Somalia Opposition Welcomes Election Plan, but Security Threats Remain

Somalia’s opposition politicians and the public have welcomed a deal to hold delayed indirect presidential elections in October, with lawmakers chosen in July and August.  But analysts note unrest and terrorist attacks are still a risk.Somalia’s opposition politicians welcomed the new election schedule reached Tuesday in Mogadishu after a meeting of federal and state leaders.Lawmaker Mohamed Hassan Idris said the opposition was looking forward to a quick implementation to avoid further delays and unrest.”So far, we have no concerns,” Hassan said. “It is on a very welcoming stage; the schedule has been agreed by the leaders and the electoral committees, both from the federal and member states levels.” He said leaders would need to continue discussions, “and we hope they continue to solve any likely obstacles.”Process stalledSomalia’s indirect elections were to take place in February, but the process was stalled over opposition concerns about free elections.The opposition accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, of stacking poll committees with his allies.FILE – Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed addresses delegates at the Somali election negotiation in Mogadishu, May 27, 2021.Farmajo denied the allegation but raised international eyebrows in April when he signed into law a two-year extension of terms in office, including his.The move sparked days of street clashes in April in Mogadishu between split loyalty security forces, renewing fears of a return to clan violence.Under international pressure, Farmajo nullified the extension and returned to talks with the opposition for holding elections.The deal reached Tuesday was largely applauded by Mogadishu residents like university student Hassan Ahmed, 27.He said he was happy and excited about the new election schedule. Some worried about the previous timeline, he said, and the disagreements between the leadership of the federal government and the regional states.Election scheduleThe indirect elections will begin in July with delegates chosen by clans selecting members of the lower house of parliament.State governments will select senators beginning in August.  The chosen lawmakers will then vote for the next president on October 10.Despite the breakthrough, there is still a threat from al-Shabab militants, said independent security analyst Dahir Korow.”Al-Shabab is trying to disrupt the Somali election process through suicide bombings and IED [improvised explosive device] attacks, mainly the venues of the process across the regions,” Korow said. “However, it is also very significant to note that the democratic process will attract high-security alert both from Somali security agencies and their international peacekeeping partners such as AMISOM.  Remember, the training and capacity building for Somali security agencies have been improving in recent years while al-Shabab’s have been decreasing.”The U.S. Embassy in Somalia urged continued constructive dialogue among Somali leaders to achieve peaceful and transparent elections.Somalia originally planned to hold direct, one-person-one-vote elections, which would have been the first in decades. But the plan was scrapped in September because of a lack of infrastructure and concerns about security.

your ad here

Kenya’s Successful Life-Business Partners Navigate Roles, Boundaries

The COVID pandemic has strained families forced to work and study at home together with an added stress for couples who are also business partners. In Kenya, such life-work partnerships experience a struggle not only to earn a living but also to keep their families together.  Brenda Mulinya reports from Nairobi.

your ad here

Britain Faces Travel Bans Amid Soaring Delta Variant Infections

Several countries have imposed restrictions on travelers from Britain amid rising cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Scientists say the delta mutation is more infectious and now makes up around 95 percent of new cases in Britain. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

your ad here

Spain Honors Chef Andrés for Humanitarian Kitchens

Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen were awarded a prestigious Spanish prize Wednesday for their international relief work promoting healthy food.The jury that decides the Princess of Asturias Awards gave Andrés, 51, and the nonprofit group he founded the Award of Concord for “offering extraordinarily fast and efficient on-the-ground response to social and nutritional emergencies.”Born in northern Spain in 1969, Andrés moved to the U.S. in 1991 and was later naturalized as an American citizen. He helped popularize Spanish cuisine, especially the tapa, in the U.S. before he also became heavily involved in humanitarian work.Andrés founded the World Central Kitchen in 2010 following a trip to Haiti to do aid work. Since then, it has been active in deploying field kitchens to respond to food crises both in the United States and abroad. The organization served over 3.6 million meals in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Last year, Andrés dedicated some of his own restaurants in the U.S. to help feed people in need during the coronavirus pandemic.A recipient of many honors, Andrés was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2015.The 50,000-euro ($56,700) Princess of Asturias Award of Concord is one of eight prizes, including for the arts, social sciences and sports, handed out annually by a foundation named for Spanish Crown Princess Leonor.

your ad here

Bangladesh to Lock Down as COVID-19 Cases Surge

Bangladesh starts its most severe lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday with people allowed to leave their homes only in emergencies and soldiers set to patrol the streets to enforce it, as the nation faces a deadly resurgence of COVID-19 infections.The government announced the new measures as the coronavirus surged in recent days, particularly in border areas. Health officials say the national COVID-19 positivity rate is now over 20%. Sunday saw a record number of deaths, with 119, followed by a record number of new cases — 8,364 — set Monday.Along with home confinement, the restrictions include the closure of public transport networks, sending thousands rushing to ferry and bus stations over the last two days to make it home before Thursday.  The Guardian newspaper reports Cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters troops would be deployed after the lockdown takes effect. He said, “If anyone ignores their orders, legal action will be [taken against] them.”Bangladesh closed its borders when the pandemic hit last year. But many people travelled to and from India illegally anyway, bringing with them new infections. And while India’s situation has stabilized, in Bangladesh, it has escalated.Health officials are concerned the Eid al-adha Muslim holiday at the end of July will only exacerbate the situation. Bangladesh Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research official Dr. ASM Alamgir said that if the Delta variant of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is not already in Bangladesh, it will be by then.  He said that while new infections are currently concentrated around border areas, during Eid millions of people go from the capital, Dhaka, where infections are also on the rise, to village areas.Officials expect Thursday’s lockdown to last at least a week.  Some information in this report is from The Associated Press.

your ad here

Trapped in Ethiopia’s Tigray, People ‘Falling Like Leaves’

The plea arrived from a remote area that had so far produced only rumors and residents fleeing for their lives. Help us, the letter said, stamped and signed by a local official. At least 125 people already have starved to death. Trapped in one of the most inaccessible areas of Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region, beyond the reach of aid, people “are falling like leaves,” the official said. The letter dated June 16, obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a Tigray regional health official, is a rare insight into the most urgent unknown of the war between Ethiopian forces backed by Eritrea and Tigray’s former leaders: What’s the fate of hundreds of thousands of people cut off from the world for months? This image shows an official stamp on a letter dated June 16, 2021, from district leader Berhe Desta Gebremariam in the cut-off district of Mai Kinetal, Tigray, Ethiopia, to the regional capital, Mekelle.As the United States warns that up to 900,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions in the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, little is known about vast areas of Tigray that have been under the control of combatants from all sides since November. With blocked roads and ongoing fighting, humanitarian groups have been left without access. A possible opening emerged this week when Ethiopia’s government announced an immediate, unilateral cease-fire after Tigray fighters re-entered the regional capital and government soldiers fled. An official for the United States Agency for International Development told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that some aid groups were expected to test the cease-fire immediately in an effort to reach remote areas. However, it isn’t clear whether other parties in the conflict, including troops from neighboring Eritrea accused of some of the war’s worst atrocities, will respect the cease-fire. A Tigray spokesman rejected it as a “sick joke” and vowed to fully liberate the region. The letter that reached the regional capital, Mekelle, this month from the cut-off central district of Mai Kinetal was just the second plea of its kind, the health official who confirmed it said. The first had been a message from Ofla district reporting 150 deaths from starvation, which the United Nations humanitarian chief shared in a closed-door session of the U.N. Security Council in April, bringing an angry response from Ethiopia’s government. FILE – An Ethiopian woman scoops up grains of wheat after it was distributed by the Relief Society of Tigray in the town of Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, May 8, 2021.But the letter from Mai Kinetal is different, the health official said, offering badly needed, well-compiled data that lay out the devastation line by line: At least 440 people have died, and at least 558 have been victims of sexual violence. More than 5,000 homes have been looted. Thousands of livestock have been taken. Tons of crops have been burned. “There is no access to clean water; electricity, phone communication, banking, health care, and access to humanitarian aid are blocked,” district leader Berhe Desta Gebremariam wrote. “People are unable to move around to save their lives because Eritrean troops completely put us under siege with no transportation, and people are condemned to suffer and die.” Looted farmers in the largely agricultural district have been left without the seeds to grow food, Berhe wrote, warning that without aid 2021 and 2022 will be catastrophic. The one aid delivery to Mai Kinetal that wasn’t blocked was based on a badly outdated 1995 census, meaning half the district’s residents were left out. The aid was later looted by Eritrean troops. Residents had been coming by foot from Mai Kinetal with word that people were starving, the Tigray regional health official said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. But the letter confirms the details and extent of the crisis. “It’s so terrible. It’s so terrible,” he said. “We know that people are dying everywhere.” Other unreachable districts remain silent, he said, as phone services are cut in much of Tigray. Asked about Mai Kinetal, a senior U.N. humanitarian official called it “an especially critical area for us to reach” and confirmed to the AP that aid had not made it into the district, and a number of others, since the conflict began. FILE – A young boy looks up as displaced Tigrayans line up to receive food at a reception center for the internally displaced in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, May 9, 2021.Overall, the U.N. estimates that 1.6 million people remain in Tigray’s hard-to-reach areas, and the U.N. children’s agency last week warned that at least 33,000 severely malnourished children in hard-to-reach areas face the “imminent risk of death” without more aid. But humanitarian workers warn that the situation is especially fluid now amid some of the fiercest fighting yet. Even the unilateral cease-fire announced this week is designed not to last. Ethiopia’s government says it will end once the farming season in Tigray is over, which means September. How needed seeds and other supplies will reach farmers across the region in time is not clear. For Tigrayans with loved ones trapped inside inaccessible areas, the lack of information has meant months of fear and despair. “Every time I get to talk to someone who managed to flee from the area, it’s like a round of pain and shock again and again,” said Teklehaymanot G. Weldemichel, a diaspora Tigrayan from Mai Kinetal. He said his family home there had been shelled at the beginning of the war, and his parents later returned to find every item in the house taken by Eritrean soldiers, even photo albums and frames. One resident who fled to Sudan, Kibreab Fisseha, told the AP that a cousin with diabetes who stayed in Mai Kinetal had died because of lack of food. “Both my parents are still there,” Kibreab said. “They are hiding in the house and I hope they are fine until help comes.” Another Mai Kinetal resident told the AP he has been able to speak with his mother just once since the war began, in a short conversation about a month ago before phone service disappeared again. “I have been calling ever since the war started,” he said, giving only his first name, Tsige, to protect his family. He said his mother described fierce fighting as Eritreans took control of their village and many people fled. This selfie provided by Tsige, who gives only his first name, shows himself at Dogo Park, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, April 7, 2019.Tsige’s father, in his 70s, was among those too old to leave. Eritrean soldiers one day came to the house and asked him to bring them water. He did, and the soldiers later spared him. But other residents who were found during house-to-house searches and suspected of links to the Tigray fighters were killed, Tsige said. Homes abandoned by fleeing families were burned. When another relative refused to hand over his cattle to Eritrean soldiers, they slaughtered him in front of his grandson, Tsige said. In all, he knows at least 11 people in Mai Kinetal who have been killed, including a deaf man in his 70s. “Every day could change the lives of my family,” said Tsige, who is studying in Japan and feels helplessly far away. “I have to prepare for the worst. Every few minutes you think about your family, are they alive?” Tsige is too young to know the famine that ravaged Ethiopia, especially the Tigray region, amid conflict in the 1980s and shocked the world, but he grew up hearing about it from his family. He pleaded for the international community to act and for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to “be a human person” and end the war. “It’s happening now again, and we’re just watching it happen,” Tsige said. “I don’t want to see a documentary filmed after my family has died. I want action now.” 
 

your ad here