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S. Africa hosts Somali peace conference

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Somali businessmen at the meeting with Deputy Minister Marius Fransman held in Bellville. / photo by Hassan Isilow

CAPETOWN-A major conference aimed at finding solutions to end the 21-year-old civil war in Somalia started on Wednesday in Cape Town. The two day conference has been organised by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), in partnership with the Somali Council for Research and Development (SOMCORD) and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). “Reconciliation, reconstruction and development of Somalia are all critical elements necessary to ensure that durable peace is achieved. The task of responding to this challenge rests on all Somalis, including the Diaspora,” Deputy Minister Marius Fransman said while delivering his keynote address.
He also urged Somalis to stop supporting militant factions, if they want the international community to support them in developing their country. This appeared to make an impact on some of the delegates. “I am impressed by Minister Marius Fransman’s speech and I believe South Africa is determined in helping Somalia achieve peace and stability,” Abdullahi Ali, a delegate at the conference told me afterwards.
Earlier this year, the South African government pledged to assist the war-torn Somalia with capacity building of its civil servants. Speaking to Somali business leaders in March in Bellville-near Cape Town, Fransman revealed that government had allocated R100-million to provide capacity and institution-building to Somali government officials. South Africa also agreed to rekindle diplomatic ties with Somalia which excited the local Somali community.
Ambassador Sayid Sharif Hassan, the current Somali ambassador to South Africa, is also expected address the conference on Wednesday. Other speakers include Dr Sylvester Maphosa of the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) who will deliver a paper Titled: African Solutions to Somali Problems. Addulkadir H. Ali of SOMCORD will present a paper on the historical perspective of war and post war in Somalia, while Vanya Gastrow of the African Centre for Migration and Society will deliver a paper on xenophobia and Integration. At the end of the conference on Thursday delegates will launch the South African Somali Diaspora Forum.
South Africa is home to a large Somali community, which mainly operates in the small scale business sector. During the famine which ravaged Somalia in 2011, the South African government donated R8-million to help starving victims. Somalia has been without an effective government since the ouster of Dictator Mohammed Siyad Barre in 1991. Last week Somalia’s parliament elected academic Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as new president. Many analysts believe if the new president is given support, he will be in position to turn the country around. This article was first published on The Voice of the Cape website and later republished else where. ( Report by Hassan Isilow).

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September 20, 2012 at 10:55 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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Memories of Gaza

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Journalist Nieshal Ramparsadh.

By Hassan Isilow

A group of South African humanitarian workers who survived a bomb blast in Gaza last week, made it home safely. The South Africans were part of the NGO Gaza Rehabilitation Fund, which had taken much needed aid to the beleaguered Gaza Strip. Johannesburg based Journalist, Nieshal Ramparsadh, who had accompanied the delegation, told me his five day visit to Gaza was a life changing experience he would not easily forget.
“While Gaza is being bombed, people are rebuilding their lives every minute- every day,” he related. On his second night in Gaza, Israeli forces fired a missile that hit a building located some 200 meters from his hotel. To him and members of the delegation, this was a frightening experience, he confessed. But despite such daily dangers and poverty, the Journalist said, he had been struck by the fact that Gazans were determined to live and continue pursuing their dreams.
“People in Gaza now consider these attacks a normal thing, unlike us – the visitors. I asked a resident in Gaza what he thought of the constant attacks and he replied that ‘if it is our time to die, then it’s been written by God,” he recalled. As a first time visitor to Palestine and a non-Muslim, Ramparsadh realised that Gazans knew best how to adapt to their circumstances and draw strength from prayers.
Late last month, Israeli Air forces launched nine missile attacks on Jabali and Khan Younis in Gaza, destroying several buildings. Last week three Palestinians were killed when the Israeli Air Force fired missiles into an area east of Al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza. Sources stated that the army also fired missiles at residents near the Agricultural College, east of Beit Hanoun, killing three residents and wounding four others.
Elsewhere, the army also opened fire at Palestinian medics and ambulances in an attempt to keep them away from the area as they evacuated the slain residents and the wounded to Kamal Adwan Hospital. The three slain residents were identified as Ehab and Akram Az-Za’aneen, and Tareq Al-Kafarna. The Israeli army claimed that the shells were fired at a group of Palestinian fighters who tried to plant explosives near the electronic fence, in northern Gaza. Attempts to get a comment from the Hamas spokesmen were futile as they all did not answer their telephones. This article was originally published on The Voice of The Cape Website.

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September 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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Call to treat refugees fairly

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Refuggees protest outside the maitland refuggee center near Cape Town.

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) has appealed to hostile communities in the country to stop treating refugees harshly. “We ask South Africans to treat refugees with respect and dignity. These people left their countries of origin because of war or persecution and choose to seek asylum in this country,” said CoRMSA spokeswoman Gwada Majange.
She urged local community and religious leaders to help integrate refugees into their host communities. “We believe some refugees have skills that they can teach to their host communities and vice-versa. Harmonious living is what we are advocating for.” Her comments follow renewed attacks on refugees living in the Western Cape. Last month 5 Somali nationals were killed in townships around the Western Cape.
On a different note, CoRMSA has asked the South African government to stop the practice of arresting and detaining child immigrants. “We appeal to the government of South Africa to stop detaining children – not only in law, but also in practice, as well as to stop deporting minors.” Majange said although SA law prohibits the detention of children for immigration reasons, there were many children currently being detained in police stations and the Lindela migration facility awaiting deportation.
“There are currently six children in detention. These include five Zimbabwean boys detained at the Musina police station in Limpopo and a 16 year old Congolese boy who has been detained at Lindela since February 2012,” she reported. Majange also revealed that between October and December 2011, 86 children between the ages of 2 and 17 years were detained and deported to Zimbabwe. This is the highest number of children who are deported from South Africa.
CoRMSA will be launching the 2012 Detention Annual Report next week. The report was compiled by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR). According to Majange, LHR is the only organisation which has been regularly visiting Lindela detention centre in order to provide pro bono legal representation to detainees.
She said the detention report was compiled from monitoring assessments, including consultations with adult and child detainees, as well as state officials. She added that regular monitoring enabled LHR to identify trends and legal issues, as well as shifts in practice and national policies. She said the Lindela Repatriation Centre has accepted to assist them in their campaign activities which include, among others, a video recording session by a group of 20 children who have been trained in media monitoring at the Troyeville Primary School by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).
Majange said children will get actively involved in the drive by recording their own video messages for the appeal entitled “Speak up for children behind bars”. Their voices will join the ones of other children from Greece and Australia who have already spoken up against child detention. The videos can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/speakuphindbars. Efforts to get a comment from the Lindela repatriation centre were futile as no one answered the phones. This article was originally published on The voice of the Cape.

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September 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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Election unites Somalis

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Somalia’s newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud listens to proceedings in Mogadishu on Monday after winning the election. (Reuters)

By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG- It is a Monday morning in Mayfair, which is also known as little Mogadishu among Johannesburg’s residents. A group of men have gathered inside a restaurant watching the historic live broadcast of the Somali presidential elections which commenced Monday (September 10). Mohammed Ali is one of the men watching the news on television. “I am closely following this election because I hope it will lead Somalia into a path of reconciliation, unity and prosperity,” an optimistic Ali tells me. He is not the only one who believes that this election might usher in a new era of peace, after two decades of instability in his homeland.
Cape Town based Somali businessman Abdullahi Hassan is also hopeful of change on the political landscape of Somalia. “I took a break from my usual business routine today, so that I could follow the live coverage of the Somali presidential elections,” he related, adding that he believes the out come of the vote will bring to an end the suffering of the Somali people who have lived as refugees across the globe for many years.
Hassan said many Somalis in Belleville had – like him – taken a brief break from their normal routines in order to follow the televised coverage of the Somali presidential elections. Asked what would happen if the incumbent losses the election, he said: “I don’t think the incumbent or any other candidate will create chaos after losing the vote.” He believes they will act maturely by respecting the outcome of the process. Meanwhile, Somali blogger Nasrallah California said regardless of who wins the election, she hope this will be the change Somalia needs in order to become a united country again.

outsider wins

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a 56-year-old university lecturer was chosen on Monday by lawmakers as Somalia’s new president. “We don’t know much about him at all,” a western diplomat told AFP as voting in the presidential poll drew to a close. “He comes from Somali civil society and he has links to Al Islah, the equivalent of the Muslim brotherhood. It’s only in the past two days that we’ve been hearing a lot about him,” the diplomat said.
Mohamud is well known in the academic and NGO circles. He founded the Somali Institute of Management and Administrative Development (SIMAD). He is said to be a respected and influential figure who specializes in education. In the streets of Mogadishu news of his election was met with residents firing into the air to express their joy. SIMAD was set up to ensure that war-ravaged Somalia got its fair share of managers and administrators.
Born in 1955 in Jalalaqsi in the central Hiran region, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud hails from the powerful Hawiye clan just like the outgoing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed whom he defeated in the poll.
According to the website of the political party he set up last year, the new president has two decades of experience behind him, both in education and in conflict resolution.
He obtained his bachelors degree from Somalia’s national university before the civil war started in 1991 and then moved to Bhopal University in India, for a masters before returning to Somalia to work for UNICEF.
In 2009 he co-authored a report for the UN Development Program in which he underlined the importance of the huge but politically fragmented Somali Diaspora, arguing that it should play a more “systematic” role in peace building in Somalia. Unlike many Somali political figures, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is not part of the Diaspora. The new president has never served as a minister, but was recently appointed as Member of Parliament. In his party’s manifesto he said he wanted to “build a society free from the demons of clan politics, from fear and from internal conflicts.”
Laura Hammond, a British academic who worked with SIMAD, said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had managed to hold talks with the extremist Shebab, who, even after they chased other groups out of the areas they control, allowed SIMAD to remain. “I think he will be a moderate,” Hammond said on Monday evening, just before the official announcement of his election.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s party describes him as the architect of Somali civil society. Others say it is too difficult to get an accurate idea of the new president and predict his political program or form an idea of how capable he is of getting Somalia back on track. “There are quite a lot of unknowns, starting with who is this new president who appeared from nowhere a few days ago and who has no political experience,” a western diplomat told AFP. This report was first published on The Voice of the Cape .Additional reporting from AFP.

Written by africawitness

September 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Presida

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Presida

Somalia’s newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud listens to proceedings in Mogadishu on Monday after winning the election. (Reuters)

Written by africawitness

September 11, 2012 at 11:34 am

Posted in Xenophobia

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