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Horumarka / Development

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The European Union, the Federal Government of Somalia, the Federal States of Puntland and Galmudug and, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations today jointly launched a new project promoting economic opportunities for young people living in coastal communities in north-eastern and central areas of Somalia. 

Creating long-term jobs for youth in fishing community is a key strategy for preventing piracy and reducing temptations to engage in maritime crime. “The prevention and fight against piracy cannot be achieved just by strengthening regional coordination and capacity for maritime security, it must be supported by creating alternative livelihoods and economic opportunities for those groups more at risk of engaging in illegal activities. This is especially true for disillusioned youth,” said Mrs. Veronique Lorenzo, EU’s Head of Delegation for Somalia. 

“The challenges can only be addressed through a comprehensive approach to Somalia’s development and stability” she highlighted. The “Coastal Communities against Piracy” (CCAP) project, is being implemented under the framework of the ongoing broader EU-IGAD initiative” Programme to Support Regional Maritimes Security” (MASE) in the Eastern and Southern Africa – Indian Ocean Region and will be implemented in coastal areas of Puntland, Galmudug and Mogadishu by FAO, in close partnerships with Somali Federal and regional Ministries of Fisheries and Livestock. 

The project is receiving 5.3 million Euros from the European Union, almost USD6 million. The project will provide training, equipment, better productive infrastructure and cash transfers to youth, women, fishermen and pastoralists in selected coastal communities, creating new longterm jobs and raising incomes.  

“This is a really exciting step forward for Somalia. It will bring jobs, income and opportunities to communities that have been economically marginalized for so many years.

It provides a platform for Government and cooperatives to provide the support and assistance that these communities so desperately need if they are to make piracy history and build long-term sustainable futures” said Richard Trenchard, FAO’s Representative for Somalia. 

The project builds on successes of other FAO activities in the fisheries and livestock sectors, such as the deployment of FADs (Fishing Aggregating Devices) along Somalia’s coastline in 2015 and a boat building programme that is making low-cost, high quality, efficient and safe fishing boats available to fishing communities for the first time for many years. 

Almost 200 young people from coastal communities in Puntland, Galmudug and Mogadishu will benefit from the use of new fishing vessels and receive technical training to increase the catches, reduce costs and better manage vital marine resources. 

More than 200 young men and women will receive training and mentoring support in handling and processing of fish and fish products and management and operation of fish handling facilities. Over 75 youths will benefit from support in fodder production and another 440 youth will be involved in related cash-for-work activities. 

At the institutional level, 18 individual fishing co-operatives and the Hibo Cooperative umbrella organization will benefit from a structured training and mentoring programme to improve their services to the fishing community.

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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has expressed possibility of admitting Somalia and Tunisia into the bloc. “[The Summit] mandated the Bureau of Council to enter into negotiations with Tunisia and Somalia on terms and conditions of accession to the Comesa Treaty,” reads part of the communique after the bloc’s Summit held in the Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Comesa spokesman Mwangi Gakunga  however said this would take time before a decision on the two countries’ application is reached, as this is determined by the bloc’s highest decision making body — the Heads of State Summit or Comesa Authority.

“Upon receipt of the application for membership, the Authority may prescribe the conditions and such other conditions for admission which shall be communicated to the applying state. Article 3(3) of the Regulations provides that admission of membership shall be decided by the Authority,” the regulations state.

In 2005, Tunisia applied for observer status to Comesa, but its application was neither discussed nor endorsed by the member states. In February, it renewed its push to formally join the bloc when it wrote to Comesa Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya.

Mr Ngwenya said that under Article 1(4) of the Comesa Treaty, Tunisia was eligible for admission as it is “an immediate neighbour of a member state of Comesa… upon fulfilling conditions that may be determined by the Comesa Authority.”
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By Gretchen Brown

WILLMAR — As a police officer, Mohammed Farah is used to bridging the gap between the public and law enforcement. But as an East African immigrant who moved to Minnesota as a teen, the Columbia Heights officer knows just how wide that gap can be.

“Sometimes it’s hard. It’s a headache,” he said. When he arrived at the Columbia Heights Police Department two years ago, he said, the community was “hungry for somebody who can communicate.”

Farah led a conversation Wednesday afternoon at the Willmar Public Library, saying he believes cultural understanding and communication play a big part in public safety. The talk, which lasted about an hour and a half, was organized by the Willmar Police Department. About 30 people filled the small room in the upstairs of the library, many sticking around after the formal wrap-up.

 ”This dialogue we have today is a good start,” Farah said. “Not a lot of agencies do this kind of outreach. … They wait until something big happens.”

It was more of a conversation than a seminar. Attendees were given the chance to ask things they were simply curious about.

Some questions were more broadly cultural. Others centered specifically on police work. Several times, the conversation in the audience became back-and-forth, free-flowing dialogue.

When Stephen Deleski suggested that local cultural centers like the mosque were not aiding cultural integration as much as they could, pointing to churches as good examples, another member of the audience, Abdirizak Mahboub, jumped into the conversation.

“Everyone wants to integrate. It’s very important, and part of life to integrate your local community,” Mahboub said. “It takes time for integration. It takes time for these institutions to develop where they can help integrate.”

Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt and Capt. Michael Anderson answered some Willmar-specific questions from the audience.

One man, through a translator, asked if it was legal for police to follow him while he is driving. Anderson explained that Willmar police will sometimes follow a vehicle if officers see a traffic violation or believe a driver is intoxicated.

Farah said there’s a big difference between policing methods in east African communities and the United States. “Police are looked at as corrupted people, somebody that takes bribes,” Farah said. “This is not how this country works. It takes a little time to adapt to that kind of environment.”

Abdullahi Olow, of Willmar, helped with some of the translation Wednesday. He also had a part in organizing the talk and spreading the word.

Olow said people he talked to were excited about the idea, but many could not make it because of the weekday afternoon timing.

Personally, he took a day off, using a substitute driver for his medical transportation business so he could help out.

“That’s how important this was for me,” Olow said.

Felt and Anderson said the Willmar Police Department is trying to do more community outreach, something Farah’s department in Columbia Heights excels at.

Farah visited the Willmar Police Department for a private instructional talk Wednesday night with just police officers about policing in a diverse community.

It’s something the department sometimes struggles with, Anderson said. U.S. Census data indicates about 10 percent of Willmar residents are foreign-born. But the Willmar Police Department has no Somali officers.

Talking about that with the Columbia Heights police chief helped connect Anderson with Farah. Farah is also the president of the Somali American Police Association and has given similar talks in other communities, including Faribault.

Anderson did not view Wednesday’s talk as a end-all solution to all problems, but said it was a great start.

“Any time there’s dialogue, it’s a good thing,” Anderson said.

He said he would love to have more people from Willmar’s immigrant community enter the law enforcement field.

Until then, it’s especially important for everyone with a stake in the community to have a voice in the conversation, Farah said.

“Everybody needs to be invited to the table, because at the end of the day, everyone has something to say,” Farah said.

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Somalia will launch its first hydrocarbon licensing round early next year targeting offshore blocks, a government official said on Tuesday. Jamal Kassim Mursal the permanent secretary at the ministry of petroleum and mineral resources said that Shallow water block concessions signed in 1988 by Shell and ExxonMobil are excluded from the new bid round, Reuters reports

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Tsai Cheng-yuan, 62, got involved while serving in island’s legislature after Asian crew of Omani-registered Naham 3 fishing boat seized in March 2012

Having taken up the cause of a fellow Taiwanese held by Somali pirates, former legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan faced one hurdle after another. overnment agencies at home and in three foreign capitals snubbed his pleas for help. Nervous donors who provided funds for a ransom demanded a money-back guarantee if the hostage was not released.

Even after the money was paid, the man refused to return home unless 25 others held with him were also freed. The group were finally released on October 22, after more than four and a half years – the second-longest period hostages had ever spent in Somalia. “I just have this faith that if a country doesn’t give up on its citizens in trouble, it will be loved by its people,” said Tsai, 62, who served in Taiwan’s legislature for 20 years and now runs the chief opposition Nationalist Party’s central policy committee.

Tsai got involved while still serving in the legislature when the wife and daughter of Shen Jui-chang sought his help. Shen was chief engineer on the Omani-registered Naham 3 fishing boat, which was hijacked in March 2012 by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, 120km from the Seychelles islands.

The crew were taken to Somalia and held in “deplorable conditions”, the Colorado-based nonprofit Oceans Beyond Piracy said. Everyone became malnourished and two hostages died of illness.

The engineer’s family came to Tsai after having no luck with other elected officials in Taiwan, said the former legislator, who had gained fame for having helped a Taiwanese woman escape from the Muslim rebel group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines in 2012. “They had been asking around for help without progress,” Tsai said on Friday. “They were afraid that Shen Jui-chang’s health wasn’t too good and that he couldn’t handle Somalia.”

Tsai said he first talked to government agencies in Taiwan but was refused help. Like some other governments, Taiwan does not negotiate with pirates for fear of encouraging future abductions. However, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on October 23 that it had contacted Omani officials and kept in touch with hostage-release nonprofit organisations to follow the case.

So Tsai contacted the governments of Shen’s fellow hostages, who come from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. A foreign affairs police official from the Philippines and the deputy general secretary of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits – the agency responsible for contacts with Taiwan – joined his cause.

The Chinese official, Wang Xiaobing, knew Lee Chuan-hung, the chairman of the Taiwanese charity, Wei Ge Culture and Education Charity Foundation. Lee donated US$500,000 in ransom money while its staff asked other charities to also contribute.

At a news conference last week, An Fengshan, the spokesman of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the association had played an active role in obtaining the hostages’ release, assisted by the Chinese foreign ministry. An said international organisations and other “relevant parties” aided in the effort, without identifying them.

Tsai chased Taiwanese companies for donations to help pay the ransom for the chief engineer. Some were reluctant to give money because they feared pirates would reject the final offer, so Tsai promised their money back if Shen was not released.

The former legislator also found a law firm in Hong Kong that charged only a minor processing fee to hold the ransom money. For reasons they never gave, the pirates required payment in hundred-dollar bills issued only in 2005, Tsai said. Such notes predate a 2013 redesign that included new safety features.

Tsai said he used an intermediary’s name to sign the agreement with the law firm in order to hide his official connections. “Otherwise, if it was suspected the Taiwan government was involved, it would be hard to discuss ransom and could cost a lot,” he said. Once the money was raised for Shen, talks dragged on as the pirate gang repeatedly changed leaders because of infighting, Tsai said.

Shen then threw a new kink into the negotiations when he insisted on staying, out of fear the other hostages might be killed or stranded without his help getting money for their release. “I was thinking, ‘I’m 58 and if I leave there’s no one who can lead them’,” Shen said last week following his return to Taiwan. “I told the pirates, ‘If I go, then everyone has to go’.”

Faced with Shen’s demand, Tsai went back to pleading for donations. His Philippine and Chinese backers kept chasing donors in their homelands. Money raised would ultimately pay ransoms, aid to the impoverished families of the 10 mainland Chinese sailors and a fee for the hostage negotiator, a former UN official. Negotiations took 18 months.

Shen told reporters after reaching Taiwan he was “deeply moved” by the help he received.

Tsai declined to say how much was ultimately paid to the pirates for fear of encouraging more hostage-taking. Such cases have declined drastically in recent years in the wake of international naval patrols in the Gulf of Oman and stepped-up security aboard larger vessels.

Recalling the Herculean effort to free Shen and his crew, Tsai said it was up to younger legislators to help in future. “I’m a retired man now.”

AP

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