‘We know how violence ends, and the consequences,’ Somalia’s president tells Arab News

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Updated 13 November 2023
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‘We know how violence ends, and the consequences,’ Somalia’s president tells Arab News

‘We know how violence ends, and the consequences,’ Somalia’s president tells Arab News
  • Hassan Sheikh Mohamud says only two-state solution will resolve Israel-Palestine conflict
  • Welcomes closer ties with the Kingdom following Saudi-African Summit in Riyadh
  • Highlights Africa and Somalia’s investment potential citing improving security, stability

RIYADH: Somalia knows from bitter experience that a political end cannot be reached by means of violence, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the Somali president, has said, discussing the ongoing cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

After decades of political instability, terrorist violence, and foreign intervention, the war-scarred nation on the Horn of Africa has seen a gradual shift toward stabilization, reflected in its recent outreach to African neighbors and the Arab world.

Mohamud told Arab News that the violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas would not address the root causes of the conflict — something that could only be achieved through a political agreement in the form of the two-state solution.

He said: “As Somalis, we have been in an environment of violence for a long time. We know where the violence ends up, and the consequences, and the result at the end of violence. No one can reach a political end by means of violence. It cannot happen.

“There is a worldwide accepted solution. Two states, Palestine and Israel, living together side by side, peacefully. And it can happen. It’s possible. Why don’t we go ahead with that?”

For more than a month, the Gaza Strip has been under intense Israeli bombardment in retaliation for the unprecedented Oct. 7 cross-border attack mounted by Hamas on southern Israel, in which 1,400 people were killed, most of them civilians, and 240 taken hostage.

Israel’s bombardment, and subsequent ground operation, has resulted in more than 11,000 deaths, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and the displacement of more than half the population of Gaza.




Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke to Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali after the inaugural Saudi-African Summit and the fifth Arab-African Summit. (AN Photo/Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub)

“What’s going on in Palestine, particularly today in Gaza, is a special case, something that is contrary to all human values in the moral sense.

“It’s not about religion only, it’s not about Arab only, it’s not about regionalism. This is humanity. Children are dying. Mothers are suffering. Innocent civilians are suffering,” Mohamud added.

The president spoke to Arab News following the inaugural Saudi-African Summit and the fifth Arab-African Summit, which took place in Riyadh on Nov. 11 and 12, bringing together representatives from both regions to discuss trade and cooperation.

He welcomed closer ties between Somalia and Saudi Arabia, highlighting their shared history, religious bonds, and common security interests.

Mohamud said: “Somalia and Saudi Arabia have a very, very long and historical relationship because of the proximity of our geographic locations and because of the common values that we have — the Islamic religion, the way of life, the Arab values and culture, of course. So, there’s a lot of issues that link us with Saudi Arabia.

“The 21st century and globalism is another challenge that makes us get together. We have a common enemy like the extremists, like the terrorists, like the fundamentalism in the wrong direction.

“Since we all have the common place of Islam, our heritage has always been linked together. So, that is the background that we are coming from,” he added.

Mohamud pointed out that he was especially grateful for the Kingdom’s humanitarian assistance, counterterrorism expertise, and diplomatic support, at a time when Somalia has suffered insurgency, instability, and economic crisis.

“Somalia has been in a difficult situation for the last three decades. And Saudi Arabia has always been with Somalia for all these three decades in terms of humanitarian, in terms of security, in terms of global politics and diplomatic support provided to Somalia. That is the level of our relationship.

“And today, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, we are improving. Every day there is a new progress in our relationship, new confidence, new relations, new areas on that,” he said.

Mohamud noted that security and counterterrorism were a particularly strong area of cooperation.




Mohamud has been Somalia’s president since May 2022, having served in the same post from 2012 to 2017. (AN Photo/Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub)

“Somalia is a country that’s coming out of a long, long-term conflict. We went into a war with the terrorists, as did Saudi Arabia sometime in the past and succeeded. There is no better place than Saudi Arabia to seek advice and experience in the war against terrorism,” he added.

The Saudi-African Summit was organized in recognition of Africa’s growing importance as an emerging player in world trade and diplomacy.

Mohamud said: “In the 21st century, Africa is the destination. Destination in terms of economic development. Destination in terms of human capital. Destination in terms of resources. Destination in terms of strategy, you name it. So, the whole world is looking.

“If yesterday it was colonialism, if it was exploitation, in the 21st century (new change) is possible. It is a partnership, shared interests.”

He noted that Somalia, with the longest coastline on the African continent, a dynamic youth population, ample untapped natural resources, and the potential to become a major regional logistics hub, was ready for investment.

“For a long time, we have been struggling to stabilize Somalia. Make a safe and secure place. Only then we can hope investment will come. We are succeeding in this now. We are in the final stages of the stabilization and safety, and security of Somalia.

“We are defeating the terrorist groups that denied this right to the Somali people. Once we do that, that’s the right time — a conducive environment is created, enabling an environment that is created for investment.

“Somalia is a white paper. Every place is an opportunity. The blue economy is an opportunity. Food security is an opportunity. Minerals, rich in minerals: gold, uranium, copper, cobalt. All types of natural rare elements are available in Somalia.

“Somalia has close to 9 million hectares of arable land, with two permanent rivers throughout the year and a good number of rainy seasons. Somalia has one of the largest livestock (numbers) in the world.

“So, in Somalia, areas to invest, the sky’s the limit and it’s untapped and it’s unoccupied,” Mohamud added.

Somalia’s poor development is owed in large part to its decades of civil war, which have been prolonged by the involvement of international terrorist networks, including Al-Shabaab.

The terrorist group, which is based in Somalia but active elsewhere in East Africa, has been affiliated with Al-Qaeda since 2012, with suspected ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

With international support, Somalia has been fighting back against Al-Shabaab with conventional military means and counter-radicalization campaigns, and by cutting off the group’s means of financing its activities.

Mohamud said: “The Somali government and the world supporting Somalia, international partners, international community, international organizations, all of them that have been supporting Somalia, for which we are very much grateful, in the fight against terrorism.




The president spoke to Arab News following the inaugural Saudi-African Summit and the fifth Arab-African Summit, which took place in Riyadh on Nov. 11 and 12. (SPA)

“Al-Shabaab is not a local organization. It’s a global, regional (organization). It just happened to be in Somalia, because in Somalia there was a great space that was ungoverned for a long time. That is what makes them stay there.

“Secondly, we have been fighting with Al-Shabaab, the terrorists, with one method, which is the military. All the time we have been fighting with them in terms of military. We strengthened and increased the military front, but we’re at another front. We are at ideological war since Al-Shabaab is an ideology-based organization — we fight with them over ideology.

“The ideology they use is Islam. And they are not using it in the right way. So, no one is much better than us to express and explain to our people the right path of Islam. And that’s what we are doing.

“The third is the issue of the economy. Al-Shabaab is collecting a huge amount of money from our people. They call it zakat (tax), or they call it tabaro’at (charity). They give it so many names. But at the end of the day, it is our local resources.

“We have restricted those resources, closing the taps flowing to them. So, that is what makes the success that we are seeking, and we are achieving right now,” he added.

Despite the demands of his role, Mohamud was determined to continue serving the interests of the Somali people as the nation moved toward a more stable and prosperous future.

He said: “Of course, I’m not a young man, but Alhamdulillah, I’m healthy. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I don’t stay up late. I do enough work, not just mentally, but exercise as well. So, Alhamdulillah, I’m healthy. I’m the father of a good family and I have been serving Somalia all my life.”

Mohamud has been president since May 2022, having previously served in the same position from 2012 to 2017. Before entering politics, he was a civil rights activist and a professor and dean at SIMAD University in Mogadishu.

In 2013, he was named in the Time 100, Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, for his efforts at advancing national reconciliation, anti-corruption measures, and socio-economic and security sector reforms in Somalia.

“I’m someone whose background comes from education and humanity and serving the lives and the interests of the people. And I believe, still, I’m serving the people. What makes me happy, what gives me self-satisfaction, is how much I help a human being,” Mohamud added.


‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears
Updated 29 February 2024
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‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

CAIRO: Rising food prices and shortages may lead to fewer donations and less food for “tables of mercy” in Egypt during Ramadan.

Such tables are usually seen on Egypt’s streets to provide lower-income people with free iftar.

“There are many philanthropists in Egypt, but the high prices of food items constrain them,” said Kamal Khairy, a cook who worked at the tables in previous years.

A kilogram of meat is now priced at 450 Egyptian pounds ($14.56) in some areas, while a kilogram of rice costs 40 pounds. The price of vegetables has risen to unreasonable levels, Khairy told Arab News.

The meal cost has increased significantly, causing some philanthropists to withdraw from setting up tables this year.

“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I used to cook at different tables upon request by philanthropists,” he said.

“In one year, I cooked for three tables — one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and the third before sunset. However, no one has asked me this year.”

A 50-year-old Egyptian, who declined to be named, told Arab News: “In previous years, I used to set up a free iftar table near my factory in Al-Azhar. However, I cannot afford the extra expense due to financial constraints this year.”

He said the factory was struggling financially, so he had been cutting expenses.

A car park attendant on Hoda Shaarawi Street in Cairo who gave his name as Uncle Ahmed told Arab News: “Due to the nature of my job, I cannot go home during Ramadan. Therefore, I rely on the ‘mercy table’ set up on the street, where I am a regular guest.”

The man, nearing 60, added: “I used to sit at a table alongside people from diverse social backgrounds, such as delivery workers, nurses, conscripts, and passersby.

“The table used to accommodate more than 500 people but now fits only 50.”

He said that in the past, a meal would typically consist of a meat dish (such as chicken or kofta), a vegetable dish, a salad and rice or pasta.

“There is only one dish that contains rice and vegetables this year, and the size of the chicken and meat has been reduced. Additionally, the salad portion has been reduced."

Ahmed added: “The crisis affects everyone, and we don’t expect more from the philanthropists. I excuse them.

“I pray that our crises in Egypt will be resolved.”

Farid Jamal, a worker at a charity hosting a table, said: “In previous years, people would arrive an hour before the Maghrib prayer, but now they come three hours earlier.

“The social composition has also changed. I see young men and men from good social levels wearing relatively elegant clothes and women who appear to be in a good situation, all reserving their places at the table to get an iftar meal.”


Volunteers brave Israeli air raids to feed Lebanon’s stranded pets

Volunteers brave Israeli air raids to feed Lebanon’s stranded pets
Updated 29 February 2024
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Volunteers brave Israeli air raids to feed Lebanon’s stranded pets

Volunteers brave Israeli air raids to feed Lebanon’s stranded pets
  • Tyre resident recounts heartbreaking scenes in abandoned towns

BEIRUT: Volunteers in southern Lebanon are defying Israeli bombing to feed and care for dogs, cats, birds and other animals that have become victims of the conflict.

Linda Luku — a native of Bint Jbeil now residing in Tyre — is among a growing number of volunteers who have mobilized via social media to support animals amid the military escalation between Hezbollah and Israel.

Their efforts provide a lifeline to the forgotten victims of war as clashes continue to claim the lives of Hezbollah operatives and Lebanese civilians, including innocent children and women.

Amid the clashes between Hezbollah and the Israeli army, thousands of residents of the border region in southern Lebanon have abandoned their homes and villages in recent months.

In heartbreaking decisions, many families opted to leave their cherished pets behind, hoping that their displacement would be short-lived.

With military operations escalating and airstrikes pounding the region, villages have been transformed into desolate ghost towns, leaving animals abandoned and vulnerable to starvation and bombing.

Luku recounted the heartbreaking scenes she encountered during a visit to her hometown of Bint Jbeil.

Stray cats and dogs — emaciated and desperate — roamed the streets, their suffering palpable as their ribs protruded from hunger.

The sight was particularly harrowing for Luku, who, moved by compassion, set out with her brother on a mission to provide relief.

They managed to secure leftover chicken from a local slaughterhouse in Maaroub owned by a friend, and then journeyed to their hometown to distribute food to the starving animals.

“These animals are not strays. They belong to beautiful breeds commonly kept as household pets. They are now left to fend for themselves, searching for sustenance in towns abandoned by humans,” Luku said.

She added: “It is a poignant scene. As I navigate through these towns, I am confronted with the sight of starving animals, and the distressing images linger with me through the night.

“Amid the conflict, there is a heartbreaking lack of awareness. Residents remaining in villages under bombardment often withhold food from these animals.”

“Many times, I traverse villages devoid of human presence, with only Israeli warplanes hovering above, surveilling the area.”

Qassem Haidar, 28, from Shaqra in southern Lebanon, still lives in the area with his family despite facing constant bombardment.

“I have my own business, yet I sympathize with animals,” he said, adding: “I started feeding animals in my village after I was shocked to see a dog eating a cat in Beit Leif. It was so horrible. I could not stand it.

“I resorted to social media, asking anyone who had food leftovers to keep them, taking it upon myself to collect and distribute them to abandoned animals.

“I took photos of the hungry animals and posted them online. Many showed sympathy, and I started receiving donations, from dry food bags to gasoline costs, to move around between the villages.

“I also reached out to animal welfare organizations. I dedicate three hours of my time every day to going around the villages and posting stories on Instagram.

“I visited every village in the border area, from Ayta Al-Shaab to Kfarkela, spending a few minutes in some due to the bombardment and more than an hour in others.

Haidar said: “I used to leave food on the sides of the roads. Sometimes, if I come across a civilian still in his house, I leave bags of food at his place so that he can feed the animals.

“I also cooperate with the medics in the region to distribute food to animals. I have a town visit schedule, and I know when I should return and visit them to leave food for the animals.

“I don’t want to be late, so they do not starve to death or eat each other. I have seen cats and dogs that died of cardiac arrest due to the sound of exploding shells. Their heartbeats were so fast. They experienced absolute terror.

“They know when a shell is about to drop, and they disperse before it does. I followed their instincts and survived bombings more than once. Israelis bombed the sites I was at in many towns five minutes after I left them.

“I often used to be the only person on the road in towns in the line of fire. My mother is always worried about me. However, I am convinced these lives cannot be abandoned,” he added.

Haidar’s mission goes beyond feeding dogs, cats, and birds. He also takes sick or wounded animals to local vets.

Firas Faraj, a founder of the Strays Welfare Association in Tyre, said that many of the pets left behind are waiting for their owners to return.

He added: “We do not have an accurate number of abandoned animals, yet we are dealing with the problem case by case.

“The issue has gained some sympathy, but the need is still greater than what is provided. UNIFIL forces previously sympathized with us since the unit commanders love animals and provided us access to a field hospital.

“However, with the opening of the southern battlefront, all aid was suspended, and we rely on individual initiatives.”


El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
Updated 29 February 2024
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El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
  • Al-Burhan said that Egypt’s role in hosting Sudanese citizens and mitigating the crisis provided evidence of its continued friendship
  • El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday received Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, president of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan, at Cairo International Airport.

An official reception ceremony took place at Al-Ittihadiya Palace, at which the national anthems were played and guards of honor inspected.

The meeting focused on recent developments in Sudan and efforts to resolve its crisis.

The main goal is to restore stability while ensuring sovereignty, unity, and cohesion of the Sudanese state and its institutions.

The meeting was an attempt to meet the Sudanese people’s desire for safety and stability.

Ahmed Fahmy, the presidential spokesman, said that El-Sisi focused on the solid historic relations between the two countries, emphasizing Egypt’s support in enhancing cooperation.

The president stressed Egypt’s commitment to Sudan’s security and offered full support to achieve political, security, and economic stability.

He affirmed Egypt’s commitment to supporting Sudan’s unity and resolving ongoing conflicts.

He added that the two countries shared a close relationship, which made it necessary to ensure national security.

The president spoke of Egypt’s ongoing role in helping to alleviate the humanitarian impact of the current crisis within Sudan.

Al-Burhan expressed his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s support. He highlighted the long-standing ties between the two countries, while saying that Egypt’s role in hosting Sudanese citizens and mitigating the crisis provided evidence of its continued friendship.

The parties also discussed the situation in Gaza and regional issues of mutual concern.

El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity of an immediate ceasefire and the urgent need to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

They also agreed to continue consultations and coordination to help benefit the populations of Egypt and Sudan.

The Sudanese leader made an official visit to Egypt in August last year, his first following the start of his country’s conflict in April. Al-Burhan and El-Sisi met in the city of Alamein in northern Egypt.


Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
  • Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization
  • Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stressed “categorical Palestinian rejection” of the principles announced in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called post-war plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization.

His plan, which brings together a range of well-established Israeli positions, underlines Netanyahu’s resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state which he sees as a security threat.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has received a written message from Abbas which calls for a global conference to adopt a comprehensive peace plan with international guarantees and a timeline for implementation of the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Abbas has called on the league to support Palestine in obtaining full membership of the UN.

The message urged countries that have not yet recognized Palestine to do so.

Aboul Gheit received Ambassador Muhannad Al-Aklouk, representative of Palestine to the bloc, at the headquarters of the general secretariat, and Al-Aklouk had brought a message from Abbas.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for the Arab League chief, said that the president’s message included a categorical Palestinian rejection of the principles announced by the Israeli prime minister for the so-called “day after of the war.”

The message included a warning of the danger of those principles — especially the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and insisting on imposing Israeli sovereignty on the land extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip and perpetuate the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through plans to build thousands of settlement units.

Rushdi said that the message warned that the goal of the Israeli government was not only to undermine the chances of peace based on the two-state solution, but also to intensify ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

The president’s message included the affirmation that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority is ready to assume the responsibilities of governance in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and is prepared to work toward establishing security and peace, as well as stability, in the region within the framework of a comprehensive peace plan.

The message called on the Arab League’s chief to continue working for a ceasefire; the provision of humanitarian aid; the return of displaced people to their homes in the north; the prevention of their displacement; and a halt to Israel’s expansionist plans and practices in the Gaza Strip.

Aboul Gheit confirmed to Al-Aklouk that he would continue to work to achieve all the goals highlighted in the president’s message — most notably an immediate ceasefire, working to bring aid in urgently and sustainably, and standing with full force against the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit stressed that stopping the war remained a fundamental priority for the Arab League and its member states.

He reiterated that the Palestinians, Arabs, and the world always rejected the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit pointed out that addressing the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israeli aggression could not be achieved in isolation from a settlement aiming at the emergence of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

He emphasized that the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves.

Aboul Gheit added that the continuation of the occupation was no longer possible and that the two-state solution remained the only formula capable of achieving security, peace, and stability between Palestinians and Israelis in the region and the world.


Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
  • Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes
  • Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan

JERUSALEM: Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.
Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.
That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas’ cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.
But Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.
“The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.
He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.
A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a “capitulation to terror,” and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.