Somalia Week in Focus: Top Stories (Dec. 30, 2016)

 Week ending December 30, 2016 

Somalia delays presidential election for 4th time

This week, Somalia authorities decided to postpone the presidential election for the fourth time, from Dec. 28 to “sometime” in January 2017. 

The decision is not official yet, but one Somali official told the Associated Press that the new presidential date “likely will be Jan. 24”.

In Dec. 27 joint statement, Somalia’s international partners called for the “need to conclude the [electoral] process swiftly in light of the UN Security Council’s upcoming meeting on Somalia that is scheduled for 19 January 2017”.

In 2016, Somalia implemented an indirect electoral process involving some 14,000 citizen-voters to elect 275-member Lower House, and regional assemblies voted in the 54 senators of the Upper House of federal parliament. 

However, the electoral process has been tarnished by reports of corruption and bribes as high as US$1.3million for a single parliamentary seat.

After EU salary dispute, Burundi threatens to pull troops out of Somalia

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has said that he will pull troops out of Somalia if the European Union does not pay Burundian troops serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mandate.

The Burundian troops have not been paid for 11 months, due to an ongoing dispute with the EU. Brussels planned to “directly pay” Burundian troops, in a bid to prevent salaries being “diverted” by the Burundian government. 

However, East African nations rejected the EU’s plans in Nov. 2016. In Feb. 2016, the EU announced a 20% budget cut to AMISOM funding.

Burundian troops constitute over 5,400 troops out of the 22,000-strong AMISOM force. 

Federal Parliamentarians sworn in Mogadishu 

Somalia’s new members of federal parliament were sworn-in this week, at a ceremony in Mogadishu. 

Some 281 MPs and senators were sworn-in, with Somali Supreme Court and federal government leaders present.

Somali analyst Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad told the VOA that “55 percent [of parliament] are new, young, energetic and educated people”.

Francisco Madeira, the African Union’s special representative to Somalia, said that the swearing-in of new Somali parliamentarians, “attests to what is achievable when people chose unity”. 

Some 329 MPs and senators are expected to vote for Somalia’s next president is in a joint sitting of the two houses of federal parliament.

International community, opposition candidates reject electoral changes

The National Leaders Forum (NLF) – an informal grouping of federal and state leaders – came under fire this week for making controversial electoral changes. The NLF has since rescinded its Dec. 25 decision.

However, international partners criticized the NLF communiqué in a joint statement. In particular, the international partners were critical of the NLF’s interference in the electoral process by “revoking” seats disqualified by the electoral bodies.

Secondly, the international partners were critical that the NLF decided to add 18 seats to the 54-seat upper house, causing a political uproar.

Similarly, a group of six presidential candidates warned against a “new political crisis” if the NLF attempted to expand the Upper House of federal parliament.

Somali refugee repatriation program accused of ‘deception’

Somali refugees who have lived in Kenyan refugee camps for the past two decades are under growing pressure to return home. 

However, media reports indicate security and livelihood conditions in Somalia have not improved. Worse, some returnees have said that the repatriation program was based on “deception” to return Somalis to areas that remain unsafe.

“All the security improvement and welfare information we were told we would find here turned out to be false,” Madino Dhurow, a Somali refugee who returned to Mogadishu, told the Washington Post. 

There are some 260,000 refugees at Kenya’s Dadaab camp, the world’s largest refugee camp. The majority of Dadaab residents are ethnic Somalis, who face conflict, drought and lack of opportunity if they were to return to Somalia.

Another refugee, Halimo Abdow, spoke of a “deadline to leave”, although Kenyan government officials deny that Somali refugees are being forcefully repatriated or pressured to return home.

In November, Amnesty International accused Kenya of “coercing refugees back to war-torn Somalia”, a charge Nairobi denies.

Frankincense forests are disappearing in Somaliland 

Frankincense trade dating back hundreds of years in East Africa is under threat, as the forests are “disappearing”, according to a new report. 

Somaliland Biodiversity Foundation president Ahmed Ibrahim Awale said: “Frankincense has been harvested in a sustainable manner for millions of years. But the rise in the global demand has completely changed it”. 

Ancient forests are being “over-harvested” by increasing global demand, experts worry. Mr. Awale said there was an ongoing campaign to raise awareness among affected communities to educate and develop new solutions.

High demand in the frankincense trade is partly driven by the essential oil industry, according to Anjanette DeCarlo, of the Conserve Cal Madow environmental group.

Regeneration of the trees “takes about 40 years” and conservation groups are concerned that the trees could disappear if more is not done to preserve them.

Militants kill military prosecutor in Puntland 

Suspected Al Shabaab militants shot and killed a military prosecutor in Somalia’s northern region of Puntland.

Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed responsibility for the killing of Puntland military prosecutor Abdikarim Hassan Fidhiye, outside of a restaurant in the port of Bossaso.

It was the third high-profile assassination of a Puntland government official in Bossaso this month.

Puntland officials have vowed to crackdown on militant activity in Bossaso. Puntland has largely been spared the large-scale insurgency in Mogadishu and parts of south-central Somalia, but militants have carried out bombings and assassinations in Puntland since 2006.

Source: Somali Review