Somalia elects speaker, paves way for presidential vote

Somalia elects speaker, paves way for presidential vote
Somalia’s newly elected lower house parliament speaker Sheikh Adan Madobe, 2nd left, after being elected at the airport complex in Mogadishu on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 28 April 2022

Somalia elects speaker, paves way for presidential vote

Somalia elects speaker, paves way for presidential vote
  • The election is well over a year behind schedule, marred by deadly violence and a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ and PM Mohamed Hussein Roble
  • ‘Farmajo’ congratulated Sheikh Adan Madobe, saying in a statement that he hoped his election ‘becomes a starting point for a greater change that saves the country’

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s parliament elected a veteran politician as speaker of the lower house on Thursday, as the fragile nation edges closer to holding a delayed presidential vote.
The election is well over a year behind schedule, marred by deadly violence and a power struggle between the current president and the prime minister.
Somalia’s international partners have been pushing for the process to pick up speed, fearing the delays were distracting from the country’s myriad problems including the fight against Al-Shabab extremists and the threat of famine.
Following the election of the upper house speaker on Tuesday, lawmakers in the lower house chose Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur, better known as Sheikh Adan Madobe, as speaker in a drawn-out process that extended into two rounds and only concluded in the early hours of Thursday.
The vote took place in a tent inside Mogadishu’s heavily-guarded airport complex under tight security, following a spate of attacks in recent weeks by Al-Shabab which has been waging an insurgency against the government for more than a decade.
It had been due to take place on Wednesday but was delayed by a dispute over who should provide security at the venue, highlighting the continuing rifts between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
Madobe, 66, who had previously served as speaker between 2007 and 2010, secured 163 votes out of the 252 ballots cast. He is not known to be allied with either the president or prime minister.
Farmajo congratulated Madobe, saying in a statement that he hoped his election “becomes a starting point for a greater change that saves the country.”
Roble also offered his congratulations on Twitter, urging the speakers of both houses to “carry out their responsibilities and conduct the presidential election in a transparent, prompt and peaceful manner.”
On Tuesday, 76-year-old Abdi Hashi Abdullahi was re-elected speaker of the upper house.
Parliament will now set a date for lawmakers to choose a president — the country has not held a one-person, one-vote election in 50 years.
Farmajo’s mandate expired in February 2021 but in the absence of agreement on elections, he tried to extend his rule by decree, sparking violent street battles in Mogadishu.
Under pressure from the international community, he appointed Roble to seek consensus on a way forward.
But the pair’s disagreements have hindered progress and stoked fears of further instability.
In addition, a crucial IMF three-year $400 million (380 million euros) financial assistance package for Somalia will automatically expire in mid-May if a new administration is not in place.
On Wednesday, Somalia’s international backers warned that “political tensions and security incidents must not be permitted to disrupt (the election’s) final stages.”
“We urge all Somali leaders to exercise restraint, resolve differences through compromise, and avoid escalation of any incidents.”
Polls in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.
The voting process has seen a number of attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab which frequently strikes at civilian, military and government targets in Somalia’s capital and elsewhere in the country.
The extremists controlled Mogadishu until 2011 when they were pushed out by an African Union force, but still hold territory in the countryside.


NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics
Updated 13 sec ago

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics

NATO to pledge aid to Baltics and Ukraine, urge Turkey to let in Nordics
  • NATO summit over three days in Madrid; Turkey’s veto over Sweden, Finland application a big issue
  • NATO to agree new defenses for Baltic region; aid package to Ukraine aims for longer-term support

MADRID: NATO leaders will urge Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to lift his veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance when they meet for a three-day summit on Tuesday, as the West strives to send Russia and China a signal of resolve.
Taking place in the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Madrid gathering comes at a pivotal moment for the transatlantic bond after failures in Afghanistan and internal discord during the era of former US President Donald Trump, who threatened to pull Washington out of the nuclear alliance.
Negotiations among an often-fractious organization are still under way, diplomats said, but leaders also hope to agree to provide more military aid to Ukraine, increase joint defense spending, cement a new resolve to tackle China’s military rise and put more troops on stand-by to defend the Baltics.
Spain, whose king will host a dinner for leaders, is also pushing for more NATO focus on the southern flank to address migration and militant groups in the Sahel region of Africa.
The leaders of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea are expected to attend part of the summit, part of a broader US strategy for a more assertive Western presence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.
“We will do more to ensure we can defend every inch of allied territory, at all times and against any threat,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech last week.
Although British and US officials have advised against a Baltic request for permanent multinational forces in the region, the summit is likely to settle on a compromise of promising rapid reinforcements.
Germany has already said it will put more troops at the ready to defend Lithuania should Russia seek to seize NATO territory and Britain is expected to do the same for Estonia, while Latvia is looking to Canada to pledge more troops there.

Turkey veto
NATO — created in 1949 to counter the Soviet threat — is under no treaty obligation to defend Ukraine, as the former Soviet republic is not a NATO member.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion has sparked a geopolitical shift as once neutral countries Finland and Sweden seek to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Ukraine has formally become a candidate to join the European Union.
If accepted, Finland and Sweden’s inclusion into NATO would bring about the expansion of the alliance that the Russian leader aimed to prevent.
“I think it sends an important message to Putin. And I think it would actually significantly strengthen the alliance,” US Senator Angus King said of Finland and Sweden, following a trip to Finland, Latvia and Turkey.
However, Turkey is also testing that unity, angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.
A Turkish government official involved in the talks between the three countries and NATO’s Stoltenberg told Reuters it would be difficult to reach a deal at the summit, saying that Sweden and Finland must first address Turkish concerns.
“There were meetings, but unfortunately steps we expected are not being taken,” the official said.
Sweden has set up a process for ongoing consultations, diplomats said. But two senior NATO diplomats said the dispute was less about technical benchmarks and more about politics.
Erdogan’s stance has proved popular at home before a June 2023 presidential election as he seeks to challenge US and European priorities. In recent weeks, he has threatened more military operations in northern Syria, stoked tensions with fellow NATO member Greece and declined to join Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war.
“I think there’s nearly zero chance that this issue will be resolved at the Madrid summit,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey analyst at the Washington Institute, a US think-tank.
US President Joe Biden could hold a meeting with Erdogan in the margins of the NATO summit to push for progress with Finland and Sweden, whose leaders will be in Madrid.
But Cagaptay added that Erdogan could try to use the situation to boost his popularity and call a possible snap election in November ahead of the official June 2023 vote. 


4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
Updated 27 June 2022

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight

4 killed when stands collapse during Colombian bullfight
  • The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja”

BOGOTA, Colombia: Part of the wooden stands collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia Sunday, sending spectators plunging to the ground and killing at least four people and seriously injuring about 30, authorities said.
The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja” in which members of the public enter the ring to engage the bulls.
Videos taken during the bullfight show a three-story section of the stands collapsing as people screamed.
“We have activated the hospital network in Tolima,” Tolima Gov. José Ricardo Orozco told local Blu Radio. “Four people have died, as of this moment: two women, a man and a minor.”
Authorities said about 30 people had been seriously injured
Orozco said he had asked for the traditional “corralejas” to be suspended in Tolima earlier Sunday but this one was held anyway.
President-elect Gustavo Petro urged local officials to ban such events, noting that it was not the first time an incident like this had taken place.
“I ask mayors not to allow more events involving the death of people or animals,” he said.
Current President Iván Duque on Twitter announced an investigation of the disaster.
“We lament the terrible tragedy registered in El Espinal, Tolima, during the festivals of San Pedro and San Juan, with the collapse of the stands during a corraleja. We will call for an investigation.”


Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
Updated 27 June 2022

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
  • About 70 percent of gas stations across the island closed 
  • Government will send ministers to Russia to discuss urgently needed imports  

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is struggling to secure fresh supplies of fuel, the energy minister said on Sunday, with the crisis-hit country fast running out of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running. 

For months, the island nation of 22 million people has lacked the foreign currency to pay for essential imports, including fuel, food and medicine. Amid the chronic shortages, Sri Lankans have formed long queues outside pumping stations, with some waiting in line for days. 

Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, said that the country is now down to just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel, while 70 percent of fuel stations have closed due to delays in expected shipments. 

“We are struggling to find suppliers. They are reluctant to accept letters of credit from our banks. There are over $700 million in overdue payments, so now suppliers want advance payments,” he told reporters. 

“The remaining stock will be finished soon.”

In the past two months, Sri Lanka has received its fuel supply via a $500 million credit line from India that ran out in mid-June. A petrol shipment due last Thursday failed to arrive and officials are unable to confirm the next delivery, Wijesekera said. 

The military will begin issuing tokens to people queuing for fuel on Monday.

Meanwhile, the government will send ministers to Russia to discuss fuel imports and has told 1 million public employees to work from home until further notice. 

Sri Lanka also increased fuel prices in the early hours of Sunday, with the price hike expected to further push inflation, already running at 40 percent. 

The fuel crisis is also affecting medical services in the country, as both patients and healthcare workers struggle to reach hospitals due to the shortages. 

“Staff attendance today was remarkably low,” Omar Sheriff, CEO of Colombo’s largest kidney facility, told Arab News. “And outpatients have dropped from 300 to 40.” 

Pathmanathan, who drives a three-wheel taxi in Colombo, said that he waited in line for 12 hours from Saturday afternoon, only to be turned back as he almost reached the fuel station. 

“I lost my daily wage waiting for fuel in the queue on Saturday,” he told Arab News.

“Today, Sunday, I was informed that the oil price had risen again. I just can’t understand how we can charge so much money in fares to our customers,” Pathmanathan said. “It’s very sad.” 


UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
Updated 27 June 2022

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
  • The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments

LONDON: The heir to the British throne Prince Charles accepted a suitcase of cash as a charitable donation from the former prime minister of Qatar, UK media claimed on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that three bundles of cash were given as charitable donations from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani to the Prince of Wales.

The three lots, which totalled €3 million ($3.16 million), were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015, the paper reported.

Despite no suggestion of any illegal payments, according to the paper, Sheikh Hamad, 62, presented the prince with €1m packed into carrier bags from the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments, according to the report, including an entity that bankrolls the prince's private projects and his country estate in Scotland.

Clarence House has released a statement following the report, saying: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince's charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”


Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
Updated 26 June 2022

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
  • Joko Widodo will push President Vladimir Putin for immediate ceasefire
  • Visit is ‘unlikely to change the situation in Europe,’ analyst says

INDONESIA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that he will urge his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to open room for dialogue, as he departed for a peace-building mission to the warring countries on Sunday.

Four months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the conflict has disrupted global supply chains and stoked an energy crisis after Moscow — a major oil and gas producer — was slapped with international sanctions, leading to rising inflation in many countries.

Widodo, who is also chairing Indonesia’s G20 presidency this year, will be the first Asian leader to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war started in late February.

“The mission is to invite the Ukrainian president to open room for dialogue in the interest of peace,” Widodo said before leaving for Germany to attend the G7 Summit.

“With the same mission I will ask President Putin to open room for dialogue, and to immediately have a ceasefire and stop the war.”

Indonesia’s mission is to strive for peace in Ukraine while also attempting to resolve the ongoing global energy and food crisis, Widodo said, adding that the visit is important to prevent developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger.

“War has to be stopped and global food supply chains need to be reactivated,” he added.

As Indonesia holds the rotating G20 presidency, the Southeast Asian nation has come under pressure to exclude Russia from the summit scheduled to take place in Bali in November.

Widodo had previously invited both Zelenskyy and Putin to attend the summit. The Indonesian leader called for a peaceful resolution to the months-long fighting, though largely maintained a neutral position.  

Dr. Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, an Indonesian international relations researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, said that Indonesia was concerned about how the war will affect its G20 presidency, as well as its domestic energy and food security.

“Indonesia wants to make sure that Russia and Western countries do not make the G20 a battlefield to advance their cause,” Umar told Arab News.

As it remains unclear what Indonesia will propose to both Zelenskyy and Putin in the upcoming meetings, Widodo’s visit is “unlikely to change the situation in Europe,” Umar said.

“Indonesia is not in the capacity to mediate the conflict and offer long lasting and strategic solutions to end the war.”