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UNHCR steps up repatriation of Somali refugees from Kenya   

NAIROBI  (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said Sunday it repatriated 832 refugees in the past two weeks to Somalia as the UN agency stepped up returns from Kenya.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-monthly report released in Nairobi that some 83 refugees were returned to Mogadishu city while 749 were taken to Kismayo in southern Somalia between Sept. 1-15.

“The cumulative total number of persons repatriated from Kenya to Somalia stands at 73,031,” the UNHCR said of the number of Somalis who have been assisted in the framework of voluntary return to Somalia since the launch of the exercise on December 8, 2014.

The UN agency said a total of 71,034 out of 73,031 individuals were repatriated voluntarily from the Dadaab refugee camp which is located in northeast Kenya.

The Kenyan government said the refugee situation continued to pose security threats to Nairobi and the region apart from the humanitarian crisis.

The East African nation which has been planning to close the Dadaab refugee camp, cited the influence of Al-Shabaab militants as among the risks of keeping the camps open.

According to UNHCR, currently there are 17,229 refugees who are willing to return to Somalia, with 11,358 being registered in 2017 alone. Registration is ongoing.

“Due to suspension of road movements, and returns to Baidoa being put on hold until further notice, the Return Help Desks (RHD) continue to receive a reduced number of persons seeking return,” it said.

An estimated 2 million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises that have now entered its third decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Somalia.

Experts held that strengthened political and security stabilization progress in Somalia, along with growing pressures in hosting countries, makes it a critical moment to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees.



Somalia Puntland forces seize boat carrying illegal weapons

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Marine forces in Somalia’s Puntland on Saturday captured a boat carrying anti-aircraft guns and other illegal weapons in northern Somalia, local officials said.

Puntland marine officer Mohamed Mohamud said the boat was seized with a large amount of weapons in the coastal waters of Somalia. An investigation has been launched.

“Puntland Marine guards seized this boat which was carrying large amount of weapons, ammunition with different sizes,” he said. “The operation is still underway, we don’t know the ownership of this shipment.”

Among the weapons seized were anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, AK-47 rifles and dozens of boxes of ammunition. The weapons, whose final destination remains unknown, were from Yemen.

Puntland marine forces started tracking the vessel from Yemen following a tip-off from international naval forces, Mohamud said.

Puntland State Administration have been battling pirates, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State (IS) militants in the region.

Somalia came under United Nations arms embargo in 1992, after a civil war broke out in the African nation. In 2013, the U.N. Security Council eased the embargo for one year, allowing the weak Somali government to buy light weapons to strengthen its security forces.



China pledges to support Somalia’s development

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, pledging China’s support for Somalia’s development.

China and Somalia enjoy a long history of friendship, Wang said, adding that China was one of the countries that first recognized Somalia’s independence and Somalia was the first country in East Africa to establish diplomatic relations with China.

China has always supported Somalia in preserving its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and supports peace and reconstruction in the country, he said.

With authorization of related UN resolutions, China has deployed its navy fleet to carry out escort missions in the waters off Somalia, which has contributed to maintaining security there, he added.

China supports the Somali government in leading its people to embark on the path of peaceful development soon, Wang said.

China is willing to cooperate with Somalia in various fields and help Somalia preserve peace, develop its economy and improve its people’s livelihood so as to continuously strengthen its self-development skills, Wang added.

Khaire, for his part, said the Somali people always remember China’s support and help for Somalia’s independence and development.

Somalia highly values China’s international status and its important role in promoting Africa’s development, Khaire said.

Somalia supports the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and hopes that it will play a unique role in jointly building the Belt and Road, he added.


China donates to orphanage school in Somalia

By Hashi MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- China on Saturday made donations worth 36,500 U.S. dollars to an orphanage school in Bodhere district of Mogadishu, officials said.

Chinese Ambassador to Somalia Qin Jian said Beijing will continue to support the development and prosperity of Somalia and strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

Qin said the donations included beds, chairs, foods, computers and other equipments and office supplies.

“The children are the country’s hope and the future. I hope you will study hard, grow healthily and build talent for the national construction of development in future,” he said.

China has increased its humanitarian aid and education assistance to the Somali government in recent years.

Beijing earlier this month offered scholarships to over 50 Somalia students across the country to study in China.

Nurto Mohamed Addow, Bondhere Orphanage manager, thanked China for providing crucial assistance that would improve conditions of the young girls at the school.

“We are very grateful to Chinese embassy in Mogadishu that gave us important equipment including a vehicle, computers, school beds, basic foods, refrigerators and other useful materials, we will remember China’s support in our hearts forever,” Addow said.

Bondhere District Commissioner Seynab Yusuf Wehliye also hailed China’s continuous assistance to Somalia.

“China built for us the National Theater, Benadir hospital, stadium in Mogadishu and roads, and China’s projects have better quality than others. Thanks China,” Mohamed said.


Somalia media stakeholders appeal to parliament to amend media law

MOGADISHU  Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia journalists, lawyers and civil society organizations on Monday appealed to parliament to amend the new media law before its approval.

In a joint statement issued in Mogadishu following consultations, the media stakeholders said the law which was approved by the Cabinet on June 27 introduces strict media restrictions and heavy fines on media workers.

The media stakeholders said the regulations dealing with media registration; media accreditation; ethics of journalism and qualifications; and exceptions to media freedom including media license need some amendments.

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), called on the lawmakers to seriously review and amend the clauses contradicting the international freedom of expression before officially passing the media law.

The journalists have complained that the regulations failed to take into account the years of experience a journalist may have on reporting on Somalia’s complicated clan-based and religious violence.

The government has said the media law which was reviewed following consultations with media stakeholders will hugely help the media industry in the country to be regulated and it will protect the freedom of expression as enshrined in chapter 18 of the provisional constitution.


African Union helps in preventing child soldiers in Somalia

By Abdi MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said Wednesday it has trained 60 officers from the Somali security forces in the prevention of recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Francisco Caetano Madeira, the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia, noted that the use of child soldiers in conflict was widespread in Somalia and expressed the need to establish the exact numbers of children fighting wars in the country.

“It’s difficult to know exactly how many underage children are involved in this battle. We have to say it’s widespread, particularly within the Al-Shabaab ranks,” Madeira said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

The two-week training drew participants from the Somali military, police and intelligence services. Representatives of non-governmental organizations, federal and regional level member states also participated in the training which ended on Wednesday.

“We should spare these children from being recruited into radicalism, from being recruited into committing acts of violence against their own people, against their own country and against their own neighbors,” Madeira said.

The training focused on the identification of child soldiers, the prevention of their recruitment, their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Simon Mulongo, Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, said the training would equip Somali national security forces with skills and knowledge to effectively contain the problem.

British Ambassador to Somalia David Concar attributed the widespread recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia to violent extremism propagated by the Al-Shabaab militant group.

“It does a huge harm to communities and it’s holding back the cause of peace in this part of Africa,” Concar noted.


African Union police equips Somalia police to enhance capacity

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) police have handed over an assortment of critical office equipment to the Somali Police Force to help enhance their capacity to deter terror threats in the country.

AMISOM Deputy Police Commissioner Christine Alalo handed over the equipment donated by Denmark to the police in Mogadishu. She said the consignment will help in facilitating the work of police officers to maintain law and order.

“We have a mandate here in Somalia and our mandate is to build the capacity of the Somali police forces. This is in terms of training, mentoring, operational support; you see the Formed Police Unit (FPU) that undertake day and night patrols,” Alalo said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“We also do strategic advising, but most of all, we are supposed to support them in terms of logistics and equipment, (and) to equip the police stations,” she added.

The equipment which included office furniture, desktop computers, printers, folding chairs, tables, cabinets, solar torches and solar lamps, will be distributed to various police stations in Mogadishu.

The AU mission’s police skills and mentors Somali police officers to effectively maintain law and order across the country.

They also train them on the consequences of sexual and gender-based violence, human rights observance and protection in conflict and post- conflict environments, community policing, traffic management and basic criminal investigation techniques, which are critical areas in the maintenance of law and order.

General Ahmed Hassan Malin, the commander of the Banadir Police Station, said the cabinets will be used for storing documents and the solar torches for night patrols.

“We are grateful for the donation brought to us by our brothers at AMISOM Police. We will distribute them to four police stations in Banadir and I know they will enhance greatly our operations,” Malin said.



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