MOGADISHU: Visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed Tuesday for “massive” international support for Somalia as it battles a devastating drought and a grinding Islamist insurgency.
Guterres, who arrived in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu earlier on Tuesday, described his trip as a visit of “solidarity.”
“I am also here to ring the alarm on the need of massive international support,” he said, pointing to the difficulties faced by the country as it grapples with climate disasters and militancy.
“Although Somalis make no contribution to climate change, the Somalis are among the greatest victims. Nearly five million people are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity,” he said.
Somalia is in the grip of a calamitous drought that has driven many to the brink of famine, while the government is also engaged in a major offensive against the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab Islamist militant group.
The United Nations has launched a $2.6-billion appeal for humanitarian aid for the troubled Horn of Africa nation, but Guterres said it is currently only 15 percent funded.
Five straight failed rainy seasons in parts of Somalia as well as Kenya and Ethiopia have led to the worst drought in four decades, wiping out livestock and crops and forcing at least 1.7 million people from their homes in search of food and water.
While famine thresholds have not been reached in Somalia, the UN says about half its population will need humanitarian assistance this year, with 8.3 million affected by the drought.
Somalia was hit by a famine in 2011 which killed 260,000 people, more than half of them children under six, partly because the international community did not act fast enough, according to the UN.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last year declared “all-out war” against Al-Shabab, which has been fighting the fragile central government for more than 15 years.
New report offers sustainability advice for Arab governments
‘Sustainability and Government Action: Arab Government Situation’ was compiled by the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organization and the UAE
It includes numerous recommendations, including the need to develop smart cities, encourage green financing, and capitalize on the resources of the private sector
Updated 06 June 2023
DUBAI: A new report on sustainability, based on interviews with 1,800 Arab government officials, offers numerous recommendations to authorities in the region, including the need to develop smart cities, encourage green financing, fully capitalize on the resources of the private sector, and raise awareness of issues associated with sustainability.
Titled “Sustainability and Government Action: Arab Government Situation,” the report was compiled by the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organization and the UAE, which holds the presidency of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, COP28. It was unveiled during the “Forum of Sustainability and Government Action” in Cairo, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday.
Sultan Al-Jaber, the president-designate of COP28, told the forum that governments have a critical role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change by developing effective strategies than can help meet global climate goals in partnership with regional and international organizations.
“The report supports our focus during COP28 on enhancing the efforts to achieve a significant shift in climate action,” Al-Jaber said. The UAE will host COP28 in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12.
Ohood Al-Roumi, the Emirati minister of state for government development and the future, delivered a keynote speech to the forum in Cairo during which she emphasized the importance of developing policies and laws that help promote a sustainable green transformation, and the public-private partnerships needed to help achieve climate neutrality.
She said the newly published report will help Arab governments in their efforts to improve sustainability and combat climate change, along with related social and economic issues. The minister also emphasized the potential avenues for boosting long-term economic growth highlighted by the report, such as the development of proactive climate policies and initiatives, and the need for resilience in adapting to green regulations.
Al-Roumi said the report reflects the Emirati government’s climate action efforts and its commitment to long-term solutions to environmental concerns, in keeping with the UAE’s Year of Sustainability and its preparations for hosting COP28.
Nasser Al-Hatlan Al-Qahtani, the director-general of the Arab Administrative Development Organization, said the publication of the report also provides an opportunity to assess how ready Arab governments are to address climate change challenges and capitalize on opportunities in the green economy.
Israeli soldiers to join Moroccan war games for first time
Morocco and Israel have been working to boost cooperation in the military, security, trade and tourism fields since they normalized ties in December 2020
Updated 06 June 2023
RABAT: Israeli soldiers will for the first time take part in military exercises in Morocco when the biggest war games event in Africa kicks off Tuesday, the Israeli army said.
“This is the first time that the IDF is taking an active part in the ‘African Lion’ international exercise,” said a statement from the Israeli army late Monday.
“A delegation of 12 soldiers and commanders from the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion” — an elite infantry unit — has been sent to participate alongside some 8,000 soldiers from 18 countries.
The event — now in its 19th edition — is organized by Morocco and the United States.
“During the next two weeks, the soldiers will focus on training in various combat challenges that combine urban warfare and underground warfare, in which they will conclude in a common exercise for all participating armies,” read the Israeli statement.
Israel participated in the event last year, however only as international military observers, without soldiers taking part on the ground.
According to the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR), the war games include exercises in operational planning and fighting weapons of mass destruction, tactical land, sea, air and special forces training, as well as airborne operations.
Morocco and Israel have been working to boost cooperation in the military, security, trade and tourism fields since they normalized ties in December 2020.
How conflict is jeopardizing Sudan’s museums and cultural heritage
Priceless archives have already been ravaged by fire and looting since the conflict began on April 15
Experts fear artifacts spanning Sudan’s 6,000-year history could face similar fate to Syria’s antiquities
Updated 06 June 2023
JUBA, South Sudan: Sudan’s rich cultural heritage is at risk of irreparable damage from the conflict raging for more than a month now as museums lack adequate protection from looters and vandalism.
The clashes have caused widespread suffering and misery, destroyed infrastructure and property, and sparked a humanitarian emergency. However, the two feuding factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), continue to ignore international calls for dialogue.
In the latest troubling development, RSF fighters seized control of the Sudan National Museum in the capital, Khartoum, on Friday. Although they assured that no harm had been done and steps had been taken to protect the artifacts, including ancient mummies, there is no way to verify those claims.
The museum houses a diverse collection of statues, pottery, ancient murals, and artifacts dating from the Stone Age as well as the Christian and Islamic periods.
The conflict initially erupted in Khartoum but quickly spread to other states and cities, causing significant casualties. Multiple ceasefire deals have been announced and quickly broken. Nearly one million people have been displaced.
As diplomats scramble to bring the warring parties back to the negotiating table and aid agencies deploy assistance to help those in need, Sudan’s heritage sites and ancient collections have little protection from theft and destruction.
“The Sudan National Museum has become a battleground,” Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese political cartoonist and civil rights activist, told Arab News.
The location of the museum — in close proximity to the SAF’s Khartoum headquarters — made it at once vulnerable to accidental damage and difficult for officials to guard its collections.
“This further exacerbated the danger, as anyone found near the premises risked immediate harm, as tragically witnessed when a university student was fatally shot,” said Albaih.
Established in 1971, the museum is the largest in Sudan, housing an extensive collection of Nubian artifacts spanning thousands of years. It offers a comprehensive account of Sudan’s captivating history from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, Kerma culture, and medieval Makuria.
Kerma ancient city:
Kerma (also known as Dukki Gel, Arabic: كرمة/دوكي قيل)
Was the capital city of the Kerma Culture, which was located in present-day Sudan at least 5500 years ago, Kerma is one of the largest archaeological sites in ancient Nubia#SudaneseCulture#ثقافة_سودانيةpic.twitter.com/99oGZX294F
Besides the national museum, the Presidential Palace Museum, chronicling Sudan’s modern history, the Ethnographic Museum, established in 1956 to celebrate the nation’s ethnic diversity, and the Sudan Natural History Museum are also at risk.
Sara A. K. Saeed, director of the Natural History Museum, recently drew the world’s attention via Twitter to the fact that Sudan’s “museums are now without guards to protect them from looting and vandalism.”
She raised particular concern about the welfare of the live animals held within the museum’s collections, which include several species of reptiles, birds, mammals, snakes and scorpions for research purposes, and which now face neglect and starvation.
Using high-resolution satellite imagery CHML @VMNH, @GVPTUMD, and SCRI have confirmed significant damage to the Sudan Natural History Museum in Khartoum. Read the Cultural Heritage Rapid Report here: https://t.co/vO0sb4EbNV
The entry of SAF fighters into the Sudan National Museum happened just days after a building in Omdurman, northwest of Khartoum, housing archives that included priceless documents chronicling Sudan’s colonial past, was ravaged by fire and looters.
Home to some 200 pyramids — almost twice the number in Egypt — and the legendary Kingdom of Kush, Sudan is one of the world’s most precious reservoirs of human culture and civilization.
Without pressure from the international community on the warring parties to guarantee the preservation of historical artifacts, experts fear the unchecked conflict could erase 6,000 years of Sudanese history, in echoes of the destruction visited upon Syria over the past decade.
The civil war and concurrent Daesh insurgency devastated ancient heritage sites across Syria, including the monumental ruins of Palmyra and much of the historic center of Aleppo. Many objects looted by militants found their way onto the black market.
Christopher A. Marinello, a renowned lawyer known for his tireless work recovering looted artworks, told Arab News that “looters will dig up objects to sell quickly for survival, often at a fraction of their true value.
“These objects find their way to countries such as Libya and Turkiye before reaching the West,” he said, adding that this illicit trade could exacerbate security problems, as the proceeds from such sales could end up funding international terrorism.
International agencies have several mechanisms in place designed to prevent the destruction of heritage in wartime.
“Prior to any conflict, it is crucial to conduct documentation and cataloging of cultural sites, ensuring that proper records are maintained,” Bastien Varoutsikos, director of strategic development at the Aliph Foundation, a network dedicated to protecting cultural heritage in conflict areas, told Arab News.
The Aliph Foundation has been actively involved in various projects in Sudan since 2020, protecting, among others, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Meroe against the threat of Nile flooding and human activities.
Museums in Sudan are at risk of irreparable harm, officials warn.
Archives in Omdurman have already been ravaged by fire and looting.
Experts say collective memory, identity and history must be safeguarded.
Meanwhile, the Western Sudan Community Museums project, funded by Aliph, focuses on community engagement and the establishment of museums celebrating the region’s unique heritage.
The agency has also implemented capacity-building programs across Sudan to provide professional training in heritage protection, including the utilization of digital preservation methods to help safeguard sites.
Anwar Sabik, field projects manager at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, emphasized the need “to keep experienced professionals working on cultural heritage close to these invaluable treasures, not only to prevent material damage but also to preserve Sudan’s knowledge and expertise.”
Since 2018, the agency has gone beyond the traditional role of museums by providing a community dimension.
“The aim has been to transform museums into vibrant hubs where people can gather, celebrate their intangible cultural heritage, and foster a sense of community,” Sabik told Arab News.
Now, with the violence in Sudan showing no sign of abating, all of this work could now be at risk.
Without proper protection and preservation, the conflict threatens to erase not only tangible artifacts but also the intangible fabric of Sudanese society. Traditional practices, customs, and oral histories that have been passed down through generations could disappear forever.
“The disappearance of these invaluable resources would inflict an irreparable loss upon Sudan and the world,” said Sabik. “Perhaps, Sudan has already lost a part of it as a result of the mass displacement.”
According to Varoutsikos, although reports of unprotected museums and archaeological sites have surfaced, documented instances of actual looting remain, mercifully, limited.
“In times of conflict, it is challenging to confirm looting occurrences without concrete evidence,” he told Arab News.
To combat the illicit market for cultural goods, Varoutsikos says, governments must implement stringent measures that make it difficult for these illegally acquired items to find a market.
“Decision-makers in each country play a crucial role in enacting and enforcing such measures,” he said. Heightened vigilance among customs and law-enforcement agencies worldwide is one such measure.
However, “determining the demand on the black market, particularly in the Middle East, is challenging due to the abundance of valuable items that attract interest,” Varoutsikos said.
Matters are complicated further, as looted artifacts are often stored for extended periods before being sold to avoid attracting attention. Caution is also essential in the market due to the prevalence of fake items, which impacts sellers and buyers alike.
How the warring parties and the international community choose to respond to these calls for action could determine what sort of society emerges when peace finally returns — one that is united by its shared heritage, or one that is torn asunder.
“Sudan’s museums and the invaluable artifacts they house are not just a reflection of the past,” Varoutsikos said. “They have the power to shape the future.”
Kuwait’s foreign minister and US Navy chief discuss security cooperation
Sheikh Salem emphasized the importance of strengthening the security of waterways in the Gulf region
Updated 05 June 2023
KUWAIT: Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, met on Monday to discuss the relationship between their countries in the realm of naval security, and ways in which cooperation might be enhanced.
The minister emphasized the importance of strengthening the security of waterways and ensuring the freedom and safety of movement of vessels in the Gulf region.
Cooper praised the bilateral ties between the nations and thanked the leadership, government and people of Kuwait for hosting US armed forces.
Yemen’s Lahj security forces seize drone parts bound for Houthis
Rights groups call for impartial investigation of prisoner’s death within militia-run jail in Ibb province
Updated 05 June 2023
AL-MUKALLA: Security forces in Yemen’s Lahj province on Sunday intercepted a shipment of drone components headed for the Houthis, the latest in a series of similar interceptions of weapons and explosives bound for Houthi-controlled areas.
The Giants Brigade’s 2nd Brigade in Lahj halted a van transporting sealed boxes from Aden, and after opening the boxes, soldiers discovered motors, batteries, cameras, and other drone parts, and the shipment was buried within toys and covered with motorcycles.
Despite scrutiny at Aden port or other government-controlled entrance points, many local officials and journalists believe the Houthis were able to transport weapons into Yemen through government-controlled areas.
“The event (in Lahj) demonstrates that the Houthi militia is still preparing for war rather than peace,” Fatehi bin Lazerq, editor of Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, told Arab News, adding that if multiple military and security forces cooperate, the shipment would not have had to travel through dozens of checkpoints in government-controlled areas.
“If we presume that the shipment left the port of Aden or another province, it must have passed through dozens of security checkpoints. As a result, it throws light on the fact that the Houthi(s are) still transporting … weaponry through legitimate government channels, owing to a lack of cooperation among security services.”
It comes as security officials at Yemen’s Shehin Border Crossing with Oman revealed the seizure of 355 kg of potassium permanganate, an ingredient that can be used in the manufacturing of cocaine, which was hidden among cargo on two vehicles bound for Houthi-controlled Sanaa.
During the past eight years, many supplies of weapons or drugs meant for the Houthis have been intercepted in government-controlled areas such as Marib, Hadramout and Mahra.
Separately, human rights groups have called for an impartial investigation into a prisoner’s death within a Houthi-run jail in the province of Ibb, accusing the Houthis of deliberately neglecting captives until they died.
Yemenis say that Faisal Al-Sabri, a prisoner in Ibb City’s Central Prison, was transferred to a city hospital after suffering a stroke and was left handcuffed in the hospital’s corridor due to a “lack of empty beds.”
The Houthis later returned him to the prison, where he died.
Yemeni activists shared a photo of a handcuffed man wearing a blue prison uniform with an intravenous drip in his arm and lying on the ground, in what appeared to be the hospital in Ibb.
Human rights group Rights Radar said in a statement: “Rights Radar demands a probe into the circumstances behind the death of prisoner Faisal Al-Sabri, who died at the Central Prison in Ibb Governorate, central Yemen, just days after suffering a stroke and not receiving the proper treatment.”
Dozens of former detainees in Houthi jails have died soon after their release from illnesses contracted while in prison.
Many more Yemenis have perished in Houthi detention centers, either as a consequence of torture or because the Houthis denied them life-saving medicine.