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Horn of Africa: There Are No Quick Fixes in ‘Countering Violent Extremism’

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Since 9/11, western countries have increasingly invested in programmes to prevent transnational violent extremism. These include serious militarised measures but also “softer” civic interventions under the banner of ‘countering violent extremism’ (CVE). An example is funding social development programmes, implemented by civil society, with the aim of engaging and deterring individuals and communities from “radicalisation”.

An effective response to militant Islamist violence, threats, and underlying ideologies, is extremely important. But in the Horn of Africa, CVE programmes have failed to adequately engage with root causes of religious extremism.

In some cases they have failed so miserably that we must ask: to what extent are they actually genuine efforts to address violence and militancy? Are they merely superficial gestures? And how did such a complex issue become the additional burden of NGOs already struggling with layers of political and legal restrictions and limited capacity?

“The flame only burns those who touch it” is a Sudanese saying that resonates today. Religious militancy is not a new phenomenon in the Horn of Africa. People have lived through this fire for the past 30 years. In Somalia, thousands have been killed as a result of the brutal Al Shabaab insurgency which has lured Muslim youth towards militancy by exploiting community vulnerabilities including poverty.

In this region, religious militancy often disguises itself as an ideology for resistance against state corruption, ethnic and cultural biases. Meanwhile, counter-terror programmes often ally themselves with the same corrupt regimes. The west considers Sudan, for instance, a collaborative partner – though it is itself an incubator of religious militancy as a result of repressive policies and laws.

Indeed, CVE programming has fallen far short of the mark – conceptually and in implementation. Even the language used is deeply problematic. Measures to prevent violent extremism is vague and ambiguous.

CVE programmes are clearly supposed to be ‘soft power’ projects in parallel to military counter-terror interventions. But: what exactly do they mean by “violent extremism”? Is extremism acceptable if it is not violent? At what measureable point does an ideology become ‘extreme’? What countermeasures are acceptable?

And: Are these projects specifically focused on Islamic religious militancy, or violence based on other religions and ideologies as well?

These programmes have also been overly simplistic, largely ignoring driving factors of militancy and violence including injustices inflicted upon the region’s population. The – largely flawed – operating assumption is that providing grants to NGOs to undertake development-style programming will lead to a shift in communities’ social identities, or erase those inequalities and injustices.

Last year, the International Organisation for Migration launched a call for proposals on CVE stating that it intended to provide “small and quick impact support that capitalises on community driven interventions aimed at mitigating risk factors that contribute towards violent extremism. These will be preceded by interactive and participatory community consultations.”

But how can we think that transforming and influencing social and cultural identity can be accomplished through “small and quick impact support”?

Since the First World War, British and French colonial governments, and later the US government, helped cement political Islam and its organisations as buffers against Soviet Union’s expansion and to counter socialism’s influences in their quest for absolute control over Middle Eastern oil and gas.

Today states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran stress that Islam has only specific veiled versions, of which they are the vanguards. Supposedly, Muslims all over the world must be either Shia like in Iran or Sunni Salafi like in Saudi Arabia.

But, like other religions Islam is very diverse. Peoples’ experiences with it vary based on their specific historical and cultural contexts and perceptions. The Islamic faith also has a rich heritage of reform and transformative discourse, which can be used to facilitate persuasive transition in communities using their own religious guidance.

The Horn of Africa – which includes Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti – is close to the Arab Gulf region and thus it has been largely influenced by Salafi religious militancy ideology.

Here, the challenging religious context is further compounded by the complexity of social identity. Universal citizenship is not affirmed or applied by all states, to the disadvantage of minorities. Often, ethnic and religious affiliations also shape identity – as well as access to resources and services.

I recently heard the story of a donor-funded CVE project in the coastal areas of Kenya, which shows what’s at stake when NGOs, following donor agenda, forget that social and cultural change requires great effort, knowledge, and community ownership.

This project had proposed removing all references to jihad in the Qur’an in Islamic religion classes for “Madrassa” children – provoking anger and revolt from the local community over the presumption that it could intervene in matters of religious identity like this, amending and censoring materials.

Years of experience challenging religious militancy and its impact on women has taught me that pursuing any form of social transformation requires focusing on, and investing in, civil movements from within. It is the role of people living in regions where militant Islam is rife to lead and decide on the best approach to countering it.

Trying to address injustices suffered under militant Islamists requires meticulous and tireless work – but it is one of the most effective approaches.

Women’s movements have also been negotiating and challenging discrimination within different sects of Islamic traditions, text and jurisprudence. Academic Amina Wadud has contributed to a feminist reading of Quranic text based on equality and justice which counter to traditional and militant readings. Addressing religious militancy’s impacts and drivers is also a core priority of the SIHA Horn of Africa women’s network.

This approach must be adopted by political parties too and be connected to wider struggles for democracy, freedom of belief, equality and justice. Unfortunately, most CVE programmes and other counter terrorism strategies can only be characterised as pursuing ‘quick-fixes’ and short-sighted and short-term gains.

Communities in the Horn of Africa must look inside rather than outside for solutions. Within civil society, we must tackle prohibitions and fear of debate and critical engagement with Islam. Internationally, we need a new agenda, centred on liberation, to support movements relevant to the communities most affected by violent extremism.

 

About the author

Hala Alkarib is the Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), a Horn of Africa based women’s coalition

 

This Article first appeared on openDemocracy

 

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OpEd: Recall Of Berbera Oil Storage Facilities – A Major Milestone

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Written by: Abdirahman Aideed

 

Majority of the public in Somaliland welcomed and aired their congratulations for the president of Somaliland (H.E. President Muse Behi) for his remarkable decision, August 2018, to recall the national oil storage facilities in Berbera from the hands of the currently run private company(ies) to remain under the management of the government.

The former president Silanyo government tabled a resolution/motion to the parliament in August 2015 to approve the privatization of the Oil Storage Facilities to private companies. The parliament objected the motion with majority ruling vote. However the government has overruled and implemented the decision with presidential degree by October 2015. A period of about three years of being run the property by the private companies, there were number of arguments in the public domain, as such arrangement tempted a number of risks to the public interest including slack quality control of the petroleum coming into the country and national security as well.  This debate heated up in April 2018 when a sub-standard petrol offloaded into the storage facility that has affected many vehicles as owners suffered heavy unaccounted financial loss for repairing the damaged machines by that poor quality fuel, and that is why the public are clapping for the action of the president. In socio-economic perspective we can mark it as “the SECOND MILESTONE” for President Behi, since he come into power.

Dear reader, let me remind you also the FIRST MILESTONE for President Muse Behi Abdi, which has happen in March 2018, , when a presidential letter/order released by the Minister of Public Works, Mr. Qambi, in a press conference. The minister explained in detail the message from the president, informing all government respected offices about the suspension of any tenure awarded for the natural seaway land in Berbera (aka Raasiga). This land of about 3.5 Km into the sea waters is a natural inland that remain untouched for centuries and safeguarded as national property by all subsequent administrations that ruled Berbera in history. The Raasiga is believed to be the comparative advantage that gave Berbera to have the importance of being a strategic sea port for centuries. The Behi’s predecessor of Mr. Silanyo government awarded property ownership deeds of Raasiga to business people and individuals that had an influence in the ruling regime. President’s decision of retaining the rights of Raasiga was also commended by the public and termed as the FIRST MILESTONE for President Muse Behi accomplishments of recollecting the national properties that has been privatized by those in power, before him, to themselves as beneficiaries and their respective closer friends, relatives and bogus political allies that later vanished.

Terminating buddy based contracts in Egal International airport and ensuring such diverted incomes go directly to the national income box was also another key THIRD MILESTONE for MBA. Though there are still some government duties that are franchised to private hands to, for instance, print various national tax stamps and logos etc., the majority of the public regarded this third milestone as the beginning of empowering tax collecting departments and upholding the government reputation.

Recovering the national properties and income sources is not an easy task and there are number of reasons for making the task challenging, these will include: First, prominent figures from the former ruling executive power under H.E. Silanyo are believed to have vested interests in those privatized projects. Secondly, such finger-pointed de-facto officers conserve deep-rooted support to a major constituencies that was among Behi’s voting centers, which has contributed President Behi’ s landslide victory to come to the Power House and hence touching below the belt of those individuals will implicate Behi’s political support and jeopardize for his intentions in next term elections. Thirdly, the opposition sustained a continuous pressure, which sometimes seems embedded with number of spicy ingredients on the President to weaken his political support status.  All these and plus are putting the president in a situation with least options to take drastic corrective actions in the system, and he may even sometimes opt sitting on the burning pans, despite being fiery and heatening.

 

Back to the topic, the Nationalised Oil Storage Complex in Berbera, implications are not easy either. This Presidential decision is coming in a situation where already other private companies are given permits and allowed to establish and construct their own oil/Fuel storages in the fuel port quarters by former Silanyo government. Envisaging such a trend it is understandable that privatised oil storage facilities constructions would ignite uneasy market competition with government owned facilities. The current allied company that was recently running the government facilities, could also demand to establish their own private Oil Storage facilities, because that path is already open, they can also use to store their imported supplies to privately owned storage facilities. This cites the scenario of the unchanged status quo of the national banks of the government in compare to the fast developed private banks., which could mean government oil storage facilities will same be only used by the government, should they not become dynamic and competitive in the market.  In that regard the re-nationalized government Oil Storage facilities perhaps can only commercially survive if the government retains the right of becoming the sole proprietor of such giant facilities in the country, like the norm and practice are in the region, especially in the port of Berbera, while oil importers will only be users of the facilities. See more on this in an earlier article on the same subject http://hadhwanaag.ca/detail.aspx?id=221181

 

However, there are number of awaited milestones, from the new president to accomplish:

  1. To recall the reserve lands for the port and free zone expansion, aka Noobiyadda area, as was the plan in history.
  2. To implement the issued order regarding the Raasiga area
  3. To initiate a law, or issue presidential degree of making clear demarcation of the state properties that only the government can own, run and manage vs. what properties the public or private sector can be engaged and to what level. For instance, can an individual or private company retain the ownership of (a) a sea port? (b) An airport? (c) An Oil well? (d) A mineral well/cave? (e) City water supply? (f) Fuel Storage complex at import/export hubs? (g)Export livestock health check quarantines/Mahjars? …….just to mention few.

 

In my view, I think such resources and facilities can only be run by a government on behalf of the ownership of the state.

 

Written by:

Abdirahman Aideed

abdiaideed11@gmail.com

 

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Baadigoob: Jawaabta Goobjoogayaasha Caalamiga ah

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Halkan Kala eeg Maqaal uu qoray Mr. Michael Walls, Madaxa Goobjoogayaasha Caalamiga ah ee Doorashadii Madaxtooyada Somaliland ee 2017kii. Farriintan ayuu Michael ku caddaynayaa arrimo muddadan dambeba dhex wareegayay baraha bulshada iyo tuhuno lagu faafiyay muuqaal lagu baahiyay baraha bulshada oo la yidhaahdo “Baadigoob”.

 

Halkan kala deg Maqaalka oo Faahfaahsan:

 

OpEd Somali

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OpEd: The Lost Intellectuals

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They live in a place where the tribalism is the major dream that the leaders in their country kill to hunt what they want to find. They live in a place where the only opportunity they can mostly get is a life that is related to their heredity family prosperity or clan based opportunity that they cannot learn anything more; where an international NGO/INGO’s go after their rights, because there are no more opportunity they can get.  Every new authority promise to develop somewhere  or something but after they get the lead position they tend to spent their time and money many vehicles and new houses  for billions of money. Where none of them is aware about even the name of their country; or the passport of their own country.

In each year they try to improve and support their society just for dream; they defeat their government on  all the social media  for  hope; they support every one promise unity of their community and developing of their countries production because of hope; in each year of election they expect new change and support for  bright future but after another few years of dream and wishes they nearly lost all their dream; and they lost like nothing until their sight  is dark  in every other way of dream.

The youth which are almost finish their first generation in a dream seasons; were there are more politicians but their sense of politician is not rather  of  having  a big houses; cars and eat good food at  homes; where even they do not think about how they find for it; and they are mostly from outside of the country and they send their children to the most popular university and they send their family and wives to the most beautiful countries and they just visit for rest; while they block  the right of the street children.  The mother that don’t sleep because of worry; gets up early in the morning or midnight around 3:am to feed her  an orphan child; or the single mother that her husband lost any opportunity to have a work or don’t even  consider  his children anymore and busy for feeding his self-non-sense grass like goats all the day and night.

The right of the child in 20 years of age who is already lost in African coastal area and the sea animal have hunted him; most beautiful African girls that lost their most important body in the African coastal and their hunger poor mothers faces is unknown because of sadness and worry; which has many of them effected with diseases in the coastal area; all this does not make any sense to our politicians until his children are safe  and in beautiful country that a leader of his age, mind and power to make it a country that everybody likes it; a youth have a leader who campaign to support them and improve their future life but cannot even have any dream to step forward; no more foot print; no real dream; a youth which have a coastal area of more than 360 feet who do not know how to live  for it and have no   power to learn and cannot across where  their families  are from because of tribalism and lack of leadership.

A  youth which cannot learn any more about government because of their heredity leadership tribalism; a youth which are just separate because of where  their families  are from and cannot make a change any more; a youth which their maturity is after 30 years old and death for worry diseases and do not know where to go and what to do even in that age; a youth which their intellectuals got mad after more think and lack of leadership; a youth which have the most powerful mentally and physically but cannot do any more because of leadership situation; a youth which have not any role model; a youth which have no motivation; a youth which cannot realize their dream; a youth which are ready to change their people, country, and mind but have not any support; a youth which have no  power to eliminate to bring new ideas; a youth who live in a country while  the leaders are the business men’s, doctors, telecommunications, and everybody  of their families  have a department of the authority without any humanity.

The question doesn’t the street child is citizen? Why educative citizen cannot do a work that an international citizen take a lot of money in the country? Why the community are separate and not support each other? Isn’t that because of selfish campaign tribalism? Why they teach the others out of their nation where they from I mean which clan they are? Is it the leadership? If it’s not the leading why the religion make equal brotherhood on all the different individuals that become Muslim when the prophet (csw) was spreading the religion? If it is not then why all American people mention that they are just American from that city? Why and why?

 

Written by:

Amran Abdirahman 

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