After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 26 July 2021

After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
  • The country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians last week against taking part in the vote

MOGADISHU: Somalia has postponed elections that were due to start on Sunday after months of delays in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country, officials told AFP.

Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls were due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates. The election cycle was due to end with a presidential poll on Oct. 10.
“Even though the plan was the upper house election to start around the various states today, there is a delay, the election may not take place as planned,” a member of the electoral commission said.
The delay was due to the fact that federal regions were neither able to submit candidates’ lists in time, nor to form local committees to cast the ballots, the source added.
A spokesman for the federal government, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, told AFP that the elections were “postponed,” without providing details.
Last week, the country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians against taking part in the elections, which were due to kick off after months of deadlock and delays.
The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the country.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.
Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states were unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

SPEEDREAD

Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when the country’s leadership was unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

After months of stalemate that at times turned violent, the political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable.
According to the agreed plan, delegates from the five federal states, chosen by various clans in that state, elect parliamentarians, who then elect a president. The process was due to kick off on Sunday.
But according to several sources, the sole state that was capable of carrying out a vote “during the week” was Jubaland. The state has already chosen its delegate committee and could publish a list of candidates “during the week.”
“We are expecting the election to take place soon,” said Mohamed Adan, a senior government official in Jubaland. Another source said the electoral process could kick off in the state later on Sunday.
In Puntland state, sources said the elections were delayed because of “technical reasons.”
In Galmudug state, the local parliament is on a break and will reconvene in early August.
In South-West state, the process is blocked because the regional president is out of the country.
Somalia’s political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gunbattles on the streets of Mogadishu. Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.
The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.
Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabab insurgency has prevented such an exercise. The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from Sept. 12-Oct. 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.
According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.
Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.
Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.


Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
Updated 51 min 57 sec ago

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community

Drug addiction infiltrates Arab-American community
  • Imam tells Arab News of ‘catastrophic consequences on youth’
  • Drug use in US up 61% between 2016 and 2020, with 93,000 overdose deaths last year

DEARBORN: Despite an abundance of studies and preventive efforts, drug addiction is growing more than ever in the US, including at alarming rates in the Arab-American community, leaders in Greater Detroit have told Arab News.
There were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2019 and 93,000 last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today, drug abuse among youth in particular is a high public-health concern as at least one in eight teenagers, some as young as 13, use an illicit substance. Drug use increased 61 percent between 2016 and 2020.

Half of teenagers have misused a drug at least once, and it is estimated that 43 percent of college students use illicit drugs.
 “The issue of drugs and its catastrophic consequences on the youth of the Arab-American community has become apparent to any sane person,” Imam Mardini, the imam of the American Islamic Center in the city of Dearborn, told Arab News.
 “Everyone is at risk. We’ve had cases from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and some were even from wealthy conservative families.”
 Adel Mozip, a Dearborn school board trustee, told Arab News: “Drug abuse is alive in the Detroit community, where youth lose their lives consistently due to overdoses and addiction, and Arab and Muslim students are impacted greatly.”
 Dr. Omar Reda — a board-certified psychiatrist, Harvard-trained trauma expert, author and family advocate — advised parents: “You can detect the symptoms of drug use by monitoring certain changes in children such as language, behavior, weight loss, sleep disturbance, tendency to be secretive, skin marks, or even leaving home. Some other dangerous symptoms might include delusions, hallucinations, violence, or expressing suicidal thoughts.”
 He said the main social and behavioral reasons for youth drug addiction in Arab communities are isolation — which has become worse since the coronavirus pandemic — marginalization, despair, poor family and social support, and stigma because of cultural and religious taboos.
Takween Katrous, mental wellness coordinator at the American Islamic Center, told Arab News: “Many young adults in the Arab community have self-esteem issues and can be affected by peer pressure because they’re eager to fit in, and can easily succumb to societal pressures.” 
She said there is a clear lack of emotional support from immigrant parents, including from Arab and Muslim communities, due to generational differences that lead to misunderstanding and conflict within families.
Mozip said part of the problem is related to the easy accessibility of drugs. As such, doctors and pharmacists should “stop writing prescriptions that lead to addiction, and in addition they must closely monitor their patients.”
Experts said another important factor is the stigma surrounding mental health in the Arab community, as parents prefer to hide family problems than deal with them because of perceived shame.

In this context, Mardini advises parents to pinpoint the problem and confront it courageously at an early stage. Mozip said: “Please don’t be ashamed of treating your child.”  
As for the role of the community in confronting this issue, Katrous said: “It should offer youth more recreational programs in order to make sure they’re preoccupied with activities that benefit them emotionally, physically and academically.” 
Until authorities find effective solutions to the problem, and Arab and Muslim communities acknowledge and take it more seriously, drug addiction will worsen, Arab community leaders warn.

They say local communities, religious institutions and families must work together with openness, sincerity and solidarity to save their children. 


British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
Updated 24 September 2021

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher

British police arrest man over killing of London teacher
  • Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic”

LONDON: Police have arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of killing Sabina Nessa, a primary school teacher found dead in a London park.
Nessa’s killing — as she walked to meet a friend a few minutes from her south London home — has renewed concerns that women are not safe on the city’s streets. A vigil is due to be held in Nessa’s memory on Friday.
Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London on Sept. 17. Detectives believe she was attacked during what would have been a five-minute walk through a local park to meet a friend at a pub. Her body was found by a member of the public the next day. Results from a post-mortem examination carried out on Monday were inconclusive.
Late Thursday police said they had arrested a man in a nearby area of London on suspicion of murder. He has not been charged, and his name was not released.
Police also released images of another man they want to speak to as part of the investigation.
Nessa’s death came months after the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was abducted and killed as she walked home in south London in March. An off-duty police officer has admitted raping and killing her.
Everard’s slaying shocked the country and saw thousands take to the streets to denounce violence against women.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday described the violence against women as a national “epidemic.” He said more than 180 women have been killed by men across England from March 2020.


Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy
Updated 24 September 2021

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Catalan separatist leader Puigdemont arrested in Italy
  • Carles Puigdemont is wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition over his attempts to have the Catalan region break away from Madrid through the 2017 referendum

MADRID: Exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was arrested in Italy on Thursday, his lawyer and an aide said, four years after fleeing following an independence referendum that Madrid ruled unconstitutional.
The European MEP was expected to appear in court on Friday at a hearing that could see him extradited to Spain to face sedition charges.
The Catalan leader — who has been based in Belgium since the 2017 referendum — was detained in Alghero, Sardinia, his chief of staff, Josep Lluis Alay, wrote on Twitter.
“At his arrival at Alghero airport, he was arrested by Italian police. Tomorrow (Friday), he’ll appear before the judges of the court of appeal of Sassari, who will decide whether to let him go or extradite him,” Alay said.
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, tweeted that the exiled separatist leader was arrested on his arrival in Italy, where he was traveling in his capacity as an MEP.
He said the arrest was made on the basis of a warrant issued in October 2019 that had since been suspended.
Puigdemont, 58, is wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition over his attempts to have the Catalan region break away from Madrid through the 2017 referendum.
His arrest comes a week after the left-leaning Spanish government and regional Catalan authorities resumed negotiations to find a solution to Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
In March, the European Parliament rescinded immunity for Puigdemont and two other pro-independent MEPs, a decision that was upheld in July by the EU’s General Court.
However, the European Parliament’s decision is under appeal and a final ruling by the EU court has yet to be made.
Following Thursday’s arrest, Madrid expressed “its respect for the decisions of the Italian authorities and courts.”
“The arrest of Mr.Puigdemont corresponds to an ongoing judicial procedure that applies to any EU citizen who has to answer to the courts,” the Spanish government said in a statement.
The statement added Puigdemont should “submit to the action of justice like any other citizen.”
New Catalan president Pere Aragones — a separatist but more moderate than his predecessor — condemned what he called the “persecution” of Puigdemont.
“In the face of persecution and judicial repression, the strongest condemnation. It has to stop,” he wrote on Twitter.
He added that “self-determination” was the “only solution.”
Besides Puigdemont, former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati are also wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition.
The October 2017 referendum was held by Catalonia’s separatist regional leadership despite a ban by Madrid and the process was marred by police violence.
A few weeks later, the leadership made a short-lived declaration of independence, prompting Puigdemont to flee abroad.
Others who stayed in Spain were arrested and tried.
However, Puigdemont did not benefit from the pardon granted in June to nine pro-independence activists who had been imprisoned in Spain.


Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot
Updated 24 September 2021

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot

Trump allies Bannon, Meadows subpoenaed in Congress’ probe of US Capitol riot
  • A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory
  • Nearly 600 people have been arrested on charges tied to the attack

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol has subpoenaed four former members of Donald Trump’s administration, including Mark Meadows and Steve Bannon, the panel’s chairman said on Thursday.
Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino and former Defense Department official Kash Patel were also subpoenaed and instructed to produce materials and appear for depositions, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement.
Meadows, a former congressman, served as Trump’s White House chief of staff. Bannon was a White House adviser to Trump.
A representative for Meadows said he declined to comment. Bannon and Scavino could not be reached for immediate comment.
Patel said in a statement he was “disappointed, but not surprised” the committee issued a subpoena before seeking his voluntary cooperation.
A mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory, delaying that process for several hours as then-Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, staff and journalists fled from rioters.
Nearly 600 people have been arrested on charges tied to the attack. It was the worst violence at the seat of the US government since the British invasion during the War of 1812.
Thompson said Meadows reportedly communicated with state and federal officials as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election or prevent Biden’s certification. Meadows was also reportedly in communication with organizers of the Jan. 6 rally, Thompson said.

’All hell is going to break loose’
In a letter to Bannon, Thompson noted that he had been involved with multiple conversations about persuading members of Congress to block certification of Trump’s election defeat.
“You are quoted as stating, on Jan. 5, 2021, that ‘all hell is going to break loose tomorrow,’” Thompson wrote. “Accordingly, the select committee seeks both documents and your deposition testimony.”
Bannon was fired by Trump August 2017 but they later mended fences and stayed in contact. Trump pardoned Bannon after he was charged with swindling the president’s own supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build a border wall.
Meadows and Scavino have been instructed to appear for depositions on Oct. 15 and Bannon and Patel on Oct. 14.
Thompson said in his letter to Scavino that he was a witness to Trump’s activities on the day of the riot. “You may also have materials relevant to (Trump’s) videotaping and tweeting messages on January 6,” Thompson said.
Patel, who served as chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, reportedly spoke repeatedly to Meadows on the day of the riot.
House Democrats formed the committee over objections from Trump’s fellow Republicans in the House. Two Republicans are on the committee, Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
They are among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the violence in a fiery speech repeating his false claims that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud. The Senate later acquitted him.
“We will fight the Subpoenas on Executive Privilege and other grounds,” Trump said in a statement.


CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases
Updated 24 September 2021

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

CIA Vienna station chief removed amid criticisms over Havana syndrome cases

WASHINGTON: The CIA has removed its Vienna station chief following criticism of his management, including what some considered an inadequate response to reports of “Havana syndrome” incidents at the US Embassy there, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The Post, which cited unnamed current and former US officials, reported the action would send a message that leaders must take seriously the Havana syndrome, a mysterious set of ailments that include migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness.
A CIA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on specific incidents or officers.

The Washington Post said dozens of US personnel in the Austrian capital, including diplomats and intelligence officials, as well as some of the children of US employees, have reported symptoms of the syndrome.
CIA Director William Burns said in July that about 100 CIA officers and family members were among some 200 US officials and kin sickened by Havana syndrome.
The ailments were first reported by officials based in the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016.
Last year, a US National Academy of Sciences panel found that the most plausible theory is that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy” causes the syndrome.
Burns has said there is a “very strong possibility” the syndrome is intentionally caused and that Russia could be responsible. Moscow denies involvement.