Somali president pleads for aid to avert famine

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed speaks in Nairobi on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2017
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Somali president pleads for aid to avert famine

NAIROBI: Somalia’s new president appealed to the international community Thursday for more aid to avert a famine threatening his country that could also undermine fledgling political hopes born in his peaceful election.
“Almost half of our people are facing acute food shortages and about 15 percent are facing famine” amid a severe drought, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, said in a video conference with the United Nations Security Council.
“Among the many pressing priorities for my administration, responding effectively to the current humanitarian crisis tops the agenda,” he said.
Somalia, a Horn of Africa country of 12 million people, is facing its third famine in 25 years of civil war and anarchy.
At least 260,000 people died in the 2011 famine in Somalia — half of them children under the age of five, according to the UN World Food Program.
“The response from the Somali people and international community has been tremendous,” the president told the council. “We kindly request that all those who can — support this effort further.”
Farmajo is a popular leader whose recent election has sparked hope among Somalis of a more stable future for a country notorious for being the world’s foremost failed state.
He assured the council that his administration would pursue good governance and economic renewal.
In addition, he pledged to develop the country’s own defenses against Al-Shabab, a militant group linked to Al-Qaeda that was forced out of the capital in 2011 by African Union troops but still controls parts of the country.
Most of the participants in the discussion praised the electoral process that resulted in the Feb. 8 election of Farmajo, a dual US-Somali citizen, and his administration’s plans.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the council meeting, also pleaded with members to increase their aid to Somalia.
“The crisis risks undermining the hard-won political progress that has been made. If we learn the lessons of 2011, and act early and decisively, the famine can still be prevented,” he said.
Only 32 percent of the $864 million needed this year to prevent famine has been raised, said Michael Keating, the UN special representative for Somalia.
The delivery of the funds is especially urgent to halt the spread of cholera, which now affects 11 of the country’s 18 regions, he said.
“More resources are needed by the end of March... to reach affected people before it’s too late,” Keating warned. No new aid was announced.
Somalia, along with Yemen and Nigeria, are on the verge of famine, while the disaster has already been declared in South Sudan.
The UN has called on the international community for an urgent mobilization of funds — $4.4 billion by July — for the four countries to avert a catastrophe.


New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

Updated 33 min 50 sec ago
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New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

  • "One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said
  • Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into whether police and intelligence services could have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15.
Ardern said a royal commission -- the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law -- was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in an attack that shocked the world.
"It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to how this act of terrorism occurred and how we could have stopped it," she told reporters.
New Zealand's spy agencies have faced criticism in the wake of the attack for concentrating on the threat from Islamic extremism.
Instead, the victims were all Muslims and the massacre was allegedly carried out by a white supremacist fixated on the belief that there was an Islamist plot to "invade" Western countries.
"One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said.
"New Zealand is not a surveillance state ... but questions need to be answered."
Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, 28, who was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder.
She said details of the royal commission were being finalised, but it would be comprehensive and would report in a timely manner.
It will cover the activities of intelligence services, police, customs, immigration and any other relevant government agencies in the lead-up to the attack.
The gunman livestreamed the attack online, although New Zealand has outlawed the footage as "objectionable content".
Ardern reiterated her believe it should not be aired.
"That video should not be shared. That is harmful content," she said when questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showing excerpts of the footage at campaign rallies for local elections this month.
Erdogan had angered both Wellington and Canberra with campaign rhetoric about anti-Muslim Australians and New Zealanders being sent back in "coffins" like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a World War I battle.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters travelled to Istanbul to meet Erdogan and address an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Peters said OIC members were full of praise for the support New Zealand had offered its small, tight-knit Muslim community in the wake of the killings.
"A number of them were weeping and sobbing at the demonstration (of support) by non-Muslim New Zealand towards the Muslim victims," he told reporters.
"It was dramatic and I was told by countless ministers that they've never seen anything of that type."
The body of an Indian student killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, meanwhile, was returned Monday to her grieving family in Kochi, where relatives remembered a bright young woman dedicated to her studies.
Ansi Alibava, 25, was the first of at least five Indians shot dead on March 15 to be repatriated.
The family planned to hold a funeral ceremony for the masters student in their nearby hometown of Kodungallur.