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Somalia’s path to stability

Summary

Somalia, a country in the horn of Africa, had been without a functioning government for most of the last three decades following clan-based warfare that destroyed the existing political, social, and economic institutions.

Following the clashes, the central government collapsed in 1991 plunging the nation into a decade of lawlessness.

The international community had to step in and in a meeting held in Djibouti in the new Millennium, a political conciliation process was formed and led to the formation of the Transition Federal Government in Somalia, which then had to battle an Islamic movement, Al-Shabaab.

A lot of gains were made despite the many challenges and the country moved from a transition government to a globally recognized government in September 2012, after a new president was elected within the country for the first time since 1991.

However, thousands of its citizens had already fled to Europe, America, and neighboring East Africa nations where they have been settling as asylum seekers or refugees.

Somalis in the Diaspora

Unlike other migrants, Somalis have not left their homes permanently to start a new life in their host countries.

In an age of globalization, characterized by accessible transportation and an effective communication network, the Somali Diaspora has remained very intimately connected with the homeland.

Somalia’s population is estimated at 7.4 million, 14% of the population lives outside the country hence the Somali Diaspora makes a major contribution to the Somali economy and livelihoods through remittances, humanitarian assistance, and participation in recovery and reconstruction efforts.

It is joked that Somalia is a globalized nation since they have spread across the globe although a huge percentage is concentrated in the Gulf States, Denmark, Italy, Swede, Malaysia, Norway, Ohio, and Minneapolis in America, Canada and The United Kingdom which has the largest Somalia community and attracts Somali migrants from elsewhere in the same continent.

Investing back home

The Somali Diaspora is the major investor in the country and provided 80% of the start-up capital for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For-profit activities contribute to economic recovery and improving livelihoods.

According to the IMF, the economy grew by 3.7% in 2014 and it is forecasted to continue on this upwards trajectory for the foreseeable future as the country stabilizes and the many of the estimated 2 million Diaspora returns to Invest in their motherland.

Returnees establish businesses individually or as a group and pool resources or manage a business at the executive level. Investment is spread over various sub-sectors such as small-scale industries, telecommunication, remittances, and trade.

It is not strange to see five-star hotels, banks, industries, Education institutions, etc mushrooming in the cities of Mogadishu, Baidoa, Bosaso, Kisimayu, and Banadir. A huge percentage of these are funded by mostly hard-working Somalia nationals abroad.

However, the remittances have contributed both positively and negatively to the being of present Somalia. In conflict and peacebuilding, the diaspora is a double-edged sword, contributing significantly to both. Financial obligations to support the clan in times of conflict have endured.

Business Facilitation

The Somalia Ministry of Commerce and Industry has launched a one-stop-shop business registration website.

This has reduced the time and costs of registering a business in Somalia.  However, online registration will only be helpful if necessary laws and regulations, such as the Company Law, are in place.

The Somalia government has also broadened the tax base and strengthened tax administration, boosting domestic revenue almost 30% to $184 million in 2018 from a year earlier, and to $54 million for the first quarter of 2019.

Foreign investors

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s 2020 World Investment Report, Foreign Direct Investment inflows to Somalia reached USD 447 million in 2019, up from USD 408 million in 2018.

You will be surprised how many international companies are operating in Somalia, whether they go by their original name or as subsidiaries.

It is not just the locals or natives of Somalia that have invested in the country. Among the foreign ones include British company Soma Oil and Gas that signed an agreement to start exploring the hydrocarbon deposits, Norwegian seismic data specialist Spectrum is also exploring the Somali coast for oil and gas after discoveries were made in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

Turkey has committed USD 400 million in aid to Somalia, a move in accordance with Turkey’s desire to become a regional actor. This aid includes granting scholarships to 2,000 Somali students wishing to pursue their studies in Turkey.

Turkish companies are involved in reconstruction projects (hospitals, government buildings, etc.).

Germany too has the largest subsidiary of a transnational corporation in Somalia, (German Agro Action Office).

Debt relief

The IMF is currently helping Somalia reach debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, under which Somalia has been performing well and meeting benchmarks.

If the country continues its track record of reform and sound economic policies, it is on track to reach the critical Decision Point for debt relief in early 2020. This will make the country eligible to obtain financing from international financial institutions and to avoid the country slipping back to arrears.

Setbacks

The numerous factors that impede foreign direct investments in Somalia include the ongoing violence and political unrest, the largely informal economy, high corruption levels, a lack of central authority jeopardizing rule of law, and lack of basic infrastructure.

According to a report dubbed ‘2020 Doing Business’ issued by the World Bank, Somalia is ranked as the most corrupted country in the world (180 out of 180 economies) according to Transparency International.

Lack of proper working systems have also become an impediment in the realization of making Somalia great again.

Somalia has been in arrears to the IMF for over three decades the second-longest period of protracted arrears (after Sudan) in IMF history rendering it ineligible to receive financial assistance from the IMF or the World Bank Group.

Conclusion

Somalia has the longest coast in Africa, one of the most reliable broadband in the Horn of Africa, 8.9 million hectares of arable land, a young and increasingly educated workforce.

In addition, Somalia has one of the best winds and solar radiation in the world and a telecommunications sector that if well tapped could attract many investors.

With its strategic location in the Gulf of Aden, it has the potential to return to its former role as a gateway of trade, commerce and logistics by connecting lucrative markets in the Middle and Far East as well as landlocked neighboring States with over hundreds of millions of ready customers.

The Somali government needs to create the conducive environment to attract foreign investment at the center of all our socio-economic and development policies.  Engaging the Somali Diaspora to achieve our social and economic goals is also key.

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Online gambling ruining the youth

Introduction

Betting in its simplest definition is the action of gambling money on the outcome of a race, game, or other unpredictable events with an uncertain outcome, with the primary intent of winning. In Kenya, betting is mostly associated with football matches.
Although the matches are played thousands of kilometers away, mostly in European cities, the youths in Kenya have found a way to resonate with the matches with some even turning it into a full-time occupation.
According to a 2019 GeoPoll survey, Kenya had the highest number of betting youth in sub-Saharan Africa with at least 76 percent of them having participated in gambling. Winners of jackpots worth millions of shillings have been a propeller to escalating numbers of those drawn to the game.
The situation is dire considering the number of unemployed youths not forgetting the percentage of those who love football making betting opium on which the youths get hooked and drown in this misery.

Betting in North Eastern Kenya

A case in point is a dust cybercafé in Mororo, at the border of Garissa and Tana River Counties.
Equipped with only 6 computers, stable internet, and posters of famous footballers dangling precariously in the walls. Talk of Messi, Mohammed Salah, Yaya Toure, Saido Mane just to mention but a few.
Had one visited this café a few months ago, he or she would have been forgiven for mistaking it for being a polling station or classroom going by the beehive activities with the customers glued to the computer monitors.
Youths in their tens would be lining up to place their bets online while some study the match analysis awaiting the big European matches.
Booming business

Kinyua, a famous businessman in the area remembers with nostalgia how several months ago he would pocket thousands of shillings from the youths who would throng his cybercafé to no end.
“I was even looking for a bigger premise near the Garissa Primary School to accommodate more customers. The youth here love football and with the introduction of betting, it even drew more of them closer to the screens”, he said.
But this was before the introduction of the 20 percent excise duty on sports betting companies in Kenya.
Kinyua confesses that he witnessed hundreds of youths winning good cash from bets they placed but also questioned their source of ‘capital’.
“It is not a cheap affair considering that betting is addictive. Many of those who lost bets could sink into depression, distress, and other anxiety-related problems. I would open my café at 7 am and past midnight” remembers Kinyua.
Cybercafés were no longer Internet places where people went to search or apply for a job and update their Cvs or even research. They all turned into betting dens.

Gaming analysts
So addictive was betting in parts of North Eastern Kenya that it created room and opportunities for adept ‘seasoned analysts’ who would predict the match results on behalf of their customers.
The successfully ran online advisory chats on Telegram and WhatsApp applications where those who subscribed had to commit a certain percentage of their win with the admins.
However, the most preferred channel according to a local administrator in Garissa who sought anonymity was Telegram because one’s contact details are not exposed to everyone. Unlike WhatsApp, where, if you have to belong to a chat group, you must share your mobile phone number.
Relief to parents

Late last year when the Kenyan government introduced the 20 % excise duty on the multibillion-shilling sports betting companies, a move that saw the two biggest players in the betting industry close shop. Hundreds who were directly or indirectly employed lost their jobs after the big players called it quits.
However, it was a blessing in disguise for parents who had lost control of their kids addicted to betting.
Mohammed Warsame, a father of six and in his mid-sixties, was the happiest of them all. Two of his sons had completely been immersed in betting and would do anything possible to get cash to bet in the UEFA champions league matches.
“Their mother once told me that they placed a bet of Ksh 6,500 in one of those matches and they lost it. They both sunk into depression and remained glumly for some days. You cannot prevent this generation from participating in such. You lock them in the homestead but still, they use their smartphones to bet”, says Warsame.
Suicide cases have as well been reported in other parts of the country where people have committed suicide after losing bets worth thousands of shillings.
U-turn
However, the vice may soon regain its pomp if the recent move by the state is anything to go by.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the government had scrapped out the 20% excise duty on sports betting. The tax was quietly removed in suspicious last-minute changes to the Finance Bill that was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in early July.
This means the betting industry has been given six months to enjoy lower taxes. The law does not allow the reintroduction of a Bill until after six months.
However, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani says the excise tax was removed through the Finance Act 2020, but the government had not reneged on its commitment to the taxation of the betting industry.
Yatani who once served as the Governor of Tana River County (also affected by the betting menace) has now turned the spotlight on the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning which presided over the suspect changes.
“The removal of this tax happened during the committee stage of the Bill. Following various consultations in line with the government’s commitment to mitigating against the social vices associated with betting activities, the National Treasury and Planning will be proposing to the National Assembly the reintroduction of excise duty on betting within the next six months,” Yatani said in a statement.
Conclusion

It is the government prerogative to remain committed to supporting the youth engage in productive activities through various programmes like Kazi kwa vijana and help regulate betting industries that have already resulted in serious effects, including loss of jobs, failed relationships, mental problems like depression, anxiety, and severe debt.
It should be stressed that betting can easily lead to illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, and theft to finance gambling.
Parents and guardians too have a role in educating their young ones on the adverse effects of gambling not forgetting ways of getting a halal income through hard work.

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Sanity needed in the Gulf of Aden

Brief background

Stories of Somalia refugees drowning in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea aboard rickety and fully packed boats is not only heart wrenching and horrifying but a wakeup call to humanity in matters migrants.

Hundreds of lives have been lost across the channel as the refugees try to cross illegal to Yemen and Europe, many of them being teenagers with a bleak future.

According to the latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of November 2019, more than 1,221 refugees had lost their lives or had been reported missing in the sea due to various reasons that include, sea accidents, fatigue, bad weather, and worn-out boats, etc.

Somalia has a large diaspora, with many Somalis in Europe and the United States, after fleeing decades of conflict back home. As the Western-backed government seeks and continues to rebuild the Horn of Africa country, Islamist insurgency remains a huge battle to be won by the Mohammed Farmajo led state.

Islamist Al Shabaab rebels have claimed responsibility of gun and bomb attacks in various towns particularly in the capital Mogadishu, where some hardy Somalis business people are returning from abroad to invest.

Case study

Meet 29-year-old Abdulmalik, (not his real name) whose brother was lured by smugglers in Puntland to travel by sea to Yemen, over 1,500km away.

On that fateful morning, his brother disappeared from their homestead never to be seen again. They were days later informed by his peers that he was among the 60 Somali and Ethiopian migrants who drowned in the shark-infested Gulf of Aden while trying to cross over to Yemen.

His late brother had parted with not less than $ 500 to smugglers who promised him a better life in the oil-rich Gulf countries. The journey kicked off at 3 pm in a makeshift boat fully packed with optimistic Somali youths hoping to make it away from their war ton country.

Their overcrowded boat that left the port of Bossasso in northern Somalia capsized 15 minutes into its journey, spilling all passengers into the sea. Not even the few life jackets could help them as they were carried away by the strong tides.

“The Yemeni coastguard, which arrived at the scene several hours after the first boat capsized, had saved about 40 people. Initially, it was thought that 30 people had died. But after piecing together information from survivors, UN officials realized the death toll was far higher”, said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

Why the risk?

The sole reason of them risking their lives to such hazardous trips to overseas is to look for greener pastures after escaping the worn-torn nation while some seek to reunite with their loved ones who made it to Yemen and Europe either legally or illegally.

A huge percentage of those opting to flee for safer havens are reliant on heavily biased sources of information from either the smugglers who stand to profit from the journey or untruthful feedback from relatives or friends in Europe that paints an unrealistically positive picture of life in Europe.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHRC says on its website that Yemen is one of the popular destinations for Somalis fleeing at home although the trips are always a risk as the smugglers use boats that are not seaworthy.

“The largest loss of life between the waters of Somalia and Yemen since 2008, was on 23rd of February 2011 when 114 people drowned after smugglers forced them into the water. The sole survivor, (a 42-year-old man) who lost his wife and three children on the vessel, swam for a whole day before reaching the Yemeni coast”, UNHCR said.

Mitigations

So far the cases of asylum-seekers, migrants, and refugees taking the risk to cross the seas have drastically declined since its peak in 2015, thanks to efforts by humanitarian organizations operating in Somalia.

Among those on the forefront is UNHCR which has since rolled out an information campaign titled Telling the Real Story which is aimed to inform communities in Somalia of the full scope of the perils and difficulties of such a journey.

The community-based campaign that was rolled out in Berbera, Borama, Burao, Gabiley, Hargeisa, and Wajaale, sought to raise awareness among people, especially youth, to make an informed choice or decision about their movement and/or future plans but not stop them from moving.

The campaign has yielded fruits after successfully providing a counter-narrative, and enlightening the community of the full scope of the dangers associated with the irregular movement to Europe, revealing the challenges and problems related to living in Europe without proper documentation.

Through the same dialogues, the youths have been sensitized on the legal safe pathways to Europe, informed about the opportunities in Somalia while debunking the myths about life in Europe.

Somalia too has beefed up security patrols in its waters especially in the main smuggling town in Bossaso, which is on the Puntland coast. The police have cracked down on the trade by deporting some of the thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis who arrived there in the hope of finding passage abroad.

The coastguard in Yemen has also increased its patrols.

Repatriation

With Yemen experiencing prolonged conflict and civilians facing life-threatening conditions, the situation for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in the country has deteriorated significantly.

According to the UNHCR website, more than 4,800 Somali refugees have now returned home from Yemen since the UN Refugee Agency, commenced an Assisted Spontaneous Return (ASR) program in 2017.

In the latest departure, a boat carrying 114 Somali refugees left the Port of Aden on Monday and arrived at the Port of Berbera in Somalia in October last year.

Most of those who were returned expressed their optimism about a new life in Somalia and were hopeful that they will be able to secure their livelihoods by starting businesses.

“An increasing number of Somali refugees have been approaching us for help to return home. After years of life in exile, the decision to return is a difficult one to make but given prevailing conflict insecurity and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Yemen many tell us they are ready to go back and are hopeful about the future,” said Gwendoline Mensah, UNHCR’s Assistant Representative in Yemen.

Conclusion

Despite the present security developments in the post-transition period, it is critical to find lasting and sustainable peace in Somalia to stop people from putting their lives at risk by undertaking dangerous journeys across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better life.

The authorities in Somali both at the national, regional, and local levels need to renew their efforts to address the root causes of the smuggling and trafficking of its locals.

There is also a need for the UN organizations and special rapporteurs on the ground to increase their efforts in raising awareness about the dangers of the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden.

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Rogue online forex traders mushrooming in Somalia

Definition

The foreign exchange market or better known as the Forex market is a global decentralized market for the trading of currencies. This market determines foreign exchange rates for every currency. It includes all aspects of buying, selling, and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices.

Basically, forex trading is the buying and selling of currencies against each other.

However, if you are a beginner, be cautious since forex products are complex and very risky, thus not suitable for everyone. One can easily lose all of their invested money if they don’t analyze or have a clue how forex trading works

How forex trading works:

Any interested trader can access the forex market for free through a dealer or commonly known as a broker who offers the trading platform.

The interested party will be required to open a free trading account with the dealer and deposit capital into the account, however, the capital can differ in an amount from time to time which is also determined by the amount of investment sort.

From the trading platform offered by the dealer, a trader is able to access the live market in real-time as it is happening across the globe. From the platform, the trader chooses the items he/she wishes to trade-in based on personal preference, capital size, or risk appetite.

However, it is not only currencies/cash that is traded on the forex trade market as one has the liberty to trade in minerals such as gold and diamond, commodities and indices that are offered in the forex market, albeit under different segments.

From this point, the trader has to analyze the segment he is interested in and choose whether to buy or sell a certain quantity and wait for the market to either follow their analysis where they either make a profit or a loss depending on their analysis.

For investors who have little knowledge of the trading scene, they can choose a broker to work with by checking out online for a tailored recommendation on any forex website and choose the country they are interested in trading.

What makes a good forex broker?

The first and most important quality of a good forex broker has to be fair trading fees and low withdrawal fees. He/she should allow you to deposit funds and withdraw your earnings hassle-free.

The trader should also have a good understanding of the market and that includes the hitches, highs, and lows.

A high level of security is key since you will be handing over thousands of dollars to a person who simply claims he’s legit. One should check the brokers’ credibility through regulatory agencies that separate the trustworthy from the fraudulent.

Forex trade, a booming business in Somalia

The mushrooming of forex traders in Somalia is/was alarming and a cause to worry since many of those conducting the business are not legit or are unregulated.

The situation escalated in 2019 forcing the Central Bank of Somalia to halt and order the closure of Forex trading companies’ accounts in all commercial banks across Somalia. The decision was informed by intelligence that most forex bureaus have been used to cleanse and dispatch illegal money and also encourage money laundering.

“All commercial banks should, with immediate effect surcease bank accounts owned by forex trading companies and submit their names and all monies held in the accounts,” a circular from the Central Bank Governor dated 23rd December 2019 read in part.

The Central Bank also asked the financial institutions not to hold banking accounts for any firms involved in currency trading.

“This is to inform you that the Board of Directors of the Somali Central Bank, in its 43rd session held on 28-10-2019, has issued resolution number 43/G, which directs all private commercial banks in the country to close the accounts of all Foreign Exchange (Forex) traders,” the statement signed by the bank’s Deputy Governor, Maryam Abdullahi Yusuf said.

Crackdown on the forex bureaus

There is currently no regulatory framework governing online forex trading in Somalia, explaining the neck-break speed at which the forex bureaus are mushrooming in cities like Mogadishu, Banadir, Bosaso, and Kisimayu.

Earlier in October 2019, the Somali security forces raided online forex centers in Mogadishu. They raided three offices of a company called Camel Online Forex and directed the immediate closure of their business.

The crackdown did not stop locals trading forex on platforms operated by foreign brokers, which appear to be exploiting regulatory loopholes, notably that their business is based offshore.

However, those in the business insist that not all the apples are rotten. The booming business has attracted thousands of investors especially Somalis living abroad.

According to www.brokerchooser.com, which is the most visited site in Somalia for those interested in forex business, XTB is listed as the top forex brokers in 2020 for Somali citizens.

XTB is a global forex broker with headquarters in London and Warsaw and is regulated by several financial authorities worldwide, including the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). XTB is also listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

Use of social media

With the ever-growing digital space, a great number of sham Forex traders, using sponsored adverts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram, continue to filch millions of hard-earned savings of hapless ‘investors’.

The scammers prey on unsuspecting subscribers by using a number of irresistible adjectives with alluring adverts and fake testimonials that lead the unwary to believe that he/she is dealing with a bonafide, international forex platform.

Fake messages of happiness from, seemingly, relieved ‘investors’ are also posted and shared widely on social media as proof that the schemes work.

Those targeted are mostly Somalis abroad who are lured by bynames in remittance that they trust unreservedly, the likes of Dahabshil, Talk Remit, World Remit, etc. appearing in the list is more than an adequate guarantee to save, quick delivery, which many times is not the case.

Billions of investments go under

A huge percentage of Somalis who invested in quick money schemes fashioned as forex trading companies are yet to recover from the shock that befell them after a number of the companies announced indefinite closure amid what they term as ‘loss of money’.

One such company is Forex 252 in Mogadishu which issued a stark notice to its clients late February 2020 through its manager Mohamed Tahlil. ‘We are very sorry to inform you this but it is necessary to do so. We lost all our money in our account”.

“We had $157,000 for our clients and together with ours, the total was $252,000 and we lost all,’ added Mohamed in a WhatsApp group message to his company’s investors.

Star Media Development Centre, SMDC has established that the story of Forex 252 is just one among others which could be facing a similar fate as fears emerge that what has been going on a forex trade was actually a pyramid scheme.

 

 

 

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Somalia 60th Independence Day

 

Celebrations

At the stroke of midnight and as the calendar turned to 1st of July 2020 biding bye to the month of June, there were ululations as the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia burst into a frenzy. It is the 60th anniversary of its independence.

The celebrations come in the backdrop of clan conflicts, Al Shabaab menace, civil wars not forgetting secessions for Africa’s most culturally-homogeneous country that gained independence on the 1st day of July 1960.

Somalia was colonized by European powers in the 19th century. Britain and Italy established the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland in 1884 and 1889, respectively. These two Somali lands eventually united and gained 60 years ago, today.

Cream de la cream of today’s ceremony was at the heartbeat of Mogadishu where at 12:01 am, the soldiers lead a flag-raising ceremony amid cheers from thousands of locals mostly dressed in blue dresses and macawiis with a visible milk-white star – resembling Somalia’s flag.

It is a big day in Somalia.

Congratulatory messages

The 60th anniversary has been a trending topic on almost all social media outlets with hundreds of contributors wishing nothing but the best to the war-torn county with some openly admiring the resilience of Somalia people, their tribulations notwithstanding.

Among those who poured out their messages was The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan who in a tweet said;

‘As Somalia celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence, the UN in Somalia salutes the courage, resilience and national pride of Somalis over the past six decades, and will remain at their side to provide support as their country progresses’.

It is both a nostalgic and celebratory mood as the Somali people who still hang on hope praying that one day, they will enjoy peace and stability in their motherland.

Strides so far

Apart from the negative stories both on an offline that are told about the country in the horn of Africa, there are more positive stories about her other than the negative ones that have been dominating both local and international headlines.

a). Health care

Healthcare in Somalia is largely in the private sector. It is regulated by the Ministry of Health of the Federal Government of Somalia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower respiratory infections are still the leading cause of deaths in Somalia, followed by diarrhea diseases, measles, malnutrition, tuberculosis, meningitis, and maternal conditions.

Under the stewardship of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the Somalia government has also made good progress in matters of health by heavily investing in hospitals that include; maternity, theatres, clinics, etc. across the region.

According to the official twitter account of Dr. Fawziya Abikar who is the Minister of Health & Social Care- Federal Republic of Somalia, a lot has been achieved under the leadership of Farmajo who has served as the 9th and current President of Somalia since 16 February 2017.

“Great pleasure to see rehabilitated delivery rooms of Banadir Mother &Child hospital- Mogadishu. Monthly, an average of 400 to 500 women delivers there with zero cost. Duty to provide basic rights of women.” She said in a tweet an hour before the stroke of midnight.

b). Social services

A decade ago, who would have thought a football tournament would be hosted in Somalia? Worst still Mogadishu? Many would have dismissed it as a bad distant dream.

But today, the Somalia government celebrated the reopening of Mogadishu Soccer Stadium with the first kick-off match in 16 years. The reopening ceremony was led by President Farmajo who said;

“When I Last visited our ruined historic Stadium Mogadishu; the words ‘Dal waliba dadkiisa dhisaa’ written, instilled hopes and belief in our Somali spirit to revive it. We are all very proud to see Mogadishu Stadium restored by the sweat and sacrifice of our people and partners”.

The situation has been replicated in other provinces that include but not limited to; Hargeisa, Banaadir, Bosaso lower and middle Shebelle, and Gedo.

Social media pages are also awash with well-captured images of youths playing football at the beach while some result in swimming as they unwind.

c). Education

It is believed that a nation that invests in its citizens’ education, will forever prosper. Maybe this is the reason for mushrooming of both primary, secondary, tertiary, and universities across Somalia.

Among the best performing universities in Somalia includes; Jaamacadda Camuud (Amoud University) is located in the urban setting of the small city of Borama, Princeton International University and Aden Adde International University both in Banaadir, Mogadishu University, University of Hargeisa, Jobkey University, Benadir University and Eelo University among many others.

“The commitment, zeal, and determination shown by the Somali Prime Minister is the foundation of successes and realization of impressive outcomes that we are witnessing despite the myriad of challenges facing the country”. Commented Alinur Salad who is the Director of Media and Information in the office of the Prime Minister during the inauguration of the newly rehabilitated Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

d). Peace and stability

Backed by the AU and international donors, Somalia has gradually succeeded in building a working political system and government institutions, hosted around the fortified Green Zone area in Mogadishu’s international airport.

Attempts to bring peace to Somalia have seen several interim civilian regimes installed between 1991 and 2000. The Transitional Federal Government established in 2004 eventually managed to assume control of most of the nation’s southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union.

The international community maintains a presence in the country through various non-governmental organizations supported by the UN, UKAID among others that have been helping nearly five million Somalis that rely on food aid to survive.

AMISOM too has also deployed its soldiers in a quest to quell the Al Shabab menace. The United States is one of the key security partners in Somalia, along with Turkey, and is now playing a crucial role in helping Somalia build a strong national army.

According to this year’s UN country report on Somalia, although the security situation remains volatile, the number of civilian casualties has generally decreased despite Al-Shabaab’s increased high-profile attacks.

However, diaspora communities have over the years remitted cash back home as they invest in rebuilding the shattered state.

From Star Media Development Centre, Happy 60th Independence Day Somalia!

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World Refugee Day 2020

This years’ World Refugee Day was marked in low keys across the globe as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions that have totally shut down and crippled the globe – literally.

The event, held on 20 June each year, was designated by the United Nations to honor the courage, determination, and resilience of millions of those who have been forced to abandon their homes and flee persecution and conflict.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the end of 2019, at least 79.5 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide.

Why is World Refugee Day important?

World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights, needs, and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilize political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive and hence the activities held on World Refugee Day create opportunities to support refugees.

History of the celebrations

World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.

Since its inception, the United Nations and more than 100 countries have observed World Refugee Day annually on June 20th.

Statistics

According to the latest statistics on the UNHCR website, there are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world. More than 21 million of these people are refugees and 10 million are stateless.

On average, 42,500 people per day flee their homes to seek protection within the borders of their own country or other countries. In the last year alone, there have been 13.9 million people newly displaced.

86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries. This number has jumped by 16% in the last decade. Refugees only account for a tiny percentage of overall immigration.

The world’s largest refugee camp is located in Dadaab, Kenya, which is home to more than 329,000 people. The camp has been threatened with closures due to potential security risks.

Of the 20 million refugees worldwide, 51% are under the age of 18. This is the highest number of child refugees since World War II.

Low Key celebrations

Compared to the usual pomp and color that is always witnessed during this annual celebration, 2020 has been different from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR taking to social media to urge the World to stand with the refugees under the hashtag #WithRefugees.

Under the hashtag, the UN Refugee Agency managed to amplify and engage the public with its global public advocacy campaign for human rights, equal opportunity, and observance of the right to a decent life for every human being.

In observance of the laid down precautions by the World Health Organization, WHO, the ceremony this year was not held in the camps and public barazas across the nation where Human Rights activists, government officials, and even the refugees get an opportunity to deliver their messages and action plan.

Dadaab and Kakuma camps

In Kenya, the largest refugee camps i.e. Dadaab and Kakuma both in North Eastern Kenya, the marking of the World Refugees Day 2020 were marked with campaigns aimed at highlighting the dangers of COVID-10 and ways of prevention.

The health workers from different umbrella organizations went around the camps explaining the importance of wearing facemasks while in public, washing hands regularly, and maintaining the 1.5-meter social distancing rule by WHO.

“Being the World Refugee Day – an important moment to highlight the risks of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Refugees are particularly at risk of COVID-19 because they often have limited access to adequate shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation, and health services. We have a shared duty to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to the transmission of COVID-19 among refugee populations”-said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who is the World Health Organization Director-General in his message to the world.

He further urged governments to help in reducing and flattening the curves of the Coronavirus infections adding that refugees are among the most vulnerable considering their locality and lack of proper health facilities to cater to the patients.

 

 

 

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Somalia’s COVID-19 response; a change to online learning

Introduction
Schooling from home or remote learning has been adopted by various governments and states across the world as a measure to contain and control the spread of Covid-19.
Somalia too joined the bandwagon as schools made a fast transition to remote learning amid the outbreak of the Coronavirus crisis as nations came up with directives to curb further infections. It is a move that has been a decidedly mixed success depending on the ability of a student to access the learning materials away from a physical classroom.
Worst hit is the lower primary pupils followed by this in higher education institutions like; Mogadishu University and SIMAD University, the campus of Plasma University in Mogadishu that has more than 4,000 students and 170 people on the teaching faculties.
In this feature story, we breakdown on Somalia’s ability to sustain effectively remote learning by checking its internet connectivity, views from students, education experts, and even teachers who carry the task to deliver effective learning to hundreds of students.
What really happened in remote learning?
Education experts say that remote learning is not new in the western countries since learning institutions have been carrying out revisions/assignments from the online platform thanks to high-speed internet connectivity within their homes.
Basically, a teacher sets homework or exams before sharing them through an internet portal, and the students once complete, returns using the same medium for marking and assessment. It works mostly during the holiday period.
At times, the teacher can engage all the students at a go through video calls or share learning materials through a common portal accessed by all those targeted.

Somalia’s internet connectivity
Somalia established its first ISP in 1999, one of the last countries in Africa to get connected to the Internet. However, growth in internet connectivity has since then grown considerably, with around 53% of the entire nation covered as of 2009.
The situation was expected to be much better following the passing of the National Communications Law in October 2017, aimed at setting a legal and regulatory framework for the telecoms sector.
The Law made provision for a National Communications Agency charged with encouraging market competition and overseeing the use of ICTs in promoting economic development. A Director for the Agency was appointed in February 2018.
Consequently, Somalia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to provide many improved services, though international bandwidth remains very limited.

Online schooling in Somalia
Since the beginning of the pandemic, various schools in Somalia have gone to great lengths to provide their students with digital services to make remote learning a success.
However, those benefiting are the once in major towns like Mogadishu and Bosaso where they can access high-speed internet connectivity within their confines.
This means that those students in remote areas who cannot afford the internet have already fallen behind academically over the past several months, and will only further trail their better-connected classmates.

Reality on ground
SMDC’s reporter in Somalia conducted a one on one interview with one of the teachers’ in Mogadishu, Mr. Ciise and he started by asking the impact of Covid-19 to the learning institutions in Somalia.
“It is a challenging if not frustrating task since not all of our students come from an able family that has stable or internet at home. This pandemic has made it difficult to continue with the normal class lessons hence we have resulted in sharing learning materials online”, he said.
During the interview, the teacher reminds us of in 2018 when the internet services were disrupted in the whole country (Somalia) after a ship cut the undersea internet cables. He says those affected were students in colleges and universities since most of their work is research-based and assignments submitted online to their lecturers.

Challenges faced by teachers
From the interview, SMDC established the huge challenge teachers have to go through to ensure uniformity among all the students as they progress academically.
“Some of the students have caught up with the new model, however, some who are the majority are not. For example, I can send out a lesson to all the students but three days later, a student will tell you they didn’t receive the learning materials”, a frustrated Mr. Ciise reveals.
With the prospect of schools having to continue with remote learning in some fashion for the 2020-21 school year, these students’ lack of high-speed connectivity will continue to be a major issue, and it must be addressed soonest.
Poor coordination
Another major challenge he says is a lack of coordination since all the students are at their homes engaged in different activities.
“Unlike when we are in class, where I can monitor class attendance and concentration, things are different when we are using soft wares like ZOOM to teach our students.
Once you start your lesson, you establish that not all students are logged in, and even those privileged to be online, have different engagements; some will be in their bedrooms, the girls will be cooking while others will complain of slow internet connectivity in their home”. Said Mr. Ciise.
Internet security
The teachers in Somalia are also afraid that the modern technology is not safe at all since intruders can take advantage of the situation. Users of soft wares such as Skype and ZOOM always face a threat of leaked passwords and hacker hijacking video calls midway through conferences.
Also, some of the pupils complained of the poor, unpredictable video quality saying most of the time the videos are often blurry and pixelated and at times the audio quality can deteriorate. Some also argued that soft wares are not user friendly.
Timeliness
Mr. Ciise says getting all the students to order for a lesson has not been a walk in the park.“Recently, I had an online class, once I logged into the video chat, I saw student lying on his bed, another one in the kitchen cooking, they are not paying attention to the ongoing class. Some would even log out and then later claim they didn’t see my messages because they were offline. It is frustrating”, he said,
Poverty
SMDC has established that poverty is a major contributing factor to the success of online schooling since not all students come from an able background.
The teacher revealed that most of the students cannot afford smartphones or the internet in their homes hence will never catch up with those who can afford it. It is a delicate balance but they are forced to go on with those who can afford in order to complete the school calendar curriculum.
Exams cheating
The teachers agree unanimously that they cannot curb cheating in exams or assignments with the students learning from home. It is next to impossible since the teacher cannot follow up on almost all the students to establish if they are cheating or not.
It is precedence that many education experts are afraid will greatly affect the quality of education not only in Somalia but across the globe.

The way forward?
Mr. Ciise believes the whole weight lies in the shoulders of the federal system and time to act is now since all indicators show that the Covid-19 pandemic will be with us for some months to come.
“If the federal system comes up with the right decision it can be managed, and avail free internet to anyone who can pay for their computer in small portions (hire purchase) and the education system will be sustained”, he suggested.
There is also a need to come up with educational apps that will be loaded on to the laptops of both students and lecturers, and the latter provided with training on virtual teaching.

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COVID-19 a disaster in waiting for IDPs in Somalia

The total number of Covid-19 infections across the world stands at 7.1 million as of June 9th, 2020 at 01:57 GMT according to the Worldometer website, with Somalia contributing 2,368 of the cases.

Health experts warn that the pandemic poses a substantial threat considering the large population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Somalia with 2.6 million in displacement camps across the country, half of them in Mogadishu.
The rest are scattered in IDP sites in Hargeisa, Doolow, Baidoa, Kismayo, Banadir-Deynile, and Banadir-Khada.
However, with only 84 deaths so far, the escalating number of infections can be controlled if at all those in the camps will adhere to the laid down guidelines by World Health Organization that includes but not limited to; sanitizing, washing hands regularly, maintaining social distancing and above all always wearing a facemask in public.
Somalia has the second-highest number of positive cases in East and Horn of Africa. Although the majority of the cases are in the Banadir region, the number reported in other parts of the country is increasing. Cases continue to be under-reported, and according to WHO, the actual rates are likely to be higher.

IDPs among the most vulnerable

The conditions in IDP camps in Somalia lack the much-needed prerequisites in preventing Covid-19 infections which can spread like bushfire considering the circumstances in the camps. Apart from the old and sickly, the IDPs are now clustered among the vulnerable groups in the Coronavirus menace.
SMDC has established that the camps especially in Mogadishu lack health care facilities, sanitation, and washing facilities which is indeed a breeding ground for the spread of the deadly virus that has claimed 408,615 lives across the globe – by the time of going to press.
The raging floods witnessed in late May this year in parts of Somalia have made the Covid-19 situation in some of the IDP camps more unbearable. Several families were displaced on the outskirts of Beletweyn town in southern Somalia’s Hiran region. Over 250 families were affected at the Halane camp forcing the IDPs to seek temporary shelter elsewhere.
Heavy flooding, conflict, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms, and the exponential spread of COVID-19 are threatening the safety and welfare of Somalia’s 2.6 million internally displaced people.
”At the start of this year, more than 220,000 Somalis have become internally displaced, including 137,000 due to conflict, natural and climate-related disasters including drought and resulting lack of livelihoods and floods are additional complex and interlinked drivers of displacement,” UNHCR reported in May 2020.
According to the latest research on Covid-19 response assessment in risk communication and community engagement in IDP sites in Somalia, conducted by Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM) partners and IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), most of the IDPs lack the much needed basic knowledge on Covid-19.
As per their findings, the vast majority of IDPs respondents have heard of COVID-19 with 98% acknowledging the importance of preventing the virus’ transmission within targeted communities.
However, 35% of respondents in Kahda and 29% of respondents in Deynile expressed not knowing anything about the disease.
Also, COVID-19 misinformation appears highest in Kismayo and Hargeisa as the majority of participants believe that COVID-19 is transmitted through mosquito bites or blood transfusion.
48% of those interviewed depend on Radio as a source of information on Covid-19, 46% on humanitarian aid workers (46%) while the rest depend on Facebook, SMS, and TV for obtaining COVID-19 information.

Mitigations
Various efforts have contributed to containing the spread of the Covid-19 in Somalia resulting in 470 recovery cases so far. Health experts warn that the situation could have been worse.

Donations
Various measures have been put in place by several NGOs including the different arms of the United Nations in Somalia that have committed to work with the authorities to ensure the needs of the internally displaced persons are addressed.
From such interventions, the IDPs have received food and cash donations with some benefiting from livelihood opportunities that have strengthened their social protection networks.
According to an official statement from UNHCR, over 8,600 persons have already received unconditional cash grants to restore their livelihood. Among them are hundreds of returnees and displaced persons who have lost their employment due to the pandemic.

Moratorium on evictions
It is no doubt that the evictions of vulnerable individuals especially IDPs, refugees, and returnees can represent an even greater threat.
According to statistics by UNHCR, over 64,000 persons have been forced to leave their homes as a result of evictions this year alone and hence the organization has been working with the Federal Government for a nationwide moratorium on evictions during the period of response to COVID-19.
Ventilators
IOM has been lauded for providing ventilators to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients in Mogadishu and the larger Somalia. The machines were handed over to the Federal Government of Somalia earlier this month.
However, the nine ventilators are a drop in the ocean considering the increasing number of infections in Somalia plus the slow rate of testing for the Covid-19.
Already an Intensive Care Unit has been set up at the De Martino Hospital, which is Somalia’s main public hospital designated by the country’s Ministry of Health to cater to Coronavirus cases.
“We appreciate the crucial support provided by The International Organization for Migration, IOM, Somali Humanitarian Fund, SHF and all other partners working with the Federal Government of Somalia to contain the spread COVID-19 and to provide life-saving treatment to our people,” said Dr. Fawziya Abikar Nur, Minister for Health and Human Services. During the handover ceremony held at the hospital.
Isolation facilities
For a country with an extremely fragile health care system, much needs to be done to arrest the situation considering that the present infrastructure is not sufficient to sustain a major outbreak.
The setting up of isolation facilities is commendable as it has helped mitigate the exposure of the virus since the first case was reported in Somalia on March 16 this year.
Capacity buildings/campaigns
The Ministry of Health in Somalia in conjunction with IOM have launched a campaign dabbed #SomaliaReponds that aims to raise USD 100,000 to buy medical equipment and supplies for De Martino Hospital and other medical facilities across the country
IOM has also pledged to continue with such campaigns aimed at elevating the health care system in Somalia. “We will continue supporting the health authorities in Somalia to ensure that no one is left behind in the COVID-19 response,” said Richard Danziger, Chief of Mission for IOM Somalia.
UNHCR awareness
So far, over 242,000 persons have been informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, including about prevention and recommended actions if an individual is symptomatic.
260 IDP leaders have already received training to increase their capacity to prevent and respond to COVID-19 concerns in their IDP sites. They are now raising awareness in their IDP sites about COVID-19.
Emergency hotlines
Since the pandemic, UNHCR has continued to run 10 phone lines that persons in need can use to request assistance or get more information about COVID-19.
The establishment has been lauded since it reduces face-to-face contact and viral transmission.
Somali National Army
The Somali National Army has come in handy in the distribution of face masks as well as sensitization of the masses on the effects of Covid-19.
The soldiers have helped demystify a belief among the Somalis that they cannot be infected with the virus and as a result, highly boosted to the national effort to make sure the public understands that the virus is real and is vigilant against it.
This SNA campaign is being conducted with the support of the Somali Federal Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Conclusion
From the above, it is evident that a lot needs to be put in place to help fight the increasing number of infections of Covid-19, especially in the IDP camps.
The situation can only get worse considering the acute challenges that the groups faced prior to the onslaught of Covid-19 that included perennial displacement due to conflict and environmental factors.
The international community needs to come forward with further funding for humanitarian agencies and the government of Somalia considering that going by their numbers, the IDPs cannot practice physical and social distancing, lack of enough clean water for drinking, let alone hand-washing, etc.
There is a need for diversifying the methods employed at the circulation of Covid-19 messaging in IDP camps with Radio remaining the best and most efficient if not instant mode of communication. This includes Radio Gargaar that communicates in the local dialect and takes in questions from the listeners and in the process help enlighten the masses on Covid-19 effects.

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Is farming the next frontier?

It is believed that agriculture is the foundation of any stable economy across the globe. A nation that cannot feed its people is always considered a poor if not failed state.

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy. It is the single most important sector in the economy, contributing approximately 25% of the GDP, and employing 75% of the national labor force.

Farming in North Eastern

Northern Kenya has a huge potential to claim the ‘breadbasket’ of Kenya’s title but sadly remains unexploited due to the long-held stereotypical thinking that North Eastern Kenya is a barren land that is not worthy of any massive investment like large scale farming.

Harnessing this potential would improve the livelihoods of the local people and, the region can feed the growing market for agricultural produce and livestock products in the Horn of Africa. However, all is not lost since the pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya are gradually adopting crop irrigation as an alternative source of livelihood.

For a region that experiences perennial drought, large-scale investment in desert agriculture is the only proactive and sustainable option for insulating the locals against the negative effects of drought.

Due to the warm weather, most crops like oranges and onions cannot be affected by diseases like blight, which are prevalent in areas with cold weather or heavy rainfall.

Changing trends

“When we were growing up, the term ‘crop farming’ was unheard of across the Northern region since our parents were nomadic pastoralists whereby they practiced a form of animal husbandry as they moved with their herds”, says 43-year-old Mohammed Hashi who was born and bred in Wajir County.

He says until the millennium; crop farming was unpracticed and attributes the new culture to frequent, prolonged, and devastating droughts.

“I remember my dad lost all the goats and several camels he was raring during a drought period in 2003. It was so severe that all the communities in Wajir County and the larger North Eastern lost their only source of livelihood — livestock farming. That was our turning point as a community” Hashi, a former community development major student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JKUAT added.

Livestock farming no longer tenable

With frequent, prolonged, and devastating effects of the drought occasioned by climate change, pastoralists’ communities are fast losing grip of their only source of livelihood, livestock, thus forcing the majority of them to seek alternative sources of revenue.

The situation has not been easy for some of the residents who have at last partnered with various organizations including the Kenya Red Cross Society with the main aim of achieving food security.

The pilot projects of farming in the North-Eastern region were in an area called Kulan in Daadab Sub-county. Over 200 horticultural farmers were recruited and presently, they are role models to many of the locals who are slowly but gradually shunning their nomadic way of life to farming.

Agriculturally, Garissa, and Mandera counties have the potential of producing the best bananas, lemons, watermelons, pawpaws, mangoes, tomatoes, millet, onions, and cassava.

The existence of River Tana which is the longest river in Kenya, snaking through Garissa County and River Dawa in Mandera makes farming prospects for an agrarian revolution in the region feasible.

Home of sweetest fruits/vegetables

It is believed that one cannot compare the sweetness of the watermelon is grown in Garissa to any other grown in other parts of Kenya.

Kulan area used to be dry but presently booms with fruits and vegetables that include large onions, watermelons, cowpeas and beans that are not only consumed locally but also sold to other counties. Thanks to irrigation that was made possible from interventions by various NGO’s in the region.

Under the project, farmers get free piped water from a solar-powered borehole that is then irrigated into the farms on alternative days. The borehole also provides water for livestock and household use.

Star Media Development Centre, SMDC spoke to the Kenya Red Cross Northeastern manager Mohamed Abdikadir who said the 20-acre farm in Kulan is one of the pilot projects in the area being pursued and aims at achieving food security, a critical pillar of the national government’s Big Four agenda.

“If well exploited, this climate-smart project will greatly change the economic wellbeing of the locals here. This is the next frontier”, he said.

Most of the farmers have expressed their joy in the project saying at least they now can afford fresh farm produce for their families plus a few coins in their pockets throughout the year from selling what they sow.

“I have been growing watermelons for the last three years, the crop does well in this region and I do two seasons a year thanks to the irrigation scheme run by the county government of Garissa which uses water from Tana River,” said 38-year-old Haile Omar.

Rice farming

Many years ago, no one would have believed that rice farming in Wajir could yield anything.

When Hussein Keynan was first approached by a local NGO with the idea, he almost laughed it off as a bad joke. Several years down the line, Keynan is a renowned rice supplier in the larger Wajir region after utilizing his two acres of land.

“After harvesting my rice, I use rice straws, after threshing, as livestock feed to reduce feed cost and increase livestock survival. I am no longer scared of the dry spell period. I also grind the rice and feed my family with porridge rice which is more nutritious especially to kids” said the proud farmer who is afraid of not being able to meet the huge demand for rice among pastoralist communities around Wajir County and its environs.

Benefits of farming in Northern Kenya

With its virgin arable lands, agriculturalists say North Eastern Counties in Kenya have a great potential in turning around the real meaning of a breadbasket region in the country.

Apart from being a source of food to the host communities, farming can also provide fodder for their animals and hence reduce conflicts witnessed over water and pasture considering that some herders had been moving to neighboring counties to feed their hundreds of livestock.

Farming can also minimize school dropout cases during the dry seasons as is the case presently. Most of the school-going kids result in staying at home due to the effects of hunger while some do so after the schools that provide free lunch run out of supplies.

Most of the women who would idle around are now financially stable after joining various women groups like Halimau Women Group in Wajir that do farming in greenhouses and sell the product before sharing the profits as a group.

The script is the same in Mandera where a group of women under the leadership of Zahra Bashir a Chief Officer, Livestock, and Fisheries is making a kill from a fish farming project where they harvest catfish in hatcheries both for consumption and selling.

Role of county governments

With the devolved systems of government in place, it is the perfect opportunity for the county governments to fully exploit irrigation farming and in the process uplift the livelihoods of the northerners.

Food security is one of the big four agenda of the Jubilee government should largely concentrate on the small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas by providing modern farming equipment to small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas since their efforts contribute to food security initiatives.

County governments should be in a position to introduce modern farming technology, adequate of inputs and subsidies in farm input costs (fertilizer, pesticides, and seeds), small scale farmers in arid and semi-arid areas will prosper in the changing farming environment globally and locally.

A special focus has been put in place for the farmers in Northern Kenya especially after the National government with the support of the World Bank, launched a $1 billion North and Northeastern Development Initiative (NEDI) to increase investments in transformative and integrated infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods in Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot counties.

“You don’t expect to do things the same way, year after a year and expect positive results,” Garissa Governor Ali Korane was quoted urging the pastoralist communities early this year adding that farming seems to be the way out for the communities that for years were known to be nomadic.

Sabukar Gisomo who is an Extension Officer in Wajir County says they have embraced the use of shade-nets or greenhouses supplied with constant borehole water that is used for drip irrigation with some evaporated into the air to create cooling and humidification  excellent growing conditions for agriculture

Way forward

With all the aforementioned, technically with good leadership and investment, the northerners can feed Kenya without straining.

This has been proven in Israel and Egypt – countries that have similar if not worse soil and climatic conditions to northern Kenya.

Over the years, Israel has been exporting fish, vegetables, and fruits to other nations after producing them from the Negev desert. Egypt on the other hand is known for its quality oranges, strawberries, onions, and basil from the Judean desert that its thirst is quenched by River Nile.

It can be done; it must be done.

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FGM fading away in North Eastern Kenya

 

“I cannot let my two daughters go through what I went through before I got married. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is barbaric and inhuman…” says Faiza Hussien who was born in the Habaswein area of Wajir County 28 years ago.

She currently resides in Nairobi where she is married after her first marriage failed terribly due to FGM related issues.

Sadly, Faiza is among hundreds of women from the North-Eastern region who have knowingly or unknowingly gone through infibulation at a tender age which usually involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can cause a host of serious health problems, according to researches done both locally and the United Nations.

In as much as those who encourage the practice involve religion in the whole process, Muslim scholars say the argument holds no water since FGM/C is purely a cultural issue.

To better understand this topic, SMDC has interviewed a victim of FGM/C, an Imam, two health practitioner, and an anti-FGM/C campaigner.

Latest Statistics

According to the latest statistics by the United Nations Population Fund, the prevalence of FGM for women in Kenya aged 15 to 49 fell from 32% in 2013 to 28% in 2018. This is good news according to Yusuf Mohammed who is the sole male anti-FGM crusader in Garissa County.

Before FGM was outlawed in Kenya, the practice was most prevalent among ethnic Somalis, a community where 94% of women had undergone it according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey.

Why is FGM practiced?

Among the Northerners, Female circumcision is discussed in hushed tones in as much as it is widely practiced in 3 out of 5 homes. But why? Reasons used to sustain the practice relate to religious obligation, family honor, and virginity as a prerequisite for marriage.

A major contributing factor to FGM is the men in such communities who insist that they cannot marry someone who hasn’t undergone the cut. Some of the girls who survived the cut get divorced once their husbands realize they didn’t undergo FGM/C.

To some, the cut is part of their ‘rich culture’, and abandoning it, is diverting from the norm and that is why in some instances, Somali families even in the developed countries travel back home to have their daughters circumcised before the age of 10.

Women’s education may also have a spurious correlation with women’s FGM/C rates, particularly in areas where cutting occurs at early ages before a girl has completed her education

Among the Somalis, female genital cutting remains a deeply rooted cultural practice that is widely supported.

“For instance, I underwent a procedure known as Gudma firown, in which the outer parts of the female genitalia are chopped off and the vagina is sewn up, leaving only a small passage for urine and menstrual blood,” says Faiza Hussein.

The Somali community from which she comes from, greatly believes that the cutting enables girls to remain sexually pure until marriage hence containing promiscuity among the young girls.

“It is a very painful process since no anesthesia is used and even those who do the cutting are not medical experts neither do they practice hygiene during the process.

It gets worse when one starts her menstruation. I would miss school and cry all day behind the house because of extensive pain adds Faiza.

Anti-FGM crusaders

Yusuf is a renowned household name in Garissa and beyond in as far as FGM matters are concerned.

“I vividly remember seeing my older sister suffer from the effects of female genital mutilation at a tender age. It is not something I would want anyone, not even my enemy go through. That is how I started my own anti-FGM crusade.

Alhamdulillah, I have made strides in my campaigns and managed to convince hundreds of my people to turn away from the practice, despite intense opposition from local elders and even relatives.” says Yusuf.

Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties continue to witness the practicing of FGM that have prevalence rates of over 90% with the crusaders alluding to the fact that lack of funds, insecurity has hampered their campaigns, especially in remote locations.

Government to end FGM by 2022?

Despite the Kenyan government outlawing the practice 9 years ago, FGM/C has continued to be practiced in some communities especially in the North where it is believed it is necessary for social acceptance and increases marriage prospects.

“Kenya commits to eliminate female genital mutilation by 2022,” President Uhuru Kenyatta told a global summit on sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of a series of commitments made by his administration.

During the three-day conference held at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, KICC, Uhuru added that; “Kenya will eliminate all forms of gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030 through the strengthening of coordination mechanisms and by addressing cultural norms that propagate these practices”.

The summit was attended by more than 6,000 participants – including heads of state, government ministers, financial institutions, donors, and civil society groups from 160 nations.

What does the law say?

In 2011, the National Assembly passed a law that specifically criminalized FGM. Under this legislation, ‘anyone who conducts FGM, who pays someone else to perform the practice either in Kenya or abroad, or who provides premises to carry it out, is guilty of an offense. Possession of instruments used in FGM is outlawed, as is failing to report the act’.

Either, according to the provisions in the Kenyan Constitution, ‘Anyone convicted of these offenses can go to prison for between three and seven years, and be fined 500,000 Kenyan shillings. If a girl dies as a result of FGM, those responsible can be convicted of murder.

However, according to the 2018 report on FGM by Kenya’s inspector general of police that was made public by Joseph Boinnet, there were relatively few convictions of those who were found capable of practicing, sponsoring, or aiding FGM in Kenya.

Also, between 2011 and 2014, a total of 71 cases were taken to court. Of those, only 16 resulted in convictions. There were 18 acquittals, four cases were withdrawn, and 33 are pending.

DPP’s take on FGM/C convictions

The office of the Director of Prosecution in Kenya, Noordin Haji continues to face challenges in their effort to prosecute the perpetrators main reason being lack of evidence.

Christine Nanjala who is a State Prosecutor and headed the FGM unit in Haji’s office, says most of the offenders have not been brought to justice since the greatly rely on the victims to report the crimes.

Either, the prosecution department always has a difficult time persuading witnesses to testify in cases where minors are involved.

Naivety and lack of knowledge of the minors have also been a major setback in the prosecution of such cases since the victims don’t view FGM/C as a crime.

Either, most of the time, the clans that practice FGM/C are closely knitted that they can never reveal those who practice it, and hence the State needs more intelligence officers on ground to gather information on the same.

Health experts take on FGM

“Female Genital Mutilation and or Cutting poses a significant health risk that is beyond the psychological consequences of undergoing pain, trauma, and mutilation,” says Doctor Jane Shisoka, a medic at the Agha Khan University in Nairobi.

“septicemia, urine retention, anemia, cysts, keloid scar, vulval abscess, pelvic infections, infertility, fistula, menstrual disorders, and vulvar ulcers are some of the post effects if the practice.” She says.

His sentiments are echoed by Dr. Ahmed Hussein, a gynecologist at Karen Hospital in Nairobi who added that apart from the trauma, the victims may at times suffer from infection, heighten dangers associated with childbirth such as hemorrhaging, and most but not least denies women their sexual rights.

“In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections. It can also cause lifelong painful conditions such as fistula and fatal childbirth complications” added Dr. Ahmed.

After the cut, a girl’s legs are tied up tightly for 2 weeks or more so that scar tissue essentially ‘seals her up’, leaving only a small hole for the passage of urine and menses. Many girls emerge from it psychologically scarred as well. Wedding nights are often a nightmare.

Medically, victims of FGM/C undergo pain due to the obstruction of the vaginal opening, which may lead to bleeding during sexual intercourse, childbirth complications, and obstetric fistula. In some cases, women have to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.

De-linking FGM/C from Islam

In the Holy Qoran, no verse speaks about circumcision of females. Islam calls for the circumcision of men but not women.

“It is just ignorance of those who decide to practice FGM/C hiding under religion (sunnah). This is purely a cultural practice and remains at that. If you read the whole Qoran you will agree with me that those who argue that FGM/C is Islamic are liars” weighed in Shiekh Mohammed Abdullahi.

 

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