By Florence Gichoya
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected the 9th president of the Federal Republic of Somalia. World leaders hailed the peaceful transfer of power from former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. The new president also goes by his nickname ‘Farmajo’, a word referring to ‘cheese’, his childhood delicacy.
Farmajo emerged winner in the historic elections held on February 8th 2017. Somalia had not held elections since 1985. The members of parliament voted from a pool of 21 presidential candidates, in a poll that was riddled with voter bribery allegations. After he was declared winner, he stated his vision for Somalia, “this is the beginning of unity for the Somali nation, the beginning of the fight against al shabab and corruption,” he said.
But during his inauguration, Farmajo told the Somali people to be hopeful, but also to be aware that it may take many years to fix Somalia. “Multiple challenges are ahead of our government. Therefore, I am telling people that because of the limited resources we have, our achievements will be limited,” he said
President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the inauguration event in solidarity with a neighbor emerging from decades of instability. He supported the Somali people in the ongoing efforts to rebuild the country. “The successful elections and peaceful transfer of power are a clear demonstration of the desire and ability of the people of Somalia to strengthen governance structure and build sustainable peace,” President Kenyatta said. Other regional leaders who graced the occasion were Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.
An American citizen, Farmajo has lived and worked in the U.S since 1985. His previous job was in the New York Department of Transportation, and he was an active member of the Republican Party. This unique arrangement, of foreign passport holders vying for political seats in Somalia is acceptable. According to Politico magazine, diaspora Somalis constitute a third of Somalia’s government.
Interestingly, out of the 21 presidential candidates, nine had dual citizenship of Somalia and America. Four candidates were British Somalis and three were Canadian Somalis. Former presidents Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud have dual citizenship of Kenya and Somalia.
Farmajo served as Somalia’s Prime Minister between 2010 and 2011. In one year he won the hearts of Somalis for his zero tolerance on corruption. He downsized the cabinet to improve efficiency, and ensured the salaries of the army and police officers were paid promptly.
Farmajo’s strategy on Alshabab
Somalia has seen a fair share of conflict since former president Mohamed Siad Barre was deposed in 1991. For 25 years, factions of warlords and Al shabab terrorists have controlled some territories, making the country ungovernable.
During his inauguration speech, President Farmajo offered an olive branch to the Al Shabab, and appealed to the belligerent group to join him in transforming the country.
President Kenyatta echoed that both Kenya and Somalia are threatened by many “foreign terrorists actors and agents” and “transnational and cross border crimes.”
Kenya and Somalia have suffered the blunt of Al shabab. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was set up for the purpose of stabilizing Somalia. KDF moved to Somalia in 2011 after increased cases of kidnappings of tourists and foreign aid workers by al shabab in the country. Kenya has about 3,600 troops in Somalia.
War and conflict leads to displacement of human population. Kenya has carried the burden of hosting Somali refugees for 25 years, and intends to shut down the Dadaab refugee camp, which hosts more than 200,000 Somali refugees. Kenyan government maintains that the camp is infiltrated by al shabab terrorists, and poses a threat to national security. “We will continue to provide a safe haven for refugees, but that generosity will be balanced, against the imperative of keeping Kenya safe,” President Kenyatta said.
Intelligence reports revealed that the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013 was hatched in the Dadaab camp. Two years later, the al shabab attacked Garissa University College killing 148 people.
Deputy President William Ruto accentuated Kenya’s position at the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in 2015, “Kenya has been faithful to her international obligations of humanitarian assistance, but no country can shoulder humanitarian responsibilities, at the expense of the security of her people, and the refugees themselves,” he said.
Farmajo will certainly engage Kenya and Ethiopia in the repatriation process of refugees. There is also the issue of Puntland that refuses to go away. Puntland, is an area in Northeastern Somalia that claimed autonomy in 1998.
Somalia has also suffered economic hardships for decades. According to the World Bank, Somalia is the fifth poorest country in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates Somalia’s economic growth rate will be at 2.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent growth rate experienced last year.
The country lacks a monetary policy and since 1991, Somalia has never printed its national currency, Somalia Shilling. This year, the Somalia Central Bank Governor announced plans to print its own currency, a project that will cost 60 million dollars. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) country director in Somalia, Samba Thiam said that, “98 percent of the currency circulating in the country is fake.”
Somalia on the rise
Somalia is a country of many contrasts. It has a heritage of a people who speak one language, but are divided along clans. The clans wield a lot of power in the governance of the country.
Since 1991, millions of Somalis have immigrated and settled in different countries around the world. The Somali diaspora has excelled in the business, health, sports, and academia and governance sectors.
Despite the security challenges, Somalia is on the rise of making a mark in the region. Last year Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched the largest Turkish diplomatic mission in Mogadishu. Schools, hospitals and markets have re-opened and Somali Diasporas are steadily returning to their homeland.
The country has the longest coastline in Africa and has potential of becoming a leading tourist destination. Farmajo has a big task ahead. To rebuild and stabilize a fragile state, and improve Somalia’s standing in the community of nations.
By Florence Gichoya
Ethiopia is a country of many contrasts. Africa’s most populous land locked country, is a rising economic powerhouse, recording the highest economic growth rate in the continent. But then again, Ethiopia performs dismally in the area of democracy and press freedom. The country’s parliament is deficient of opposition MPs. The ruling party, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and its allied parties, won all the 546 parliamentary seats, in last year’s May elections.
Still, the state driven economy is upbeat and trounces many African countries, which are either grappled with conflict, corruption or hostile political environment that is unfavorable for investors.
There is an unstoppable construction boom. In 2013, Africa’s biggest wind farm was built in the south of Addis Ababa. The 324 MW wind power will address the growing energy demand for domestic and industrial use. Another mega project is the construction of the 6, 000 MW Grand Renaissance dam. It will cost $4.8 billion, making it the seventh biggest hydropower plant in the world.
By increasing and diversifying the source of energy, Ethiopia has paved way for local and foreign investors. In April last year, an American owned company General Electric Transportation announced that it would set up an electric cars factory in Ethiopia, it will be the first in the continent. The plant is expected to make 4,000 cars per month, and will offer employment to thousands.
In November last year, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport launched the country’s first manufacturing and assembly plant. The Bushoftu Automative Industry located in a military base, is expected to manufacture 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles per year. The Transport Ministry indicated that in 2014, there were only 587,400 vehicles for 94 million people in the country. That translates to two vehicles for every 1,000 people.
“This is a light duty manufacturing plant. In this factory we can manufacture and assemble pickups, station wagons, single and double cabins and mini-trucks. We can manufacture or assemble more than 20 units per day. If there is more demand we can increase this production,” said Major Metafer Beshawhwured, the factory’s Assistant General Manager.
Ethiopia has an ambition to not only manufacture automobiles to cater for domestic demands, but also to export to neighbouring countries including Kenya.
Transport and infrastructure boom
In November last year, Ethiopia made history when it launched the first light rail system in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 32 km rail is essential in decongesting the city that has a population of more than 4 million people. Another 800 km railway line connecting Addis Ababa and Djibouti’s Port City was completed. The train ferries 1,500 trucks of goods daily to land locked Ethiopia.
An elaborate road network to increase the economic growth is under construction. The World Bank Group is partly financing the construction of Modjo-Hawassa 203km road, to the tune of $370 million. The expressway will connect the southern region to central area, and northern Ethiopia will be linked to the Djibouti Port. The road will reduce duration of travel, from four hours to two hours, and accommodate 4,000 vehicles per day. The road is part of the transcontinental 10,000 km Cape Town to Cairo highway.
Unlike other African airlines that are making loses, year in year out, Ethiopia Airlines has maintained a sturdy profit making record. In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, the government owned airline recorded $175 profit. Last month, the carrier signed a pact with Rwanda’s RwandAir, to rid the fifth freedom rights. This partnership now allows both carriers to operate without restrictions in Ethiopia and Rwanda airspace.
Sustaining traditional exports
Coffee is Ethiopia’s leading foreign exchange earner and the country is Africa’s leading exporter of Arabica coffee. According to National Geographic Magazine, 12 million Ethiopians depend on coffee as a source of income. Kenya has a lot to learn from Ethiopia’s coffee industry.
In January this year, Ethiopia projected a 45 per cent increase in coffee exports. “Coffee exports will increase 45 per cent to over 260,000 tons this year. Incentives will help achieve this goal, and they will include marketing linkage, loans for coffee exporters and processors, and the promotion of the Arabica coffee that the country exports at trade shows abroad,” Shimelis Arega, Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry spokesperson pronounced.
In 2014, the World Bank indicated that Ethiopia’s coffee contributed to 84 per cent of the country’s total exports and 80 per cent of the country’s total employment. The country’s Ministry of Trade has embarked on training small scale farmers on value addition, in order to increase sales.
The country has also diversified into horticulture business, which has grown tremendously over the years. According to World Bank Economist, Lars Christian Moller, who authored Strengthening Export Performance through Improved Competitiveness (July 2014). He evaluated Ethiopia’s flower industry had grown, “from one single firm 14 years ago to about 100 firms today, earning $200 million per year from exports and employing an estimated 50,000 people.”
When it comes to livestock industry, Ethiopia takes the lead. The livestock contributes to 17 per cent of the country’s GDP. According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Every year, the country produces about 2.7 million hides, 8.1 million sheepskins and 7.5 million goat skins.” The government attributes the high volume of animal hides and skins to the large population of 54 million cattle, 25.5 million sheep, 24 million goats, 7 million donkeys, two million horses and one million camels in the country. As a result, the leather industry has continued to thrive. Over 30 tanneries and numerous factories are used to process leather into shoes, bags, purses, industrial gloves, and other assorted items.
The end-products are exported to Asia, Europe and American markets. Foreign investors are encouraged to invest in the leather industry, where they enjoy a wide range of incentives, including more relief from income tax for a period of five years.
Ethiopia is an emerging power house that is on the rise. There is divided opinion on the ruling regime’s track record on human rights abuses, and its punitive methods of combating dissent. Nevertheless, Ethiopia continues to achieve great economic strides, making it an envy of Africa’s leading democracies
By Florence Gichoya
For a third time, Kenya has made international headlines by burning a stockpile of ivory. On April 30th 105 tonnes of ivory were burnt at the Nairobi National Park. It is the largest hoard of ivory to be destroyed globally. On July 19 1989, former President Daniel Arap Moi burnt 12 tonnes of ivory tusks at the Nairobi National Park. The action was a bold statement against ivory poaching and trade in the world.
“To stop the poacher, the trader must also be stopped and to stop the trader, the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory. I appeal to people all over the world.” President Moi said during the historic event. The destruction of the seized ivory was influenced by the drastic drop of elephant population in the country, from 167,000 in 1973 to 16,000.
The action greatly influenced the global ban of ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in October 1989. The resolution was supported by 76 states with 11 countries voting against. Interestingly, among the opponents of the ban were African countries that wanted to carry on trading ivory with Asian countries. Burundi, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe did not support the ban on ivory trade that was a source of revenue for their countries.
Similarly, other countries followed suit in burning ivory stockpile as a public statement against poaching and ivory trade. Zambia burned 9.5 tonnes of seized ivory in 1992.
Richard Leakey, chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service, told Scientific American Magazine that following the 1989 burning of ivory, there was a drastic drop in poaching incidences in Kenya. “The number of elephants being killed in Kenya went down from thousands a year to maybe 100 by the end of 1990, and it remained at that low level for at least a decade.”
On July 20 2011, President Mwai Kibaki, burnt five tonnes of ivory at the Tsavo National Park. “We cannot afford to sit back and allow criminal networks to destroy our common future. Through the burning of contraband ivory, we are sending a clear message to poachers and illegal traders in wildlife about our collective resolve to fight this crime in our region and beyond.” Kibaki said.
He echoed Kenya’s resolve to conserve elephants and fight ivory trade. “Through the disposal of contraband ivory, we seek to formally demonstrate to the world our determination to eliminate all forms of illegal trade in ivory.” He said.
The burning of ivory on April 30th sent a strong message to the world to stand against ivory trade. Richard Leakey believes it’s the best way to change perceptions and attitudes of Asian consumers. “My feeling is that many people who are buying this ivory in China and elsewhere simply don’t know what it is doing to elephants. May be they think that it is coming off elephants that have died of natural causes. When Kenya burns $100 million worth of ivory, they’ll say, ‘What the hell was that about?’ It will help open their eyes to what is actually happening.” Richard Leakey told Scientific American.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), 14 countries have destroyed over 130 tonnes of ivory since 1989. Countries have chosen to either burn or crush their seized ivory, including; Gabon, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, France, China, Philippines, USA, China and Hong Kong
Still other countries have opted to sell their ivory, with clearance from CITES. In 1999, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe sold 49.4 tonnes of ivory to Japan. The sale precipitated high demand of ivory in Asia, which led to increased incidences of poaching of rhinos and elephants in Africa.
In 2008, CITES permitted Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell 102 tonnes of ivory to China and Japan. Again, the deal saw a surge in elephant poaching.
Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service, stated why Kenya was burning the largest stockpile of ivory in the world. “Kenya has decided to burn ivory because the moment you burn it, you are making it beyond economic use. Trophy disposal is left for countries to decide, some opt to crush it.” He said.
Mbathi emphasized that “Ivory is only valuable to Elephants,” and should not be used for other adornments.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa, due to the high demand of ivory in Asia.
Demand drives supply
Other endangered species include the Rhinos, which are an easy target for poachers due to the value of their horns. In some Asian countries, the Rhino horn is perceived to have medicinal value. The rhino horn is more valuable than gold, a kilogram sells at more than Ksh 1 million in the black market.
Kenya is home to the third largest Rhino population in the world. According to African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the poaching of Africa’s rhinos increased by 9,200 per cent between 2007 and 2014, with South Africa losing 1,215 rhinos in 2014.
The biggest challenge is in replenishing the population of elephants and rhinos that have long duration gestation periods. The tragic reality is that high rate of poaching means; there are more rhinos and elephants being killed than those that are being born. A rhino’s gestation period is about 16 months while elephants have a gestation period of almost two years.
Parliament enacted the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, the law has boosted efforts of wildlife conservation and conviction of poachers. Though the number of arrests has increased, there should be more convictions of poachers, ivory traffickers and their masterminds. Last year, Feisal Mohamed Ali, an ivory smuggler suspect was released from custody yet he is accused of smuggling ivory worth 2 tonnes.
Poaching of African Elephants and Rhinos thrives because of a complex network of cartels, which corrupt law enforcers, custom and immigration officials. The well-organized syndicates are elusive to justice and continue to carry out their crime across borders. Kenya’s cases of poaching have reduced. However, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa port continue to be transit points for ivory from Tanzania and Central Africa.
By Florence Gichoya
The inaugural Africa’s Regional Integration Index, ranked East Africa Community (EAC) as the top regional body in Africa. The report was compiled by African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union Commission (AUC) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and was released on April 2 2016, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Index, showed the progress and impact of regional integration in the continent. It looked at 28 indicators among them regional infrastructure, trade integration, productive integration, free movement of people and goods, and financial integration.
Africa has 8 regional intergovernmental organizations under the African Union. East Africa Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA).
Overall, EAC was ranked the most integrated region, followed by SADC and ECOWAS came third. CEN-SAD was ranked the least integrated region. IGAD, which Kenya is a member, was ranked the best performer in the area of infrastructure.
Free movement across borders
On January 1 2014, the tripartite partnership of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda launched the use of national identity cards to travel across the three countries. “Time has come for us to remove colonial boundary barriers that have kept us apart and also isolated the people from interacting and doing business freely.” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
The initiative’s aim was to encourage more integration, free movement of goods and services in the region that would boost the economy. “This is what we have agreed as leaders so that our people can interact by visiting each other’s country to do business and develop domestic tourism.” Uhuru said. So far the project has had considerable success, evidenced by the favorable ranking in the Africa’s Regional Integration Index.
EAC has also been commended for implementing easy travel for tourists intending to visit the region. On February 20 2014, the East Africa single tourist visa for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda was launched by Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame. Tourists need not apply for visas from the three visas, the 90 days visa allows multiple entries in the three countries. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda also embarked on marketing the region in international tourism fairs.
However, research has shown the project is still unpopular in the region. Kenya Tourism Federation announced in June 25 last year that 58 per cent of tourists had not used the single tourist visa, due to lack of awareness.
The Africa’s Regional Integration Index reported that, “When visa or work permit restrictions are cut, gains in time and resources open up, which supports more competitive businesses and economies.”
Africa Union Passports
Just like the European Union (EU) issues EU passports to citizens of its member states. The African Union (AU) will soon launch African passports to all Africans. The AU plans to issue the 53 Head of states, with the passports in efforts to popularize the travel document to their citizens.
EU passport holders don’t need visas to travel across Europe; likewise, AU passport holders will freely access all African countries without restrictions. “A few of us at the AU are already using that passport within Africa, and it is very useful, but we want the heads of states to carry it when they are visiting African countries to make it official and known to others as well.” Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission said.
African continent is still beset by restrictions of free movement of goods and services. During the African Leadership Forum held in Dar es Salam in July 2015. Olesugun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president called for the abolition of visas by African governments. “What we need to do in order to speed the integration process is to abolish visas in Africa. West African countries have done it and it is working.” He said.
According to AfDB’s Africa Visa Openness Index (2016), 55 per cent of African countries still issue visas to African travellers intending to visit their countries. Only 20 per cent of African countries, allow visitors without visas. Seychelles has the best visa openness policy. “Visa openness promotes talent mobility and business opportunities. Africa’s leader’s and policymakers have a key role to play in helping Africans to move freely in support of (AU) Agenda 2063’s call, to abolish visa requirements for all Africans by 2018.” Moono Mupotola, AfDB’s Director of Regional Integration and Trade said.
The European Union has succeeded in economic and political integration, compared to other regional bodies in the world. It has a membership of 28 countries and has existed for more than 55 years.
Within the EU, there’s free movement of people and goods. In 1999, it successfully launched the Euro, replacing the member countries’ currencies, with the exception of Britain and Denmark.
The regional body was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, for contributing, ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.’
Although Europe is a leading regional body, it is currently facing the threat of terrorism from Islamic State. It also has to cope with unprecedented immigration crisis, which has deeply divided EU’s membership on its policy on open borders for asylum seekers.
Terrorists attacks in EU’s capital Brussels, Belgium, on March 22 2016 that killed 31 people. And the deadly Paris terror attacks in 2015 have caused proponents of EU to be apprehensive on regional cohesion. Countries like Britain and France are now calling for tougher measures on EU’s immigration policy.
Another challenge for EU is the looming exit of Britain, the exit dubbed ‘Brexit’ will be determined by a referendum in 2017. Britain, a leading economy in Europe, has maintained its national currency, sterling pound, and declined to adapt the Euro currency. It has also restricted free flow of immigrants from Syria and other Middle East countries. If the referendum sails through, Britain will join Switzerland and Norway, which are the only European countries that are non-members of the EU.
By Florence Gichoya
On Saturday as Kenya joined the rest of the world in celebrating Press Freedom Day, another terror attack happened in Mombasa and 3 people lost their lives and 13 were injured. Within 24 hours there was another terror attack on buses on Thika road and 3 died and 82 were injured. Maybe it’s my instincts but I have observed that the recent 2014 terror attacks have happened a day before President Uhuru Kenyatta travels abroad or on the day he arrives from foreign visits. Below are few examples.
1. The Likoni church attack happened on March 23rd and Uhuru’s road trip to Tanzania was on March 24th.
2. Eastleigh blast was on March 31st and Uhuru was scheduled to travel to Belgium/Turkey on 1st April.
3. The Pangani police station attack happened the day Uhuru came back from Qatar. (April 23rd)
4. #MombasaBlast happened today (May 3rd) and Uhuru is set to travel to Nigeria tomorrow (March 4th) for a 3 day state visit.
5. Two buses on Thika Road were attacked on May 5th the day president Uhuru was leaving the country for Nigeria.
I may not be a security expert but as a concerned citizen, the frequency and coincidence of terror attacks is disturbing. So far government officials have assured Kenyans on the need to be vigilant and report suspects to the police, but we need more action than rhetoric. The terrorists live among us and know how to circumvent the security forces though corruption and absconding bail when arrested. Maybe it’s time we amended some of our laws, for instance why do we treat terrorism like a normal crime? We also need to give the National Intelligence Service powers to arrest terror suspects otherwise the blame game between Kenya police and NIS will continue.