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Somalia fish market, a non-starter

Somalia, a country with the longest coastline in Africa accessing the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden with a length of 3,330 km but sadly remains the country’s most untapped resource. If well exploited, the fish market in Somalia alone can help in achieving global and national sustainable food security plus generate national income from international trade.

For a country that has witnessed civil war and still facing instability, the coastline would have been exploited to provide both selves and paid employment from aquaculture related activities and hence alleviating the youth from abysmal poverty.

The Somali waters are known for; Yellowfin tuna, Bigeye tuna, Skipjack tuna, Cephalopodan, Tropical Spiny lobster, Swordfish, Albacore, and Sharks among other fish that fetch high market prices.

Staple food

It is argued that the main reason why the Somali waters that is home to some of the richest fishing grounds in Africa remain untapped today is that, fish is not a staple food among the local communities despite it being culturally acceptable and considered halal.

Part of Somalia having being colonized by Italians, culturally developed a habit of eating spaghetti, locally known as pasta, rice (baris), and red meat preferably camel meat that is popular for both its meat and milk, which they believe is more nutritious than cow or goat milk. And anytime is tea time. Somali shaah redolent with spices.

All these are contributing factors of having the coastline underutilized and hence making the fish market in Somalia a real non-starter.

Mitigation

However, over the years, various organizations have tried to change the scenario with the aim of changing the lives of the locals including sensitization of the health benefits of fish and its products as an alternative to the norm.

Among the organizations is the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO with the support of the European Union, that for years has been registering thousands of fishermen who operate off the shores of Puntland.

According to information made public on its website, FAO says; ‘The exercise which is done through a biometrics system, encapsulates vital personal information of each fisherman, including photographs and fingerprints. This information will then be used to develop special identity cards which will be carried by the fishermen while at sea.

It will also act as a critical database for the Ministry of Fisheries, security and anti-piracy forces (both local and international) and local fishermen associations as they gather data on the exact number and location of fisherfolk in the area’.

Through that initiative launched 3 years ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization has been able to provide the Somali Fisheries Ministry with the necessary software for registering the fishermen. It has also provided training, financial and supervisory support to both the fishermen and the ministry officials.

Challenges facing the fishing industry in Somalia

Foreign vessels’ theft

Most of the fishermen in Somalia especially Bosaso and Puntland where the precious Tuna and Marlin fish are caught, expressed their displeasure by the fact that they cannot compete with the large foreign boats and ships that troll their waters catching almost all the fishes both deep sea and close to the shores.

SMDC spoke to the Director Seafarers’ Assistance Programme Mr. Andrew Mwangura who confirmed that the foreign fishing ships have been a major challenge facing the fishing sector in the larger Somalia coastline.

“The foreign ships sail from as far as Iran taking advantage of the instability of Somalia government hence cannot be controlled. This is not illegal fishing but looting on an industrial scale’, said Mwangura.

“The local fishermen have small motorboats and canoes hence can only fish a certain amount of fish for consumption and or for retail. The few foreign vessels that are licensed to fish in the Somalia waters get their fishing permits under questionable if not dubious means from Somalia government officials” he added.

Insecurity

Although the situation has changed drastically for the better, a percentage of the fishermen still feel insecure hence have not gone full-blown in their fishing activities.

A decade ago, before insurgents took over, pirates were causing havoc to both foreign and local fishing vessels. The pirates would attack and hijack especially oil and other commercial ships before demanding millions of shillings as ransom.

“The situation was terrible. At one go, you would have close to 20 foreign ships, sailors hijacked by the pirates off the Horn of Africa, and who stood their ground on millions of dollars as ransom. They made a killing”, says Mwagura who is also a negotiator between pirates and ship owners off the coast of Africa.

However, things have since changed after the international community intervened plus efforts by the local navies including the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which guards the waters off Bosaso.

Technology/skills/gear

With emerging trends, local fishermen in Somalia have found it difficult to cope with their counterparts using foreign boats that are larger and have modern technology.

The foreign boast can do deep sea and in one round, can collect tons of fish since they have longer and modern nets for fishing.

The locals lack fishing skills required to go deep sea to fish for commercial purposes. They also lack fishing gear to enable make their tasks a success.

Poor sanitation/markets

Apart from the fishing challenges in the larger Somalia, lack of a proper market and storage facilities have been associated with the current situation. A good example is the Bosaso Port that lacks modern equipment e.g. refrigerators to prepare fish in a clean, healthy environment for export.

Somalia also lacks a strong and dependable system for exporting Somali fish overseas.

Political instability

Amid the power vacuum, illegal foreign fishers have taken advantage of the situation and have since undermined the Somali coastal by driving unfair and unmanaged competition for finite natural resources.

This has in turn resulted in illegal trawling hence destroying sensitive habitats. With unregulated fishing, the stocks have reduced drastically making fishing a non-economic activity.

Economic goodwill

Most of the actions taken by the Somalia government on matters fishing have done more harm than good to the sector.

A year ago, Somalia granted fishing licenses to 31 Chinese vessels to exploit tuna and tuna-like species off its coast in a bid to tap the sector for economic growth. The vessels are associated with the China Overseas Fisheries Association.

However, the foreign fishing vessels were also not to be permitted to operate between 24 nautical miles (44 kilometers) to the seaward side of the Somali baseline

Lack of knowledge

A Voxpops by SMDC revealed that most of the Somali community members have minimal knowledge or equipment on how to cook and preserve fish with some saying eating the meat while separating the bones is hectic.

Efforts so far

Despite the current situation, various efforts are still in place to change the scenario including media publicity and NGOs sensitizing the locals on the importance of fishing for commercial gains, nutritional values, and as alternative food in the emerging food security crisis.

FAO has been training youths on deep-sea fishing, provided better and modern fishing equipment. The same organization has also trained fishmongers on how to preserve fish naturally which includes salting and sun-drying to be later sold in inland Somalia.

Late October 2018, SMDC, with the support of the German International Development Agency GIZ, organized a one-day roadshow in Kismayo, Somalia, to encourage families living in and around the coastal city to start including fish in their diets plus generate income from fishing.

Conclusion

For a country that for decades has been facing recurring famines and food crises due to droughts, poor government policies, or inaction amid civil war, fishing remains the country’s beacon of hope for food security and poverty alleviation.

 

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Sexual Gender Based Violence-SGBV in Somalia

Introduction

Sexual Gender-Based Violence, SGBV is defined as violence against individuals or groups based on their gender identity. Both men and women experience violence and conflict differently, either as victims and or perpetrators.

SGBV in Somalia is closely linked to gender discrimination, cultural and socio-economic factors that underpin and perpetuate the occurrence of SGBV such as stereotypes, illiteracy, lack of employment, poverty, family breakdown, etc. However, women have been targeted for rape, abduction, sexual slavery, and clan-related revenge killings.

A criminal or morality issue?

in-depth research has established that the two are intertwined, however, there exist wide differences between and among Somali communities and international standards on their understanding and perceptions of SGBV.

This has been brought about by a lack of harmonization between the three legal systems in force across Somalia; Sharia, customary (Xeer), and statutory laws. Under the latter, the recognition and legal definitions of SGBV have evolved over time while the penal code criminalizes rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Under customary law, sexual crime is not perceived as a violation of an individual’s bodily integrity, but rather as an issue of morality and honor and a crime committed first and foremost against the family, clan or community.

Are SGBV cases and the conflict in Somalia interlinked?

Various research papers have concluded that SGBV in Somalia is closely linked to the history of violence experienced by the country since the toppling of the Siad Barre regime in the early ’90s.

However, the SGBV cases were still present before the toppling despite the presence of a strong central government and institutions that rallied the uploading of women’s rights in Somalia.

The predominant perpetrators of sexual violence and exploitation vary by region (Somaliland, Puntland, and south and central Somalia).

Given the conflict in the south and central of Somalia, violence, and exploitation perpetrated by men in uniform is more prevalent than in Puntland and Somaliland where such acts are, more often than not, perpetrated by men in civilian clothes.

Commonalities exist in all three regions when it comes to other forms of GBV, such as domestic violence, FGM/C, and early marriages as well as with regard to responses to these incidents.

Rape was still widely used as a weapon of war during the Somalia–Ethiopia conflict in 1976 and the uprising against Barre’s central authority. Mass rape against women and girls was also reported in the 1988 uprising in Somaliland. Violence increased with the years of conflict and the collapse of the state and traditional structures.

Case study

Jamilah Aden* (Not her real name) remembers with pain what she had to go through under the arms of her uncle.

“My parents died in a bomb incident in central Mogadishu, I was only 14 years old. My uncle took me in as one of his daughters. But sadly, he would sexually molest me at night when everyone was sound asleep.” Narrated Jamila who is disabled by polio.

She is however thankful for the NGOs that have been rescuing such victims and she says she heard about such services through the local radio stations. She was later rescued although her uncle went missing never to be seen again.

Jamilah’s case proves that women and girls with disabilities are often at greater risk of GBV, both within and outside the home, and are disproportionately affected in emergencies and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response, and recovery efforts. The Strategy will ensure that women and girls with disabilities are prioritized.

The role of CBOs in GBV

NGOs have the potential to end violence by getting involved in research, advocating for policy reform, addressing GBV through reproductive health and humanitarian relief programs, educating men and boys about gender equity, shifting attitudes about violent behavior, working with spiritual and cultural leaders, and reaching out to the most vulnerable populations.

According to SOMALIA Gender-based Violence Working Group, recent data collected from Banadir, Middle and Lower Shabelle regions indicate that the majority of cases reported were rape (at 41%) followed by physical assault (at 39%), sexual assault (11%), denial of resources (4%), psychological abuse (3%), and forced marriage (2%).

Although conflict is at the core of GBV, deep-rooted cultural beliefs create persistent inequalities between men and women and place women at particular risk of being victimized.

SMDC also spoke to Radhika Ahmed who is the Protection Officer dealing with the GBV section at Women and Child Care Organization, WOCCA, which also operates in Middle-Lower Shabelle and Banadir Region, Somalia.

“Many cases go unreported due to the Maslaha system that is highly regarded in the Somalia Community as a legal dispute resolution mechanism to settle such serious cases as rape and assault. Most of those cases reported are the severe ones,” revealed Radhika who works at the WOCCA liaison office in Westlands, Nairobi.

Light at the end of the tunnel

However, with the mushrooming of various human rights organizations both local and international, expansion of the media space in the larger Somalia, SGBV cases have reduced although not drastically.

Women have also been sensitized on their rights and this has seen a number of the affected reaching out to the authorities to report.

Among the international organizations actively involved in the awareness activities through a multi-faceted approach, which includes capacity-building, support to service provision, awareness activities, research, and advocacy is the United Nations in Somalia.

In November 2019, the United Nations in Somalia conducted the annual global 16-day campaign against sexual and gender-based violence under the theme; Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan termed the exercise a success adding that, “Gender-based and sexual violence are meant to suppress full political, social, and economic participation of women and girls. Without the participation of more than half the population, sustainable peace and development will not be attained”.

“Preventing and ending sexual and gender-based violence is essential for Somalia to achieve a better future,” he added.

The introduction of the International Organization for Migration has also come in handy in prioritizing the training of psychosocial counselors and female IDPs as peer counselors, particularly in light of gender-based violence cases.

Challenges in curbing SGBV in Somalia

Despite Somalia having laws that prohibit rape, normalization of SGBV has been reinforced by a lack of access to justice for survivors and or the laws not being enforced.

Somalia has not signed or adopted any of the major international instruments for women’s rights and gender equality such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.

Female police officers/lawyers

It is no doubt that the number of female police officers in the larger Somalia is not enough to handle Gender-based violence-related cases and that translates to injustice to the victims who are in hundreds if not thousands.

According to the Association of Somali Women Lawyers (ASWL) that focuses on criminal justice and is based in Mogadishu, Somalia. It is challenging for and GBV victims to get much-needed help especially at the right time due to a lack of female police officers that can freely interrogate the victims.

“We not only focus on capacity building and training programs but also deliver in the provision of legal assistance i.e. counseling, legal aid and representation, interpretation, translation and to increase the number of women involvement in legal and justice administration,” said Habiba Jimale, ASWL’s network champion

Reluctance

Although there has been a general increase in awareness about rape and sexual violence, there remains a reluctance to talk about gender-based violence. for instance, UNICEF reported that 76% of women 15–49 years old consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife, if his wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him or neglects the children or refuses sexual relations.

Female Genital Mutilation

Although the provisional federal constitution describes female circumcision as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country. UNICEF reported that 98 percent of women and girls had undergone FGM/C and that the majority were subjected to infibulation-the most severe form.

In as much as the International and local NGOs have continued to conduct education awareness programs on the dangers of FGM/C, but there were no reliable statistics to measure their success.

IDPs

The Human Rights Watch ‘World Report 2018’, published on 18 January 2018, stated: ‘Internally displaced women and girls remain at particular risk of sexual and gender-based violence by armed men, including government soldiers and militia members, and civilians.

The director of the human rights organization of Puntland state with it is headquartered in Bosaso, Abdi Hakin Said Bajun says they register close to 30 rape cases in Bosaso on a monthly basis.

Sexual gender-based violence is not only limited to women; every year several children are also abused.

Way forward

The Sexual Offences Bill and the FGM Bills in Somalia should be aligned with the international legal framework, enacted, implemented, and widely disseminated, with various stakeholders (local authorities, service providers, community and religious leaders, local CBOs) being sensitized to its provisions.

Local and international media houses plus CBO’s should come up with creative but moderate ways to engage the locals in enlightening them on the issues surrounding gender-based violence.

A case in point is the toll-free hotline 5555 launched for internally displaced persons in Somalia by the United Nations. The hotline nicknamed ‘Ceebla’  mean ‘No shame’ in the Somali language.

“More importantly, we are also sharing with them information on services available for victims of gender-based violence, which includes domestic violence and rape,” said UNSOM Human Rights Officer Abdinasir Moallin during a training session meant to sensitize IDPs on the rights and services available to victims of gender-based violence.

The government also needs to build community resilience to prevent and mitigate acts of GBV and harmful traditional practices and contribute to the systemic implementation of the UN Security Council related Resolutions on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

There is also a need to strengthen the rule of law and access to justice to reduce the vulnerability of women, men, boys, and girls to GBV without forgetting the strengthening of the coordination of GBV prevention and response activities among other humanitarian actors and the Somali civil society.

Conclusion

Security, Safety, Sensitivity, and Confidentiality of GBV victims are paramount as most cases often result in shame and stigma and many survivors lack the feeling of trust in confidential issues. Trust must be established to help survivors acknowledge that they have been subjected to violence and that they are in need of available services.

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COVID-19 Stifles Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations

2020 will go down the books of history as a year where Eid celebrations were not celebrated across the globe with the pomp and color associated with the annual festive period, Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world in a way was never imagined.

it has brought normal life to a standstill, including religious practice, with communal prayers and nightly Taraweeh prayers impacted by the restrictions brought in to stifle the spread of the pandemic and now Eid celebrations.

What is Eid ul Fitr?

Eid ul Fitr is a religious holiday marked after a month-long-dawn-to-sunset of fasting during the Holy month of Ramadhan and is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It is the first and only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast.

It is believed that it was during the month of Ramadhan that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet (Muhammad SAW).

Traditions during Eid ul Fitr

Eid ul Fitr is a joyous moment in every Muslim household with traditions emphasizing large gatherings, wearing of at least new outfits, gift-giving, and sharing of meals with friends and family including the less fortunate in the community.

On the morning of Eid, Muslims wake up as early as 5 am to prepare for the big day. In many households, breakfast for Eid is prepared the night before.

Grown-ups and children alike bathe and dress in at least new clothes and by 7 am they congregate for prayers in a mosque or large halls and most of the time, held in the open to accommodate the large numbers for Salat ul Eid.

Believers are encouraged to eat something sweet especially dates before heading for prayers and on their way, they are supposed to recite takbir, praising Allah.

The children are offered gifts and money to mark the joyous occasion. This is preceded by the giving of alms to the poor who most of the time are found outside the masjids, all in the spirit of commemorating the end of the holy month.

Muslim faithful gather in masjids and or open-air places where they offer two units of prayer referred to as ‘rakat’. The prayers are then followed by a sermon by an imam who asks for forgiveness, mercy, and peace.

What is different in 2020?

Muslims congregating for Eid prayers in mosques has been a ritual long-etched in the minds of billions of believers across the world but with the onset of Covid-19 early this year, the closure of worship areas has left Muslims with no option but staying indoors to mark the celebrations.

On the 20th of May 2020, Kenyan’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’ i in a gazette notice declared May 25, 2020 a public holiday in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 2 (1) of the Public Holidays Act.

However, the celebrations are expected to be low key considering the lockdown and cessation of key areas where most Muslims shop for Eid in Nairobi’s Eastleigh and Old Town in Mombasa to observe the social distancing rule directed by the Ministry of Health.

Eidiyah, which is a tradition of giving money to family members during Eid, is also prohibited this year in a bid to avoid infections spreading via banknotes and coins.

All these measures are being implemented in a bid to stop the coronavirus from spreading further.

It will also be remembered that President Uhuru Kenyatta early last month ruled out a curfew extension for Muslims during the month of Ramadhan. In his address to the nation, he maintained that just like Christian, who were forced to mark Easter celebrations at their homes, Muslims should not expect special treatment during the holy month.

“Same to what we told Christians during Easter, this year is a special year. Everyone to celebrate at home. Muslims should follow suit and know that this is a special year,” Uhuru said.

What this means for the business community

Maybe the worst hit is the business community in Nairobi’s Eastleigh where is currently on lockdown until the 6th of June 2020 after the days were recently extended by two more weeks.

“We have lost a lot of business opportunities this month”, says Anisa Ibrahim who owns a retail shop at Madina Mall in Eastleigh that specializes in shoes, Abayas, and head scarfs imported from Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

“By this time, we would have sold almost all the new stock. I get clients from as far as Tanzania, Uganda, North Eastern, and even Mombasa. But as you can see, we are not in business”. She says.

The story is no different from Kassim who also sells male kanzus and open shoes in an adjacent shop. However, Kassim says they have now resulted in using social media to market and sell their products.

Most of the traders in Eastleigh however, are complaining of their luggage’s not being cleared on time hence affecting their businesses with some even closing down their shops completely.

What Muslims say about Eid this year

Through Social Media, we asked random Muslims what this year’s Eid ul Fitr means to them compared with the past Eids;

Fatuma Sambur on Facebook said, ‘Eid is not Eid without hooyo waking me up at 4 am in the morning while yelling, “waa dhuhur, masajidka wubuuxa!”.

Zeinab Osman too aired her sentiments reminiscing how for years over they would fight over who gets to shower at 6 am first before donning their new clothes.

“This is a totally different Eid, from the floods to missing Eid prayers, sweets, family brunch and hanging out with our friends and cousins, I cannot even fathom”, said Fardosa Hassan who resides in Garissa town on Instagram.

On Twitter, Omar Sheikh used only three words to describe what this Eid will be missing, “Buskut iyo halwo”. He tweeted.

Eid Mubaraka!

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Cyber-bullying the new Violence Against Women and Girls

 

Emerging trends

Violence against women is no longer as was largely reported before where battery or rape topped the list of atrocities meted upon women who for a long time have been considered the weaker sex. The violence has now been taken a step further and now being committed online – cyberbullying.

It is no doubt that women’s sexual harassment is now a prominent feature of  Kenyan cyberspace.

Online bullying occurs in many forms including; use of sexiest comments, demeaning words against women, photoshopped/manipulated sexual materials being shared online with an aim of demeaning the targeted subjects.

Women, especially politicians have been on the receiving end of sexist comments, with their appearances and marital status often being the subject of discussion in gauging their fitness to run for public office.

Digital penetration

Sadly, most women presently are either victims or perpetrators of cyber-bullying knowingly or unknowingly.

A huge percentage of the victims have had their unauthorized images and videos leaked online with some manipulated before being spread like bush fire online and in the process injuring their dignity/character and even costing them their marriages.

The situation has been aggravated thanks to the increased digital penetration since more Kenyans own smartphones and can access digital platforms to communicate and interact than it was before.

With the emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, spreading such material takes micro-seconds before it becomes a trending topic for hours if not days.

 Impersonation

It is important to note that cyberbullying comes in different forms, common among them being impersonation where the subject’s images are used in pseudo accounts on social media.

Most of the bullies have perfected the act of impersonation that they have real-time pictures of their prey and are constantly online engaging their ‘followers’.

Such accounts have been used to extort, misrepresent and even air opinions contrary to the purported owners of the account in question. With most female political leaders not having their accounts verified, most have once if not twice fallen victims of cyberbullying in their careers.

However, according to statistics at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, women who are victims of cybercrime and bullying rarely report the crime.

Research by SMDC

According to a program conducted by Star Media Development Centre, SMDC, 60% of those interviewed are worried about how women and girls are constantly being attacked online and they end up being frustrated in life and at times even costing their marriages.

Parents too are a worried lot since when their daughters are attacked online and sometimes it goes viral, it affects them psychologically.

However, SMDC’s research established that most of those affected by cyber-bullying have no idea that the vice is criminal in Kenya and is punishable by law.

Women leaders targeted?

Cyber-bullying seems to be the modern-day tool used albeit intentionally by men to bring down serving or aspiring women politicians in Kenya.

A good example was in late October 2013 when flamboyant Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko released online a picture of him and the immediate former Nairobi Women’s representative Rachel Shebesh in bed.

Although he never denied or admit that he was the one who leaked the images, it is believed it cost Shebesh her political seat in the subsequent general election. Sonko later played victim claiming that the images almost broke his marriage.

Cyber-bullying in North Eastern

Siyad Udgoon

Early January 2020, Siyad Udgoon who is a human rights crusader in North Eastern and also a Garissa Women Rep hopeful in 2022, was a trending topic for two days as KOT – Kenyans on Twitter tore into her reputation.

This followed a nude video that was purported to be hers and shared in a WhatsApp group by one of the male MPs in North Eastern who it was alleged that he has been dating the Udgoon.

So calculated was the move that bloggers picked up the fabricated story alleging that for sex, the human rights crusader had been promised to be fronted by the famous politician to run for the Garissa Women Representative post come 2022.

Although those responsible for the spread of the fake material were traces and bloggers pulled done the demeaning story, it is an incident that she admits tainted her image and would never wish it on anyone else.

“It is the new form of gender-based violence and it is gaining ground if not well dealt with by the authorities,” Udgoon said in a phone interview.

Fatuma Gedi

Udgoon’s case is a copy and paste of Wajir’s Women Rep Fatuma Gedi who in December 2018 faced a similar incident where a fake sex tape was largely circulated online alleging she was the subject.

However, through her lawyers, they managed to arrest Douglas Mbaya, the blogger behind the manipulation and circulation of the video.

Gedi was also on the floor of the house demanding four Member of Parliament arrested and arraigned in court over the circulated sext tape which she said portrayed her in a bad light.

In her affidavit, she named; Eldas MPs Aden Keynan, Abdihakim Mohammed of Fafi, Isiolo Woman Representative Rehema Jaldesa, and her Kirinyaga counterpart Wangui Ngirici.

Fatuma Kinsi

Gedi’s sentiments were echoed by Fatuma Kinsi Abbas who leads the Pastoralist Girls Initiative (PGI), a Kenyan group that works with Somali girls and women living in  Garissa County.

Kinsi has been organizing and empowering Somali girls and women to be bold and become visible in confronting and stopping violence against the female gender and most importantly challenge traditions that relegate them at the margins of their communities.

Security apparatus/measures

The North-Eastern regional commissioner Nicodemus Ndalana warned that those found going contrary to the law will be dealt with by the full force of law.

“The electioneering period is on the horizon, we are expecting cases of cyber-bullying to resurface but you can rest assured that we have the capacity to deal with the perpetrators head-on, waambie wajaribu”. Ndalana said.

What is the impact of cyber-bullying?

As much as the freedom of expression is enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution under Article 33,  freedom comes with responsibilities that may result in some limitations e.g respect for other people’s rights and reputations.

We spoke to constitutional lawyer Harun Ndubi who said, “Sadly, most of those who engage in cyber-bullying do so unaware of the existing cyber-bullying laws that came into effect late 2017 following enactment of Parliament. It is only after they are arraigned in court that they get to know the repercussions”.

What does the law say about the vice?

Under Article 27 (2) of The Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Bill of 2018, the issue of cyber harassment is addressed as follows;

A person who commits an offense under subsection (1) is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty million Kenya shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or both.

Apart from the content creators, also those who share are not spared by the law. Key to mention is that WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to demean, incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment.

The National Security Council chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta was instrumental in crafting the Bill to provide a legal framework for dealing with online crimes.

“Cyberbullying is connected to extortion and intimidation, when you bully someone without evidence, you are causing that person distress,” said Majority Leader Aden Duale during the passing of the Cyber Crimes Bill of 2018 in Parliament.

Religious leaders take on cyberbullying

“To be honest, I no longer consider social media (with an exception of YouTube) as a good avenue for any Muslim leader. Nowadays people on social media tend to be too emotional, they misunderstand posts easily and have a mob mentality.

We have to admit that we have a challenge on this topic since during the times of the Prophet (SAW) we never had social media. That aside, it should not be translated that men have more rights online than women. We are all equal in the eyes of Allah.” Said an Imam in South B who asked not to be mentioned.

What do activists say?

Noordin Badel who has been a defender of women especially in the North-Eastern region gave his opinion on the weighty issue saying that most of the oppressors in the region have been using religion to oppress women.

“Some of the religious leaders have been using the pulpit to misinform the faithful by misinterpreting hadiths of the Prophet (SAW). It is a shame because a huge percentage of those hadiths that are being misinterpreted was narrated by Muslim women, especially his wives.

The most fundamental aspects of Islam on matters prayers, cleanliness, etc were narrated by women. I am saddened that we have continued to bully our Muslim sisters and look down upon them. It is time we distinguish culture and religion.

“There is a lot of stupidity in some of our people. Actually some still don’t believe that the girl-child should be educated” he ended.

GBV activists raise the alarm

According to research conducted by the Association of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK, at least seven out of ten women journalists in Kenya have been harassed online in their course of work.

Most of the attacks were cyberstalking, sexual harassment, surveillance and unauthorized use and manipulation of personal information including images and videos.

According to that report that was made public last year, 70 percent of the affected female journalists fell victim because of the nature of topics they cover that include, politics, sexuality sports, and lifestyle.

Security analysts’ take

We also engaged Mwenda Mbijiwe, a renowned security analyst who says although Kenya has made strides by joining countries like South Africa and Nigeria in enacting cyber laws that are aimed at combating online bullying especially of women, a lot needs to be done including the establishment of a modern forensic lab to deal with cybercrimes.

“Cyber-bullying is a crime in Kenya. Actually it is threatening the previously safe and secure spaces that were enjoyed online. With the laws put in place, we need to invest heavily in a forensic lab that specifically deals with cybercrimes/atrocities.” Mbijiwe said.

Side effects on the subjects

It is evident that those who use the online platform with specific targets on women, aim at reducing their ability to use the internet for empowerment or development or both.

According to psychologists, there are a lot of side effects of cyber-bullying, the worst being depression and a dented self-esteem to the subject.

Some of the affected can also start getting suicidal thoughts with other avoiding social gathering and even withdrawal from family and the society at large. Others may result in the keeping of social media and any form of digital communication.

Way forward

The Communications Authority of Kenya, CA should come up with modalities to tackle cyberbullying that should include effective constant awareness through both online and offline campaigns aimed at promoting the responsible use of the online platforms plus digital etiquette if not moral hygiene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COVID-19 Situation in Somalia

 Current status

As the globe continues to record increasing cases of Covid-19 infections caused by the dreaded Coronavirus, Somalia to has been contributing to the number of infections that have now surpassed the 4 million mark as of May 9, 2020.

Through its Minister of Health Dr. Fawzia Abukar Nur, Somalia on Thursday 8/5/2020 announced that it had 55 news cases of infections bringing to a total of 928 cases so far, 44 deaths, and 106 recoveries.

With the numbers hurtling toward a thousand mark, the citizens have been cautioned to follow the laid down preventive measures by the World Health Organization, WHO that includes social distancing, sanitizing, regular washing of hands, staying at home, and wearing a facemask when in public.

Why the increase in numbers?

According to Somalia’s Health Ministry, the numbers of infections could be more than what has so far been reported since they greatly depend on the limited laboratory analysis plus most of the locals have adamantly refused to be tested.

The Ministry admits that vigorous lab testing has greatly helped unearth patients suffering from the diseases that have so far claimed 276,215 lives across the planet as of Friday 8th May 2020 according to www.worldmeters.info

The increase has been attributed to the fact that most of the locals have disregarded health guidelines and advice issued to them by medical practitioners.

However, some of the locals have defended their stand arguing that they lack clean water, hand sanitizers, and even blamed the government for not providing facemasks.

The situation has also been made worse by the total disregard of a directive of people staying in their homes. Most of the youths have been seen playing football on the beaches and some even going swimming in the Ocean.

A huge percentage of the locals have been flocking the mosques – praying closely lined up together and some even attending the evening prayers (Taraweeh), being Ramadhan period hence not practicing the social distancing directive. They have also been breaking their fasts together.

Worst hit

According to Dr. Fawzia, Banadir, Puntland, and Hirshablle – which are two of the five semi-autonomous authorities that are members of the federal government of Somalia – are among the worst hit by the virus disease that was first reported in Somalia on the 16th of March 2020 in Mogadishu.

According to its records, Somalia had 26 cases only in the last two weeks a clear indication of the extent of the spread being deeper than earlier thought.

Survey/data analysis

According to a recent analysis of community attitudes and responses to the public health information on Covid-19 conducted by Somalia’s leading Media Network, SMDC, 82% of those involved in the research do not believe Covid-19 really exists. 78% of them being male and 89% female.

Either, according to the data by SMDC that was collected from on-air talk shows, on-ground through Voice of the people (Vox Pops) and online through social media platforms, 32% believe that it is a malady brought by Allah/God.

From the same statistics, 14% are not taking the disease seriously due to lack of awareness, while 5% of those engaged believing that Covid-19 is a severe disease said to affect more the elderly.

The data was collected from residents of Banadir, Puntland, Jubbaland, Hirshabelle, Galmudug, and Southwest regions.

Strides to prevent the spread of Covid-19

Despite the current increase of infections in the larger Somalia region, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo has praised the national committee for the prevention of Coronavirus for its strides so far.

Farmajo also commended the federal government for delivering equipment and material needed to deal with Covid-19 to the member states in the country. He also thanked the friendly countries that offered Somalia much needed help.

“I hereby thank the countries who dared to help our nation at this critical moment of universal health crises,” said the president in a video conference.

The Somalia government also banned all passengers with a travel history through the worst-hit countries from entering Somalia. Among the targeted countries include, China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran.

According to the Somalia Civil Aviation Authority, the measure was taken to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Also, the Al Shabaab extremist group has been warned by various government and non-governmental agencies against blocking access for humanitarian workers. “Allow people to go to hospitals for treatment,” Ahmed Khalif of Action Against Hunger was quoted warning the Al Shabaab leaders.

Overcoming the challenges

Poverty has been named as a major contributing factor hindering Somalia from battling the dreadful virus. The situation got worse after the prices of hand sanitizers shot up drastically, placing it beyond the reach of the poor and vulnerable communities.

However, two of the leading medical staff at the Puntland State University in Garowe saw an opportunity in the scenarios and invented a low-cost sanitizer that has come in handy to the vulnerable communities.

“Responding to the needs of people for hand sanitizers and other disinfectants to prevent COVID-19, I along with my PSU medical colleagues conducted research and invented hand sanitizers which have the chemical components of isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol, and distilled water,” one of its co-inventors, Abdirahman Adan Gambool, a medical researcher and Deputy Dean of PSU’s Faculty of Health Sciences was quoted by United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, UNSOM.

“As per WHO guidelines every antibacterial must contain more than 60 percent of alcohol, and the PSU hand sanitizer has around 75 percent alcohol” he added.

Apart from exploring the manufacturing of hand sanitizer, the University has also been at the forefront of supporting community awareness campaigns about the importance of maintaining basic hygiene and social distancing and demystifying the notion that Covid-19 only affects the elderly.

It is also interesting to note that twenty volunteer doctors from Somalia went to Italy to help fight the coronavirus outbreak

International support

The special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia James Swan has assured Somalia of full support in the fight against Covid-19 that has hit almost all countries across.

In a statement, Swan said, “The UN family in Somalia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Somalia during this testing time. We will continue to support all efforts to address the immediate health and long-term socio-economic impact of COVID-19”.

He also urged all the nationals to unite so as to prevent the spread of the virus with particular attention to the most vulnerable in the community, including internally displaced people, the infirm, and the elderly.

To reinforce the ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19 at the federal and state levels as well as limit the possibility of further spread of the virus, the United Nations has established system-wide operating, medical and support procedures.

A task force has been established to ensure business continuity and agencies have developed a detailed preparedness and response plan in support of the Government’s efforts.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the specialized UN agency for health, also continues to support the Somali health sector by scaling up its operational readiness and response to COVID-19. WHO’s support has been essential to rapidly establish a mechanism for testing and confirmation of suspected cases, and isolating suspected cases to prevent onward transmission.

 

 

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Kenya’s global Somali hub

Business hub

What started off as a residential estate in Eastleigh, Nairobi County has over the years now turned into a business hub employing thousands of Kenyans from all walks of life and in turn, remitting millions of shillings in taxes to the Municipality turned County government.

Though outsiders, Somalis have injected into Eastleigh the do-or-die work ethic characteristic of ‘displaced communities’ and attendant reciprocal relationship built on networks and trust.

Eastleigh morphed into a transnational bazaar powered by pastoralist capital and has since developed tremendously with skyscrapers that hosts countless shopping malls, eateries, and cafes not to mention uncountable shops, all squeezed into a compact 2,000-acre grid.

Despite its locality, it is now home to major local, international, and Islamic banks. It also pays homage to tens of courier companies, airlines and clearing, and forwarding companies. It now boasts of more modern shopping malls that are home for thousands of wholesale and retail enterprises.

Within its diameter, Eastleigh has spawned employment opportunities for other Kenyans who have been employed to run, manage, and guard the multi-billion empires that may soon give meaning to the 24-hour economy. Most of those employed as salespersons, cashiers, waiters, cargo porters, etc, are from neighboring estates that include, Huruma, Kariobangi, Umoja, Buruburu, South B and as far as Komarock.

Despite pundit’s unproven claims that the area has economically prospered due to links with piracy and terrorism, it is also an open secret that the Somalis abroad have been remitting millions of shillings to their relative’s back home to invest in business hence the daily growth and mushrooming of modern malls.

Employment of non-Somalis’

A walk through various stalls, shopping malls, and hotels in the ever-busy Eastleigh area confirms that almost all the waiters, cooks, security guards, and the cashiers are not of the Somali descent.

One would expect that Eastleigh being a predominantly Somali hood and even christened ‘Little Mogadishu’ should have their own running the show. We had an interview with Ibrahim Hussein, the Eastleigh Business Association Chairman.

“Most of our clients come from as far as neighboring countries. We embraced diversity and that has enabled us to thrive in this region for years. Here, our diversity is our strength…” he revealed.

Interestingly, most of the non-Somali employees have taken over their roles perfectly e.g, some employed in the hospitality industry are now able to prepare Somali dishes, such as tender young goat meat, camel stew, and the ubiquitous pizza with ease not to mention speak the Cushitic language.

We spoke to a few working in various hotels in Eastleigh and one of them from Eastern Kenya said, “Wasomali hawabagui mtu, bora unajua kazi na unaifanya kwa uaminifu” to mean (Somalis are not discriminative, so long as you are qualified and trustworthy).

Covid-19 effect on Eastleigh

However, with the April 2020 lockdown after a few positive cases of the COVID-19 were reported in Eastleigh, Ibrahim the Business Association Chairman says business has been down literally.

“We are operating on between 25% and 30% of our normal standards after most of the businesses halted operations in a bid to curb the spread of Coronavirus while others were forced to send off their staffs who either work outside Nairobi or lack customers as was the case before. But Alhamdhulia” he said.

He adds that as of December 2019, the Eastleigh Business Community accounted for around 30% of Nairobi County’s tax revenues and hence the massive support they have been receiving from the County Government in terms of service delivery.

Trust is all it takes

After a visit to various shops, we confirmed what the Eastleigh Community’s Secretary-General Omar Hussein had told us earlier that once one wins a Somali business person’s trust, they are entrusted with a lot which translates to good remunerations.

Posing as would-be customers at Day to Day shopping Mall that is famous for home appliances, carpets, and décor, we interviewed a 28-year-old Emmanuel Wafula who hails from Bungoma.

At the mall, he is a famous electrician, a porter, and a craftsman. He was employed after one of the shop owners at Day to Day was referred to him. Once a customer buys carpets or chandeliers, he tags along to go fix them at the customer’s home as after-sale service.

“Niko radhi nifanye kazi hapa kwa miaka zaidi, hawa wanajua kulinda mfuko wangu, tena wanalipa kabla jaso kukauka, Hakuna dhulma”, (I would rather work here for years, they pay me handsomely plus they pay on time and I have never been shortchanged), says Wafula who hurriedly leaves to attend to a customer checking out on carpet measurements.

Eastleigh, a cut above the rest?

But what sets Eastleigh apart from other business areas in Kenya?

It is believed that most products sold in Eastleigh are cheaper in prices compared to other areas, quality notwithstanding. A Mark Spenser suit that costs Ksh 12,000 at a random shop in Nairobi’s CBD, can be bought at half price in Eastleigh. Same quality if not better. All imported from China, Turkey, and Dubai.

It is also rumored that Somalis are spendthrifts and hence a breeding ground for mushrooming businesses for the non-locals.

The gold souk

However, it is not all businesses that are run by Somalis. The frenetic gold souk is somehow a closely guarded secret. The original gold market predominately ran by Somali women has given the Patels a run for their money.

A section of Garissa Lodge that is famous for the gold business, however, is run by Somali women clad in buibuis and hijabs. Interestingly, they are all sited on low stools in an open veranda each with a matching table that has a sliding transparent glass on top. Contents, real gold jewelry!

However, the area has also employed several hawk-eyed private security guards (non-Somalis) manning the entrance and various spots inside. From a distance, you will notice youthful Somalis waving huge bundles of American Dollars and Kenyan currency, the real mobile Forex exchangers.

Security

In such a thriving economy, one would expect that the crime rate would have doubled if not tripled.

We spoke to one of the top security officials in the area who sort anonymity who revealed that the business area is relatively safe despite the millions of shillings exchanging hand in the larger Eastleigh area.

“We have an active invisible security arrangement that is a real deterrent to robberies that is why crime reports here are minimal,” He said in a phone interview.

Eastleigh, a business hub that lives to the rhythm of present-day job opportunities demands.

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COVID-19 Effects on Refugees in Dadaab Camp

As a regional communication for a development organization, SMDC has delved into the major challenges affecting Dadaab Refugee Camp in North Eastern Kenya that as of 31 March 2020, had 217,511 refugees and asylum-seekers according to UNHCR, in relation to the adverse effects of COVID-19 that has left hundreds of thousands dead across the world.

“Being a global concern, UNHCR has not taken lightly the COVID-19 issue and has since put in place measures to ensure the refugees have access to accurate information and to health advice on how to protect themselves and what to do if they fall sick” said Eujin Byun who is UNHCR’s Kenya Spokesperson/Communications Officer.

“Awareness messaging is a top priority”, she added.

As part of precautionary measures, UNHCR Kenya has also communicated to all staff and stakeholders that all non-essential missions and visits to refugee camps should be deferred until further notice as well as all missions of large delegations of visitors.

Our week-long fieldwork, one on one interviews with a section of the refugees, local area leaders, and a number of community-based organizations has established that sensitization among the refugees has been impactful although a lot more needs to be done.

For most of the locals, it is business, as usual, be it at the local market place, football stadium, social halls or the food vendor kiosks where social distancing remains a distant idea.

“The situation if not controlled can get out of hand as tens of youths have now resulted into flocking the social halls to watch movies and past English Premier League matches without putting into consideration the social distancing aspect”, revealed Chief of Dertu Location, Sub County of Dadaab, Garissa County Mohammed Hutle Buul in a phone interview with SMDC.

 Abdulmalik, a 42-year-old refugee at the camp is among the worried parents who expressed concerns that their school-going daughter risks being married off at a younger age since they are idle and considering that the schools were ordered to be closed indefinitely.

From an earlier interview with Mohammed Abdi, a Dagahaley-based children protection counselor who is contracted by Save the Children, it emerged that most marriages are often kept under wraps.

“The only time you come to realize that an underage girl has been married is when there is a problem or when they come for services” he added.

Apart from social distancing, the 7 pm – 5 am curfew directive issued by the President of Kenya, has done more harm than good to a section of the women at Dadaab who have ended up being victims of domestic violence. We engaged Halima, a 26-year-old who was injured by the husband after asking where he slept on Saturday 11th March 2020 after the curfew hours found him away from his homestead.

While there are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in the camps, UNHCR says it has taken the situation very seriously and is closely monitoring the situation while including the refugees in national preparedness and response plans.

The humanitarian community together with the Government is taking all preventative and precautionary measures to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 for the people we serve while also ensuring that essential activities, to the extent possible, continue, including but not limited to health, nutrition, essential protection services and maintenance of water and sanitation facilities as well as key distributions such as food, fuel, and hygiene products’, the UNHCR’s Kenya Communications Officer revealed in a statement to SMDC.

Despite the efforts by UNHCR in conjunction with WHO and other health partners to scale up the preparedness and response capacities both for refugee population and the host community, much still needs to be done to create constant awareness of the COVID-19 effects to humans since most of those we engaged do not have firsthand information and how to prevent infections.

It is commendable that the health staff at the camp have been receiving training and have been asked to establish a case management system. Also, the needs of local primary health centers have been assessed and support is being provided in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as for the establishment of isolation facilities.

Over and above, the County Government of Garissa that plays host to the refugees needs to work closely with UNHCR and its partners on the ground, emphasizing hygiene as the first line of defense.

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