; wrist watches, radios, mobiles and even clothes.

The gunmen said they had hijacked the United Nations World Food Programme chartered ship, with 850 metric tonnes of rice, because they had received information from agents in Nairobi that it was carrying weapons.

The seamen told them the cargo was meant for the 28,000 tsunami victims at Bossaso, Somalia.
But the gunmen mounted a thorough search, and when no weapons were found, they burst with fury.

A seafarer, Mr Juma Pembe, said the worst moment of his life with the ruthless men was when they ordered him to switch on the ship's generator when they knew very well it had no fuel.

When he told them so, they trembled with rage and cocked their machine guns. The warlords aimed their guns at the top of the ship, fired eight loud blasts that shook the vessel and left the crew members more horrified as they dashed into the cabin for cover.

Another seaman, Hassan Sudi, said the trigger-happy hoodlums kept shooting in the air aimlessly:
"We were in terrible fear whenever the warlords cocked their guns and shot anyhow to ward off their rivals roaming nearby on the waters." Some of the weapons included AK 47 assault rifles, anti-aircraft launchers, large purpose machine guns, grenades and bombs, the released crew said.

Ogutu narrated how he suffered from stomach pains for 16 days without medical attention. Despite his incessant pleas, the gunmen could only stare at him, wearing brutal faces, and then walk away.
"The warlords never used to share their meals with us. Instead, they would just give us small pieces of meat, some rice and spaghetti, at least to keep us alive," says Rajab, who can now afford a smile.

Hassan Sudi adds that they were not supposed to walk more than a radius of five metres, and were restricted into the mess, sleeping area and toilet. The gunmen kept vigil in shifts of 15.
The ship chief officer, Mohamed Shee, said the warlords often spoke to them in an unintelligible language. "We could not understand what they were saying, but when we failed to reply, they would shout at us in fits of anger," said Shee, 62.

The captain of the other vessel hijacked early this month, MV Miltzow, William Otieno, said he was terrified when another group of Somali warlords captured them as they discharged food at Merka port. All of the 17 Kenyan seafarers emphasise that Somali waters are no longer safe, adding that the ships must be accorded armed escort if they to venture there.

Source: East African Standard, Oct. 24, 2005

Instability threatens Food Security in the South Somalia

NAIROBI, 21 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Unless resolved, tensions within Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and reports of increased weapons imports could lead to an outbreak of armed conflict, which would have direct and widespread negative implications on food and livelihood security in the country's south, a food security agency has warned.
"Due to the uncertainty regarding the potential relocation of the TFG and the weapons build-up reported by the UN monitoring team, we cannot rule out the possibility of conflict," a senior analyst at the Food Security and Analysis Unit (FSAU) Somalia reported on Friday.
"The impact of such a conflict would be profound. We are already witnessing pockets of non-political, localised conflict in some areas of the south, which are limiting preparation for the upcoming season and limiting access to markets and land," he added.FSAU is an organisation that provides analysis of Somalia's food, nutrition and livelihood situation in order to promote food and livelihood security. It is supported by the UN, the European Union, the US Agency for International Development and various NGOs.
In its monthly briefing for October, FSAU said: "Civil insecurity and unrest continues to be one of the main factors contributing to food and livelihood insecurity throughout the [southern] region." The report added that civil tension threatened to disrupt the Deyr - seasonal rains between October and December - planting season. A poor 2005 Deyr harvest would "only further threaten food security in the sorghum belt, given the almost complete failure of the Gu [seasonal rains between April and July] 2005 crops.
"FSAU said humanitarian efforts in the southern port city of Kismayo and surrounding areas had been jeopardised by the murder of a national UN staff member in Kismayo on 3 October. The killing put plans for the re-engagement of UN activities in the region on hold, which could limit humanitarian access to the worst affected Juba riverine communities."Contingency planning for the possibilities of widespread humanitarian relief needs in southern Somalia is an urgent priority," the report said.
"Unless these underlying causes are addressed, humanitarian response and development assistance will at best be sporadic and or ineffective, and achievement of food and livelihood security transient."In contrast, FSAU said, peaceful and democratic elections held in September in the self-declared republic of Somaliland in the country's northwest would enhance food security. A functioning civil society would stabilise markets, increase market access and encourage economic investment in the region.In Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland, FSAU reported a substantial improvement in the nutrition situation, with global acute malnutrition lower than previous levels in similar populations.In the country's southern Juba region, floods in June destroyed crops and other important assets, but filled all the flood plains, offering opportunities for recessional farming and fresh water fishing.
"The first harvest of the off-season recessional crops (maize, cowpea and sesame) planted in early July has started to reach the main markets in the region and will peak in late October," FSAU said. "As a result prices have fallen both in real and nominal terms."The agency observed that there was a need for immediate canal and riverbank rehabilitation to prevent flood damage to the remaining recessional crops and facilitate more efficient water off-take and use during the Deyr production season.
It also suggested that general food distribution was not advisable during the harvest period, as it would suppress "farm-gate" prices and discourage agricultural investment.In the south-central regions of Bay and Bakool, FSAU said the movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in certain areas was of "increasing concern". It cited unconfirmed field reports that two-thirds of IDPs had been unable to return to their farms to prepare for the upcoming Deyr rains. Food security in Wajid was also worrying due to the influx of people from surrounding areas as a result of civil insecurity.
The agency said it was mobilising a rapid assessment team to evaluate the situation.In the northern Sool plateau and Nugal valley, pastoral recovery was underway following two consecutive above-normal rainy seasons, the agency said. Camel calving was expected to dramatically increase in November and December. In response to the recovery, FSAU recommended a shift from relief measures that fulfil immediate needs to activities that support the continued recovery of livelihoods, creation of new livelihoods and a general focus on development.
Source: IRIN

Pirates seize Ukrainian ship off Somali coast

October 21, 2005 (AP) - Pirates seized a Ukrainian cargo ship off the Somali coast for ransom, and Ukrainian authorities have initiated negotiations with the hijackers, a Foreign Ministry official said Oct. 21. Pirates hijacked the vessel, Panagia, on Oct. 28 with 22 crew members on board about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Somali coast, and demanded a $700,000 (585,000 euros) ransom.

The ship, owned by a company from Ukraine's southern city of Odessa, was sailing under a Liberian flag and was carrying iron ore from South Africa to Turkey. The ship is currently anchored just over 2 miles (3 kilometers) off Somalia's east coast, ministry spokesman Dmytro Svystkov said.

"We have spoken with the captain of the ship ... all the Ukrainian citizens are alive and well," he said. "The crew can move around the ship, but they are under permanent control by the pirates.
"Ukraine has ordered its diplomats to ask the authorities of France, Great Britain and the United States, as well as NATO officials, to "review all the options for freeing the ship and the crew," Svystkov said.Piracy is rampant near the coast of Somalia, which is torn by renewed clashes between militias fighting over control of the troubled African country of 7 million.

Source: AP

Emotional welcome for Hostages

Two ships and their 20-crew members finally docked at the Mombasa port yesterday to an emotional welcome by family and friends.

The ships sailed into the African Marine and Engineering dockyard at 1.00pm escorted by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) tugboats.

First to dock was the MV Semlow, which was hijacked by Somali warlords at gunpoint on June 25 between Haradheere and El Maan port.

Aboard the vessel were eight Kenyans, a Tanzanian and the ship’s Sri Lankan captain. Then came in MV Miltzow, which was hijacked by gunmen on October 1, with nine Kenyans and a Ugandan on board. Among the 17 Kenyans released were Hassan Sudi, Nzioka Mulinge, Patrick Ogutu, Athman Mangore, Juma Rajab, Juma Pembe, Rashid Juma, and Mhamed Shee.

Others were MV Miltzow captain William Otieno, Ali Jabir, N Andrew and Mohamed Aswaa. The Sri Lankan captain S Mahalingham, a Tanzanian, Juma Mvita and a Ugandan were also part of the group. Relatives and friends braved the scorching heat and climbed aboard the MV Semlow ship to receive their beloved ones.

There were hugs and kisses from the seamen’s wives as they were reunited with their husbands who had been held in Somalia for almost four months. MV Semlow chief officer Mohamed Shee’s wife, Fatuma, was overjoyed upon receiving her husband.

Fatuma, accompanied by her son, Ahmed Shee, a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination candidate, said the arrival of her husband would enable her son to concentrate on exams. Rashid Juma’s wife, Mwanasiti, said they would hold a party for their kin. "We are happy that he arrived home safe. We had lost hope after suffering for more than three months. But God was on his side," she said.

The ship’s agent Karim Kudrati and Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia, Mohamed Affey, were the first to receive the two vessels. Also welcoming the crew were the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Somalia deputy country director, Leo van der Velden, and Information officer, Said Warsame.

The WFP official said the agency was glad that the crew had arrived. Said Velden: "It is great joy, especially for the eight Kenyans who have been missing their families for almost four months now."
He said it was crucial for the coalition forces to resume patrols on Somalia’s territorial waters to eliminate increasing incidences of piracy.

Velden said this had affected the agency’s plans of ferrying relief supplies to Somalia where
millions of famine stricken people are suffering. "International marine forces must intervene if WFP is to save lives in the war-torn country," Velden said.

"The whole country is in celebration following the arrival of Chief Engineer Juma Mvita who had been held by Somali warlords since June. "We hope that the international community will provide armed escort to ships which ferry relief supplies to Somalia to prevent further hijacking of ships and their crew members," said Mr N M Mboyi, Tanzanian High Commissioner.

The Sri Lanka High Commissioner also reiterated the call to the UN to provide security to vessels, which transport relief food to Somalia. "For the safety of the ships and crew, the UN needs to provide armed escort. This will enable the relief supplies from WFP reach the people who are suffering in Somalia," he said.

Keeran, however, urged Somalia’s transitional government to help in seeking the release of MV Torgelow, captained by a Sri Lankan, which is still under the hands of the warlords. The seamen aboard MV Semlow narrated their harrowing ordeal when the ship was hijacked between Haradheere and El Maan port.

Mr Patrick Ogutu, a seaman aboard the vessel said the ship was hijacked on June 25 shortly after 7pm and not June 27 as earlier reported. He said the more than 20 gunmen aboard three boats attacked their ship before ordering the captain to anchor it.

Within seconds, he said, the armed warlords climbed aboard the vessel and ordered them sit down. He recalls a chilling moment when the gunmen’s commander placed a gun on the back of his head and ordered him to lead him to the ship’s captain. "I could feel the cold rifle on the back of my head as I led him to the captain so as to save my life," he said.

The commander then led the captain and the ship chief officer to one side of the vessel and demanded that they surrender all the cash they had. The two gave the gang leader $ 8,500 as they pleaded with him to spare their lives. Ogutu said the gunmen then went on a looting spree and robbed them of watches, radios, mobile phones and clothes.

The seamen said they lived in constant fear of the gunmen who shot in the air daily to scare away rivals who may want to hijack the vessel. Another seamen Juma Pembe recalls how the warlords burned with rage when they asked the crew to switch on the ship’s generator though it lacked fuel.
When told that there was no fuel, the gunmen, in a fit of rage, cocked their guns and shot at the ship eight times.

Sometimes the gunmen carried their weapons, which included AK 47-assault rifles, anti-aircraft launchers, large purpose machine guns, grenades and bombs.
By Mathias Ringa, THE STANDARD

Tanker missing off Somalia

A search was under way yesterday for a Greek-owned oil tanker that has not been heard from since it sent out a distress call on Thursday evening off the coast of Somalia.

The Maltese-flagged San Carlos, captained by a Greek with a crew of 24, sent out the signal from a location around 170 nautical miles off the Somalian coast, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.

It is feared that the vessel may have been hijacked by pirates following Wednesday’s attack on another Maltese-flagged vessel, the latest in a string of hijackings in the area.

Maltese and Somalian authorities have been searching for the vessel since it sent out the alert, used to indicate the occurrence of a hijacking or similarly serious incident.

The San Carlos had set sail from Bahrain and was en route to South Africa, the ministry said.
Source: Kathimerini News