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Somali refuges start returning home

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Some 80,000 Somalis are believed to be in the Republic of south Africa. Seen here are some Somali children at a local school. Photo by Hassan Isilow

By Hassan Isilow

Somali refuges living in South Africa are gradually starting to return home after their country achieved relative peace, Africa witness has reliably learnt. “Over the last four months I have sold over 200 air tickets to Somalis flying back to their country,” a ticket salesperson at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg said, on condition of anonymity since she was not authorized to speak to the media. The official said most Somalis she had served only bought one way tickets, which meant they did not intend to return to South Africa. “The money that I made here in South Africa will enable me to start an import and export business in Somalia,” Halima Sheikh, a former businesswoman in the Free State related. She said her shops were frequently attacked by robbers and she always lived in fear, but now that she is returning home to Somalia, she has a peace of mind. “East or west, home is always the best. I love South Africa, but it’s not my home country. Somalia is my home,” she stated emphatically
She is not the only one. In July, a Cape Town based Somali journalist, Barrio-Barrio, also packed his bags and returned to Mogadishu “Somalia is becoming peaceful and there are more opportunities there. So I don’t see why I should continue staying here as a refugee when I could find something better to do back home,” he told Africa witness. He said while he was grateful for the hospitality he had received during his four year stay in the Western Cape, he was ready to return home.
Reprisals
But not all Somalis share a similar sentiment. Some say they may never go back home, especially those who served as soldiers for warlords or the militant group Al-Shabbab. This group fears they could face reprisals in Somalia for their past actions. “A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similar to that which was in South Africa, is what Somalia currently needs so that it can heal its wounds,” political science student Abdullahi Ali said on Sunday, adding that Somalis should learn to forgive and forget if they are to move forward.
Meanwhile, owners of Somali restaurant and backpackers in Bellville and Mayfair are already feeling the sting of the Somali exodus. “I have reduced the amount of food that I cook at my restaurant because most of my customers have left the country for Somalia. This has greatly affected my business,” Mohamed Shibis, a restaurant owner in Mayfair said.
Somalia has experienced relative stability since the African union troops (AMISOM) managed to push out Al-Shabbab from the capital city, Mogadishu, and most recently in Kismayo, the country’s second largest city. At the same time, the Somali Parliament recently elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new president. Many believe that if Mohamud was to gain wider public support, he would be in position to turn the troubled country around, which has been embroiled in a devastating civil war for over two decades. South Africa is home to about 80,000 Somali refugees, the majority of whom earn a living in the informal sector. This article first appeared on the VOC website. All rights reserved.

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Written by africawitness

October 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

Posted in Xenophobia

Should South Africa mediate in the Somali conflict?

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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 – One of South Africa’s primary objectives for Africa is to see peace prevailing on the entire continent. For that reason, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), recently hosted a workshop in Cape Town to discuss the war in Somalia. The two day workshop was in partnership with the Somali Council for Research and Development (SOMCORD), as well as the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).
However the subject of South Africa contributing peace keeping troops to Somalia was not addressed at the workshop. Yet in my opinion, the best way that South Africa can help Somalia is by sending peace keeping troops to help bolster the African Union Peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which controls parts of the capital Mogadishu and the southern port city of Kismayo. This used to be a strong hold for the militant group Al-Shabbab.
Earlier this year the South African government made a commitment to assist the war-torn Somalia with capacity building of its civil servants. That was a good gesture, but I still believe contributing peacekeeping forces would be the best contribution that South Africa could make, because the current African Union troops in Somalia have failed to protect civilians from insurgents.
Now that the war is almost over, there is an urgent need for peacekeeping forces that will be required to maintain law and order until the situation normalises. I believe the well trained and disciplined South African National Defence Forces (SANDF) would be in the best position to spear head such a mission because South Africa has conducted several successful peace keeping missions in Africa.
Troops

In July 2010, while attending the African Union summit in Kampala, President Jacob Zuma hinted about the possibility that his country would provide troops to bolster the then weak African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which has been in existence for number of years in the volatile country. But a few months later, the South African Government decided that it would not send troops to Somalia, because of fears that international terrorist cells would retaliate by bombing its citizens just like they did in Uganda on July 11 2010.
The hard-line Al-Shabbab detonated bombs at two entertainment sites in Kampala, killing over 80 soccer fans who were watching the FIFA 2010 world cup finals. They latter said they conducted the attacks in retaliation to Uganda’s involvement in the Somali peacekeeping mission. Owing to this background, it was to some extent right for the South Africa Government to consider the safety of its citizens as a first priority. However, I also believe that it was wrong for the South African Government to allow its foreign policy to be dictated upon by fear of terrorist threats.
As the African giant, South Africa should not allow to be browbeaten by terrorist threats especially in regard to a noble cause such as peacekeeping. Uganda which has the largest contingent of peacekeepers serving in the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has not withdrawn its troops despite the July 11 attacks on its citizens and continuous threats from terrorists.
I believe South Africa, would be the only African country that can stabilize the Somali crisis because of its unbiased position. SA also has the best trained army and military equipment on the continent. Besides, a peaceful Somalia would relieve South Africa from the influx of Somali refugees. Nevertheless, should South Africa refuse to intervene in the Somali conflict then its position as the African political and economic leader will be in question.

This article was first published on the VOC website. All rights resevered.

Written by africawitness

October 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

Posted in Xenophobia

Flood victims in Somalia urgently need help

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Hassan Isilow

Urgent help is needed to resettle thousands of Somalis who were displaced by massive flash floods in the central town of Beledweyne. According to the Africa Muslims Agency (AMA), five people were killed and hundreds were left homeless. “Our partners in Somalia are already on the ground,” said AMA regional director, Hassan Choonara. “They have given the victims emergency assistance, but we need funds to resettle them back into their homes.” Choonara, who recently returned from the famine-hit country, said his organization had started a repatriation programme where they relocated thousands of Somalis who had earlier fled from their villages to the capital city Mogadishu because of famine. “We have given seeds to the people we repatriated as they returned to their villages, where they can start cultivating their lands in places where the rains have started to fall,” he related, adding that AMA has also started a water catchment programme which will help farmers and households in the country’s most dry areas. Choonara said besides, offering humanitarian assistance, AMA was also supporting the Simad University in Mogadishu which trains thousands of students. “After these students graduate from this university, we sponsor them for their Masters and PhD courses at international universities in Malaysia and other Muslim countries. Alhamdulillah, whenever they complete their studies they return to Somalia and serve their communities,” he said.
Fresh food crisis
Meanwhile, a new survey conducted by Oxfam has revealed that Somalia’s food crisis remains critical and likely to worsen in coming months risking a prolonged humanitarian crisis. Latest estimates from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) warned that 236,000 children remain acutely malnourished. The aid agency called on the humanitarian community to maintain support for Somalia at what it believes is a “critical moment.” Oxfam also fears that the international community might turn its attention elsewhere because of the many emergencies unfolding around the globe, warning that without sustained aid many more Somalis may fall back into crisis. The report also cited the recent flooding in Beledweyn town, Hiran region that has already affected thousands. Oxfam also added that a long-term support and engagement to tackle the systemic problems which turn recurrent droughts into humanitarian emergencies were essential.
To donate in support of the suffering people of Somalia, contact AMA on (+27)011-834 8685/6, or visit their website for more details at http://www.africamuslimsagency.co.za. Additional reporting obtained from Press TV

Written by africawitness

October 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

Somalis celebrate appointment of New PM

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By Hassan Isilow
JOHANESBURG: Hundreds of Somali nationals living in Johannesburg took to the streets of Mayfair on Saturday celebrating the appointment of Abdi Farah Shirdon as their country’s new prime minister. The Somalis closed off a section of Bird Street and 9th Avenue in Mayfair, where they sang liberation songs and danced in anticipation of peace. Somalis all over the world have been optimistic ever since parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new President.
“I believe Shirdon will appoint a good cabinet acceptable to all, which could end the long conflict in our country,” Mowaz Abdirazak told me during the celebrations. “I have a feeling that the war in Somalia is about to end. And the new president and prime minister is the team Somalia has been waiting for. They have a good track record and most people I have spoken to seem to love them. It is a new dawn in Somalia,” one prominent Somali journalist who did not want to be named related.
The celebrations in Johannesburg were attended by Somali nationals from different political camps and they all seemed to agree on one thing, which was to end the conflict. Somalia has experienced a civil war since the over throw of Mohammad Siyad Bare in 1991. South Africa is host to over 80,000 Somalis, majority of whom are refugees dealing in the small business sector.
Somalia’s new Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon a political newcomer, was appointed on Saturday by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. This is the first major decision to be made by a democratically elected President in Somalia after over 20 years of conflict. Leaders of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) which served Somalia for the last eight years never had independent powers to make such decisions. The west was always the major decision makers.
The new Prime minister has vowed to form a “quality” Cabinet which will not tolerate corruption. He said the government he forms will move past the disputes Somali political leaders have engaged in previously. Shirdon studied economics at Somalia National University in the 1970s. He also served as an economist in the ministries of finance and agriculture in the 1980s before relocating to Kenya in 1991.
Abdullah Ali, a Somali analyst living in Cape Town, told me the appointment of the new prime minister would usher in a new chapter in the lives of the Somalis. “The Prime minister is a man of integrity, a man who has a passion in serving the people of Somalia and I believe he will unite all Somalis,” he said. Follow me on twitter @hisilow

Written by africawitness

October 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Christians condemn publication of Prophet Mohammad’s-cartoons

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Iranians protest against the publication by a French satirical weekly of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, outside France’s embassy in Tehran on September 23, 2012. AFP

By Hassan isilow

The Southern Christian Leadership conference (SCLC) has condemned the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
‘‘We condemn the publication of these insulting cartoons against the Prophet of Islam and would like to show our solidarity with all Muslims across the globe during this difficult time’’ SCLC’s Randy short said in a telephone interview with Africa Witness from Washington.
The cleric said it was hypocritical for the French Interior minister Manuel Vaus to use freedom of expression as a means to defend the publication of the insulting cartoons.
‘‘It’s hypocritical for France to say the cartoons were an expression of freedom, when the same country (France) had outlawed the wearing of Muslim face veils.’’
He claimed that France had cooperated with Nazi Germany during the holocaust, but they would still find it offensive if some one made a movie showing their involvement in the holocaust.
‘‘I think its only freedom of expression when it suits the French government’s interests. How would the French feel, if someone made a film about the genocide they participated in Algeria? ’’ the cleric questioned. He also echoed his support for Muslims protesting against the recent anti-Islamic video which insults the Prophet Mohammad. ‘‘I believe Muslims have all the right to protest against the blasphemous which attacks their most revered figure’’ he said.

Zionist plot

Meanwhile, Author Kevin Barret believes that the Zionist lobby are behind the current global campaign aimed at tarnishing the image of Islam. ‘‘The Zionist lobby has systematically used the western media to fight its war against Islam. And I believe they are behind all these current blasphemous depictions of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad’’ he told Press TV on Thursday.

Jesus debate

But it seems the west is not only determined at tarnishing the image of Islam, but also of other major religions including Christianity. This week a fresh controversy erupted after researchers reportedly found a scrap of an ancient papyrus written in ancient Egyptian Coptic which reads that “Jesus said to them, my wife”. This new piece of alleged evidence has raised fierce debate in the Christian world about Jesus Christ’s marital status. Most Christians and the Catholic Church have long maintained that Jesus was not married and therefore believe the newly found evidence is insulting to the faith.
“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a conference call with reporters cited by Reuters. The Harvard professor said that the papyrus will fuel debate about whether Jesus was married or not.
In 2003, Dan Brown’s best-seller “The Da Vinci Code” triggered uproar among Christians after claiming that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children. However, the holy Bible does not mention a world about the marital status of Jesus. Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called “Isa”. He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.

Written by africawitness

October 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

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