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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Daawo Halaaga Tahriibka

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Trekking with Ethiopia’s Nomads, from Watering Holes to Pasture Lands, For a Better Life

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By William Lloyd-George

Camels wait for treatment from the Liyu police veterinarian teams outside Bulali town in Ethiopia’s Somali region. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS
Camels wait for treatment from the Liyu police veterinarian teams outside Bulali town in Ethiopia’s Somali region. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

SOMALI REGION, Ethiopia, Jun 30 2014 (IPS) - When he was a young boy, 20-year-old Abdi, who comes from a small pastoralist community in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, “knew about school, reading and writing but did not expect this is something we would ever get close to.”
Abdi couldn’t attend school because he comes from a nomadic people, who are constantly moving from place to place.

His small pastoralist community has temporarily set up camp here, outside the town of Shilabo close to the Ethiopian-Somali border. It lies 425 kilometres away from the bustling activity of Jijga, the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali Region.

As the sun rises over the arid landscape, women in brightly-coloured traditional clothes light up the small villages, men in Somali sarongs pull lines of camels up the road, and the smell of stoves being heated for early breakfast blows through the hot air.

A few years before, the journey to get here would have been a bumpy and dusty one and would have taken days but the new road makes it easier to reach this once cut-off destination. This will be complimented soon by the opening of the Kebri Dahar international airport, built by the regional governmen.

An elder leads us through the community’s settlement. Each family has a few small domes constructed with twigs and cloth secured with small fences made out of bush branches. It is a world away from the fast-developing cities of Somali Region, where investment is being channeled into shopping centres, hotels, large abattoirs and new housing.

On the edge of the settlement, one of the structures is seemingly packed full of people. Inside, children crouch on the floor, clutching notepads and pencils. Standing over them is their teacher, Fassah, a wiry man who points to Somali letters on the blackboard.

Fassah is one of the many teachers working with pastoralist communities across the Ethiopia’s Somali Region who travels with the pastoralists. He points to Somali letters on a blackboard. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS
Fassah is one of the many teachers working with pastoralist communities across the Ethiopia’s Somali Region who travels with the pastoralists. He points to Somali letters on a blackboard. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

“Without these classes the community would find it difficult to learn how to read and write. It opens doors for them,” Fassah tells IPS during breaktime. He is one of the many teachers working with pastoralist communities across the region who travels whenever and wherever the pastoralists go.
It’s only now as a 20-year-old after he’s learned his letters, that Abdi can even entertain the thought of furthering his education.

“Now we can even go to Jijiga university,” he tells IPS as he stands outside the structure that serves as a school.
“Our parents never dreamed of such education, now we can learn so much and help our community,” Abdi says.

Abdi, 20 (right), standing outside his class with a friend. His pastoralist community, situated here outside the town of Shilabo in Somali Region, Ethiopia, has a teacher who now travels with them. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS
Abdi, 20 (right), standing outside his class with a friend. His pastoralist community, situated here outside the town of Shilabo in Somali Region, Ethiopia, has a teacher who now travels with them. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

Somali National Regional State, or Zone 5, accounts for more than 20 percent of Ethiopia and shares a porous 1,600 km border with war-ravaged Somalia. The population of the region is believed to be more than five million, with pastoralists counting for more than 80 percent.

Owing to the climate and vegetation variations, mobility is a necessary response to survive. Many experts see pastoralism as a sophisticated land use system and although pastoralists only account for 15 percent of the entire Ethiopian population of about 92 million, it is believed they contribute 40 percent of the nation’s agricultural gross domestic product.

The pastoralists of Somali region make their living raising cattle, camels and goats. In the arid and drought-prone region, they are forced to move from place to place in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals.

As a result of the communities’ lifestyle, formal education has never been an option and the youth are usually educated by the elders.

While mobile services have existed in several forms for decades in Somali region, in recent years the regional government together with various NGOs have led an initiative to substantially increase these services across the region. In order to improve the lives of pastoralists communities, mobile health, education and veterinarian services have been created to travel to where these communities live.

The government mobile education system, though, allows pastoralist children to be educated on the move and once they complete a certain level they can join the national high schools and later universities.

As the class finishes, the kids, accustomed to the heat, play games in the burning sun and the elder leads us over to an acacia tree where hundreds of goats enjoy the shade. Mahmud, part of the government’s mobile veterinarian team set up to treat the pastoralists’ animals, sprays a blue disinfectant on a goat’s wound.

“If we did not have the mobile veterinarian teams, we would have to take our animals far to get to the cities and depending on the illness they might die before we get there,” Jamal, the owner of these goats, tells IPS. “Our animals are significantly more healthy as a result of the mobile veterinarian teams, they help us a lot.”

The vets bring with them vaccinations and medicine for skin disease and other infections. In recent years, increasing sedenterisation and market orientation is encouraging more rearing of cattle and sheep by the pastoralists, making the services of veterinarians a necessity.
In a nearby community, outside one of the shelters, a small queue has formed. Inside a female health worker sits on a mat, medicine sprawled out in front of her as she attends to a patient.

A mobile doctor writes up her notes. She is part of a Mobile Health and Nutrition Team, one of 51 across the Ethiopia’s Somali Region, funded and supported by United Nations Children’s Fund and other NGOs. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS
A mobile doctor writes up her notes. She is part of a Mobile Health and Nutrition Team, one of 51 across the Ethiopia’s Somali Region, funded and supported by United Nations Children’s Fund and other NGOs. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

The health worker is part of a Mobile Health and Nutrition Team, one of 51 across the region, put in place by the government but funded and supported by United Nations Children’s Fund and other NGOs, to provide a health and nutrition safety net to the most vulnerable communities in inaccessible areas. It is part of an effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and a drive to get basic services to even the most cut-off communities.

The team provides both preventative and curative services, with a focus on young children and pregnant women. The care provided includes vaccinations, water purification chemicals, monitoring and treatment of child malnutrition, and providing iron supplements, tetanus shots and other neonatal support for pregnant and nursing mothers. They are also responsible for referring emergency cases to the local hospitals.

On the way back to Jijiga, we pass through Gudhis town, previously a hostpot for fighting between government forces and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), rebels fighting for secession from Ethiopia. Residents in the town say it is now peaceful and the regional government believe their Liyu Police force has managed to substantially weaken the ONLF since its creation in 2008.
While the Liyu Police were primarily created to fight the ONLF, regional government officials say they are now being transformed into a force for development and put to work on projects around the region.

“Development is key to peace in the region, without it there will be no security,” the Somali Regional President Abdi Mohamoud Omar tells IPS. “This is why we want the Liyu to be a force for development, build wells, roads and help the people of this region. When we have development and security, the anti-peace elements fade away.”

The Liyu Police veterinarian team treating camels in Ethiopia’s Somali region. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS
The Liyu Police veterinarian team treating camels in Ethiopia’s Somali region. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

Efforts to transform the force are seemingly underway. On the way out of the town we come across Liyu police who are clearing the way for a road to link the town with the highway. In our last stop we visit Bulali, a town very well-known in Somali culture for its historic festivals. As the sun sets over the picturesque little oasis-like settlement, hundreds of camels stand around in what is a mighty river in wet season.

We pass a water well, which the Liyu Police helped build and which will now bring water to dozens of communities.

“My father was killed by a lion while trying to find water,” Abdulahi, a camel herder, tells IPS as he stands over the well. “It is emotional to now have water in this area, knowing what our people have gone through to get water in the past.”

Members of the Liyu police mobile veterinarian team, former active combatants, now trained up to move around treating livestock, stand in white lab coats, sinking huge needles of vaccination into moaning camels. They give the medicine to treat skin disease and the local camel herders say it has dramatically increased the camels’ health.

“We were always wandering, trying to find water and food, sometimes we did not have the capacity to see a vet, let alone a doctor for ourselves,” Abdulahi says as he gets ready to prepare his camels for nightfall. “These mobile teams really changed our lives, giving us access to services we never thought we would have.”

Source: IPS

Sunday, June 29, 2014

President Barack Obama Speech About Ramadan 2014

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Ramadan 2014: message from David Cameron

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Short Film: Dhibaatada Tahriibka

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

When you meet the next Somali or Muslim, hug him; he’s also a victim

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Persons arrested in a police swoop in Nuru area of Changamwe, Mombasa, question the manner in which the swoop was done, in this picture taken on 14 April 2014.They claimed that they were pure Kenyans and not Somali nationals. PHOTO: LABAN WALLOG


Dear Kenyans, today if you meet a Somali or a Muslim, say a cheery habari with a warm handshake or, indeed a comradely hug, if you can. You must do that for two very important reasons.
First, as a way of saying sorry for the atrocious way in which we have behaved in the face of terror attacks in this country since September last year.

When Westgate went down, as they say in the street, and the grenades went off and then there was all that talk about VBIED (vehicle borne improvised explosive device) driving around the cities with military grade explosive capable of flattening a block, I think we all responded by looking around for the enemy and going into a defensive, psychological crouch.

In so doing, we have committed a grave injustice to innocent Kenyans and Somalians who are as much of victims of terror as the rest of us.

Just look at the maths. There are, at best, 5,000 Al Shabaab fighters in Somalia, possibly supported by around 700 members of sleeper cells in Kenya.

In total, we are talking about a terrorist infrastructure in Kenya and Somalia numbering about 10,000 bad people.

"A VICTIM TWICE OVER"

The population of Somalia is about 12 million and millions more in Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. Compared to the universe of the Somali population, Al Shabaab and its sympathisers are but just a drop in the ocean.

Chances are that the next Somali you meet has absolutely nothing to do with Al Shabaab and is as much in danger of being blown up in a grenade attack as you are.

Therefore, if you have profiled him or her, then he or she is a victim twice over. This is not only unfair and unjust, it is also an unhelpful reaction based on blind fear.
We must also make an effort to understand the circumstances of Somali émigrés in our midst. The bulk of them are running away from a violent and dangerous place.

They are seeking a safe haven where they can do their little businesses and raise their children in safety, maybe until they can go back home.
For Kenyan Somalis, the émigrés are aunties and uncles and other members of the extended family. It is Murang’a and Nyeri families or Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia families or Siaya and Homa Bay families but with an international border, between.

This is not to say that immigration law should not be followed or that people should help foreigners fabricate citizenship. The point is that seeking refuge is not a crime.
It is also a fact that there are millions of Kenyans with close family relations across borders. The bond that exists between such families is normal and should not be criminalised.

The second reason we should embrace our countrymen, Muslim and the Somali included, is that this is the only way to beat terrorism.

SOMALIS "INCREASINGLY AFRAID"
 
The diabolical mind that designed and funded this terrorism has only but one purpose: to turn Kenyans against each other.

That mind knows that a modern state with a military and police, such as they are, cannot be defeated by a ragtag army of fanatics, however evil. A country can only be defeated if it is turned against itself.

I was horrified to learn that Somalis are now increasingly afraid for their safety in some parts of the country. They fear that if attacks continue, then other Kenyans might turn against them.
This is an intolerable state of affairs and we must come to our senses.

We all win when everyone feels safe and a strong sense of belonging. Marginalising and profiling Kenyans is, in the long run, unjust and counter-productive.
I have taken the trouble to listen to a lot of angry people, read, reflect and understand what is going on about this terrorism thing. I think you should too; it will change your views.

I was heartened by the views expressed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in an interview we published recently. Unlike a band of politicians from his party who were shouting that they are more important than the country, Mr Odinga was measured in his comments, especially on the big issues facing the country.
It will take the joint action of leaders and a coming together of Kenyans to save our country from the conflagration now consuming much of Africa.
mmathiu@ke.nationmedia.com
rsons arrested in a police swoop in Nuru area of Changamwe, Mombasa, question the manner in which the swoop was done, in this picture taken on 14 April 2014.They claimed that they were pure Kenyans and not Somali nationals. PHOTO: LABAN WALLOGA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

- See more at: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/may/54793/when_you_meet_the_next_somali_or_muslim_hug_him_he_s_also_a_victim.aspx#sthash.qW54IIKD.dpuf

Persons arrested in a police swoop in Nuru area of Changamwe, Mombasa, question the manner in which the swoop was done, in this picture taken on 14 April 2014.They claimed that they were pure Kenyans and not Somali nationals. PHOTO: LABAN WALLOGA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

- See more at: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/may/54793/when_you_meet_the_next_somali_or_muslim_hug_him_he_s_also_a_victim.aspx#sthash.qW54IIKD.dpufPersons arrested in a police swoop in Nuru area of Changamwe, Mombasa, question the manner in which the swoop was done, in this picture taken on 14 April 2014.They claimed that they were pure Kenyans and not Somali nationals. PHOTO: LABAN WALLOGA  NATION MEDIA 

- See more at: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/may/54793/when_you_meet_the_next_somali_or_muslim_hug_him_he_s_also_a_victim.aspx#sthash.qW54IIKD.dpuf
: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/may/54793/when_you_meet_the_next_somali_or_muslim_hug_him_he_s_also_a_victim.aspx#sthash.qW54IIKD.dpuf
Dear Kenyans, today if you meet a Somali or a Muslim, say a cheery habari with a warm handshake or, indeed a comradely hug, if you can. You must do that for two very important reasons. First, as a way of saying sorry for the atrocious way in which we have behaved in the face of terror attacks in this country since September last year.
When Westgate went down, as they say in the street, and the grenades went off and then there was all that talk about VBIED(vehicle borne improvised explosive device) driving around the cities with military grade explosive capable of flattening a block, I think we all responded by looking around for the enemy and going into a defensive, psychological crouch.
In so doing, we have committed a grave injustice to innocent Kenyans and Somalians who are as much of victims of terror as the rest of us.
Just look at the maths. There are, at best, 5,000 Al Shabaab fighters in Somalia, possibly supported by around 700 members of sleeper cells in Kenya.
In total, we are talking about a terrorist infrastructure in Kenya and Somalia numbering about 10,000 bad people.
"A VICTIM TWICE OVER"
The population of Somalia is about 12 million and millions more in Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. Compared to the universe of the Somali population, Al Shabaab and its sympathisers are but just a drop in the ocean.
Chances are that the next Somali you meet has absolutely nothing to do with Al Shabaab and is as much in danger of being blown up in a grenade attack as you are.
Therefore, if you have profiled him or her, then he or she is a victim twice over. This is not only unfair and unjust, it is also an unhelpful reaction based on blind fear.
We must also make an effort to understand the circumstances of Somali émigrés in our midst. The bulk of them are running away from a violent and dangerous place.
They are seeking a safe haven where they can do their little businesses and raise their children in safety, maybe until they can go back home.
For Kenyan Somalis, the émigrés are aunties and uncles and other members of the extended family. It is Murang’a and Nyeri families or Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia families or Siaya and Homa Bay families but with an international border, between.
This is not to say that immigration law should not be followed or that people should help foreigners fabricate citizenship. The point is that seeking refuge is not a crime.
It is also a fact that there are millions of Kenyans with close family relations across borders. The bond that exists between such families is normal and should not be criminalised.
The second reason we should embrace our countrymen, Muslim and the Somali included, is that this is the only way to beat terrorism.
SOMALIS "INCREASINGLY AFRAID"
The diabolical mind that designed and funded this terrorism has only but one purpose: to turn Kenyans against each other.
That mind knows that a modern state with a military and police, such as they are, cannot be defeated by a ragtag army of fanatics, however evil. A country can only be defeated if it is turned against itself.
I was horrified to learn that Somalis are now increasingly afraid for their safety in some parts of the country. They fear that if attacks continue, then other Kenyans might turn against them.
This is an intolerable state of affairs and we must come to our senses.
We all win when everyone feels safe and a strong sense of belonging. Marginalising and profiling Kenyans is, in the long run, unjust and counter-productive.
I have taken the trouble to listen to a lot of angry people, read, reflect and understand what is going on about this terrorism thing. I think you should too; it will change your views.
I was heartened by the views expressed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in an interview we published recently. Unlike a band of politicians from his party who were shouting that they are more important than the country, Mr Odinga was measured in his comments, especially on the big issues facing the country.
It will take the joint action of leaders and a coming together of Kenyans to save our country from the conflagration now consuming much of Africa.
mmathiu@ke.nationmedia.com

- See more at: http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/may/54793/when_you_meet_the_next_somali_or_muslim_hug_him_he_s_also_a_victim.aspx#sthash.qW54IIKD.dpuf

Thursday, May 22, 2014

UN Council seeks tighter Somali control of weapons

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By Mohamed Abdiwahab
Thursday, May 22, 2014
The UN Security Council on Thursday urged Somalia to do a better job keeping track of its arsenal of weapons, which in the past have fallen into the hands of Islamic militants.
"The Security Council remains concerned about the diversion of arms and ammunition, including potentially to Al-Shebab," it said in a unanimous declaration.
The 15 member council called on Mogadishu to "consider establishing a joint verification team with international experts."
"The team should focus on physical verification of arms and ammunition provided to the federal government, as well as the systems of control in place for arms and ammunition management," the council said.
Improved measures to safeguard its arms would be in compliance with terms of a partial suspension last March of an arms embargo on Somalia, the council said.
The Security Council at that time extended a measure that eased a weapons ban in Somalia, but it tightened other restrictions, to try to prevent the arms from ending up in the hands of Islamist extremists.
The measure in March required that the Somali government meet strict conditions on monitoring arms imports, to prevent the weapons falling into the hand of the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shebab militia.
Prior to easing the restrictions, UN experts responsible for monitoring the arms embargo on Somalia said there had been "systematic" cases of weapons ending up in the hands Somali chieftains, and sometimes Shebab Islamist leaders.
The council nevertheless relaxed the weapons restrictions to allow the Somali government more firepower to combat the Shebab movement.



Source: AFP



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Somali mall expansion project nixed by city amid crowd complaints

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Business Journal
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
by: Mark Reilly

The Minneapolis Planning Commission killed a plan to expand Village Market mall, a hub for Somali businesses, after it drew complaints from neighbors that there's too much traffic already.

The Star Tribune reports on the project,which had sought to add another 9,000 square feet of space and more parking. City planners had endorsed the idea, but commissioners voted it down after a busy Monday night meeting in which neighbors said the streets around the mall, at East 24th Street and 10th Avenue South, were already choked with cars.

The Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association opposed the plan, and even some shop owners said that owners should fix the parking situation before expanding more. The developer is planning to install pay parking, which could cut down on all-day visits by patrons who come to watch soccer games.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Video: Garnaqsiga Xisbiga UCID iyo Odayaasha Xamar ka Yimid

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Video: Wiil Somali Suju oo bas uu korey looga kala cararey

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Terrorism in Kenya: Going bang day and night

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014
by D.H.



FOUR explosions in the space of less than 48 hours in Kenya's two largest cities have created an atmosphere of fear and anger in east Africa's largest economy. The fear focuses on Somali Islamists, the Shabab, who were blamed for a spate of attacks that left at least seven people dead with more than 30 critically injured on May 3rd and 4th. While the militants are also the subject of anger, many Kenyans have turned their rage on their own government whose security promises and crackdown on Somali immigrants in Kenya have been made to look impotent.
The first attack saw a grenade detonate aboard a bus, while a second explosion occurred near an upscale hotel. By the following afternoon's double bus-bombing on a highway leading out of Nairobi, the country's busy social media was dominated by complaints about the absence of Uhuru Kenyatta, the president. He was conducting a state visit to Nigeria but it was notable that his office felt sufficiently stung to issue a statement defending the trip.

His administration's diet of tough talk against Somali refugees living in Kenya combined with poor performance and corruption by security agencies has attracted mounting criticism. The failure to sack a single leading official in the wake of the appalling mishandling of the Westgate shopping mall attack in September last year has shredded public confidence in the police and army.

Ory Okollah, a technologist and investor, who is one of the most influential Kenyan voices online, lambasted the government on Twitter: "The casual way in which Westgate inquiry was treated with a focus on a half-assed cover-up tells you how serious this govt is re security".
It has also prompted a fresh round of questions about what Kenya is doing occupying part of its chaotic northern neighbour, Somalia. Kenya's main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) responded to the blasts by calling for Kenyan troops to withdraw from Somalia. A spokesman for the ODM asked why Kenyan soldiers were in a foreign country when Kenyans were being blown up on home soil.
The spate of attacks are unlikely to change Kenyan policy in Somalia where its soldiers—now under the auspices of the African Union—occupy the southern port city of Kismayo and its surrounds. What they have done is shine a light on the rot in Kenya's security sector. As Rasna Warah, a columnist, wrote in the country's leading morning newspaper: "Corrupt police and bent immigration officers are costing Kenyans their lives."

Building addition collapses atop Somali mall in south Minneapolis

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Monday, May 6, 2014
by: TIM HARLOW , and PAUL WALSH Star

Authorities examined the scene of the partial building collapse at Karmel Square in Minneapolis. 
Photo: Bruce Bisping

At least part of a retail building in south Minneapolis where a third-floor addition was being built collapsed Tuesday morning, according to police.

Part of Karmel Square, a mall that houses about 150 Somali businesses at 2910 Pillsbury Avenue, gave way around 8:45 a.m. There were no immediate reports of injuries, said police spokesman Scott Seroka.

About 25 people were removed from the building, where many of the businesses were about to open, said Police Inspector Todd Loining, adding that no construction workers were there at the time.

The shops will remain closed until city officials can declare the area safe.

The collapse involved a wall for what is to be a third floor for the mall, which will include a prayer room, said building owner Basim Sabri.

Sabri said construction workers were putting trusses in place late Monday to support a wall, and “the trusses were not properly secured.”

Sabri said, “Thankfully, nobody was injured.”

The collapse initiated a “kind of a domino effect that knocked over everything,” Loining said.

The mishap briefly knocked out electricity in the area, including at Loining’s Fifth Precinct station.

In recent years, Sabri has started construction without permits, taken the city to court and had enough tangles with inspectors that properties he controls make up half the city’s watch list of chronic code violators.

Loining said it does appear that Sabri had the proper permits for the work on the mall.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Obama praises Djibouti security cooperation, says US will sign long-term lease for base

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President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, left, during a press availability before their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


By JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent

Monday, May 5, 2014 WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has finalized a 10-year agreement with Djibouti to keep U.S. troops at a military base in the East African nation that houses special forces and serves as a launching point for drones.

"This is a critical facility that we maintain in Djibouti," President Barack Obama said Monday during an Oval Office meeting with Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh. "We could not do it without the president's cooperation. We're grateful for him agreeing for a long-term presence there."

Djibouti, a tiny nation of less than 1 million people, has become a linchpin of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in Africa and the Middle East. The U.S. military base Camp Lemonnier houses conventional forces, as well as special forces and aerial drones believed to be flown over Yemen and Somalia.

An administration official said the new $63 million per year lease would allow the U.S. to keep personnel and equipment at the camp for 10 more years. The agreement includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years without renegotiating the terms, as well as a provision to extend for an additional 10 years beyond that at a renegotiated rate, according to the official.

The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the agreement publicly by name.

The terms of the lease indicate that the U.S. is likely to maintain a long-term military presence in Djibouti. Camp Lemonnier is the only U.S. base in sub-Saharan Africa.
Guelleh said his country's arrangement with U.S. forces is a sign of Djibouti's "support for international peace and for peace in our region as well."

Source: AP

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Minneapolis: Major changes slated for Cedar-Riverside area

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
by: Eric Roper

The sidewalks, public spaces and transit amenities of the Cedar-Riverside area are poised for major improvements this summer as a result of several projects.

When the Green Line light rail opens on June 14, Cedar-Riverside will be the only area outside of downtown Minneapolis served by two LRT lines. To coincide with that, the Cedar Cultural Center is planning a new multi-use "destination" plaza to improve the outdoor realm near the Riverside Plaza towers.

A simultaneous $1.7 million Cedar Avenue street reconstruction this summer will widen sidewalks, add pedestrian lighting and create additional on-street parking (schematic at bottom of post). The city estimates that 1,470 pedestrians walk along Cedar Avenue in that area.

In the housing realm, a developer is preparing to build Five15 on the Park, a six-story building with 259 housing units adjoining the Mixed Blood Theater. The $52 million project, which will be half affordable units, is benefiting from substantial public funding.

The numerous projects promise to shape the future of a neighborhood that has become home  to the city's growing Somali-American community.

Rob Simonds, executive director of the Cedar Cultural Centar, said their planned plaza will create aflexible  space for events or more casual uses between their venue and Riverside Plaza. They will remove the fence around their patio, eliminate numerous concrete obstacles, and add poles for nighttime lighting.

“This is a very high-density residential neighborhood, and there’s really no outdoor space for people to hang out," Simonds said of the project, for which they have raised about $400,000. They are seeking a $300,000 county transit-oriented development grant to make more expansive improvements.

"The Cedar Cultural Center (The Cedar) seeks to build a destination point between the two stations to more effectively drive transit riders through the neighborhood's commercial corridor thus increasing activity for local businesses , leveraging arts and cultural offerings, and emphasizing the pedestrian culture and street-level vitality," stated a city document outlining grant applications.

The space may be enclosed with fencing for outdoor music events, which city rules would only allow to be held 12 times a year. But other uses would be varied, including hanging out and drinking coffee at a Somali-operated portable coffee cart that Simonds said has expressed interest in using the plaza.

"It was just a central point for the neighborhood," Simonds said. Construction  on the plaza is expected to coincide with the street reconstruction, which Simonds said would begin this summer.
David Frank, the city's director of transit-oriented development, said the overarching goal for Cedar-Riverside is to build on the small businesses  and immigrant communities that are already in the neighborhood, allowing more people to use the area while not pushing out existing residents.

"It’s…such a unique place now," Frank said. "When you leverage that with the transit amenities, the infrastructure investment, the parks, the cultural amenities that it’s getting -- or is spiffing up -- I think it becomes a place unto itself.”

Interview with Senator Billow Keeroow

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