AFRICA Militants Take Hostages in Deadly Attack on Mogadishu Hotel By MOHAMMED IBRAHIMMARCH 27, 2015

Security forces exchanged gunfire Friday with militants from the Shabaab Islamist group who attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, the capital. CreditFeisal Omar/Reuters

The attack began when a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at a rear gate of the Maka al-Mukarama Hotel, which is popular with government officials and foreigners, around 4 p.m., witnesses said. Gunmen quickly overpowered security guards and took control of the hotel before an elite police antiterrorism unit stormed the hotel compound and rescued most of the hostages, said Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Security. As of Friday night, it was unclear how many hostages were still trapped inside the hotel.

“The operation still continues,” Mr. Yusuf said. “Most of the hotel complex is under control and people have been rescued, and we will release detailed information once the operation is completed.”

Initial reports said at least seven people had been killed, although the exact number could not be independently verified. It was unclear how many of the dead were civilians and how many were militants. Among the victims was the Somali ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, who died of wounds sustained in the attack, according to health officials.

“A big explosion erupted at the back door of the hotel,” said one witness, Yasin Mohamed, who was staying near the hotel. He said he heard gunfire inside. “I was shocked and frightened.”

Some of the hotel guests managed to escape before the militants took over, while others jumped out the windows.

“I saw a man jumping out of the window of the second floor and he fell to the ground,” said Abdi Omar, another witness. “He was immediately taken by health workers to the hospital.”

The Shabab have carried out similar attacks, in the upscale Westgate mallin Nairobi, Kenya, and at the United Nations compound in Mogadishu, both in 2013.

In February, 25 people were killed at the Central Hotel, including government officials, and dozens were wounded, in an attack claimed by the Shabab.

AFRICA Sudan Joins Coalition Against Yemen Rebels By SOMINI SENGUPTA MARCH 26, 2015

Omar Hassan al-BashirCreditAli Ngethi/Associated Press
  UNITED NATIONS — It is an awkward moment.

The Arab-led, American-supported coalition seeking to rout Houthi rebels in Yemen includes a man indicted on charges of war crimes and vilified by Washington for more than a decade: President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.

Mr. Bashir’s government has said it will join the military offensive to aid its ally, Saudi Arabia, according to reports by the state-owned news agency, perhaps even sending ground troops.

In a sign of Sudan’s growing ties with Persian Gulf countries, Mr. Bashir met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on a visit to the kingdom this week, and he is expected to take part in the Arab League summit meeting in Cairo this weekend.

Mr. Bashir was in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh in mid-March to speak at an investment conference. Secretary of State John Kerry attended that conference, too, but left the audience for a few minutes when Mr. Bashir took the podium.

Mr. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges in connection with the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The United Nations Security Council, which referred the situation in Darfur to the tribunal, urged all countries to cooperate with the court and help it secure Mr. Bashir’s arrest.

Eritrea: Action Needed Against EU Policy for Funds to PFDJ to Control Refugee Exodus  by AI Staff  on 25 March 2015

This is a plea to all Eritreans to write letters, make calls, demonstrations and contact civic and government leaders. Our opposition and civic leaders would have even more clout to help out on this.
The policy is a slap to our aspirations to do away with the very regime that is responsible for the mass exudes of our people from their beloved country.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY.

 

EU hopes to curb exodus from Eritrea through development aid

ADDIS ABABA: The European Union said on Tuesday it hopes development aid to Eritrea will stem a growing exodus of Eritreans attempting the dangerous journey to Europe to claim asylum there.

Eritrea is now the second largest source of migrants to arrive in Italy by boat, after Syria. The highly perilous crossing of the Mediterranean on overcrowded, rickety boats claimed around 3,000 lives last year.

The United Nations and rights groups say poor human rights conditions in Eritrea are to blame for the outflow of people. Some have called for measures against the government. Asmara denies the charges.

Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, told Reuters in Addis Ababa that the EU would try to address social and economic exclusion in migrants’ countries of origin in a bid to halt the crisis.

The number migrants are rising sharply: During the first two months of 2015, arrivals to the EU via Italy were up 43 percent versus the same period of 2014.

“In that context in Eritrea, we see that we need to assist such processes that would be beneficial for the overall advancing of the human rights and democracy framework, but also that would address the long-term development needs,” Mimica said.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says the number of Eritrean asylum seekers in Europe tripled to nearly 37,000 in the first 10 months of 2014, of whom 34,000 came by sea.

Earlier this month, an interim report of a U.N. investigation said Eritrea was ignoring human rights laws and exerting pervasive state control and ruthless repression on the population.

According to EU diplomats, Brussels is planning a multi-million euro development package that Eritrea will be allowed to spend on energy and other sectors.

The EU approved a major aid package for Eritrea in 2007, worth 122 million euros (87 million pounds) in aid over a six-year period.

Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and remains at loggerheads with Addis Ababa, the United States’ main regional ally.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raissa Kasolowsky)

– Reuters

Eritrea: Got the Dutch Disease Yet?  by Zekre Lebona  on 26 March 2015

 

Potential patient (photo: Bill Ross/Corbis)

The state of Eritrea, which became an independent nation more than 20 years ago; depended for its survival on the remittance money from the huge diaspora and foreign aid; until the rupture of relations and military conflict with Ethiopia in 1998. In order to survive the sudden de-coupling of its economy with the huge economy of its neighbor; and maintain the punishing cost of war; the state mobilized a large percentage of the adult bodied population, and resources of the country for war; war economy has therefore become a permanent feature.

However, a large amount of money from gold and other metals has since overtaken; the dwindling flow of remittance money from some of the disgruntled diaspora. Has Eritrea succumbed to the “Dutch Disease, or Resource Curse” phenomenon; as many countries of the Third World and particularly Africa had been? It probably didn’t; confounding many economists. Eritrea may likely remain immune from it for a longer period of time. What factors made it “escape” from it?

War economy   

Countries that succumb to the Dutch Disease suffer from the sudden availability of hard currency; which has a deleterious effect on the manufacturing and export sector. Awash with hard currency, the local currency will increase its value; putting many of the goods produced domestically in unfair competition with the rest of the world. Awash with hard currency, regimes often spend large amount of money on social services; which had been neglected for years. This policy often results in the indirect-diversion of labor to the sector; leading to massive inflation. Venezuela is an excellent example.

Eritrea, however, doesn’t seem to keep any significant amount of its mine-generating hard currency in the central bank. It depends on the informal economy with little transparency to its budget and debt accrued over the years. The recent scandal on the close to 700 million dollars stashed away in a Swiss bank is a good illustration. That may not be the entire amount money kept hidden in foreign institutions. Is this money a “sovereign wealth”; money kept for hard times and the future generations as Norway, Australia, Canada do? It’s most unlikely for the countries mentioned are democracies. In addition, Eritrea, is not a welfare state notwithstanding the jargon on justice.

Outsourcing welfare

Eritrea’s expenditure on social services is extremely small compared to its huge expenditure on its military; estimated by some in several hundred thousand. It has outsourced the upkeep of its significant percentage of its population to the huge diaspora; who hate as they may seem the regime, would not refrain from sending money to their relatives. The inflation that ensues is not from any major expenditure on social services by the regime, however. Unemployed people, including hundreds of thousands of people in the army, who earn only about 2 dollars a day; depend for their livelihood on this sector. The state of Eritrea has other important uncanny methods of keeping itself from the Dutch Disease.

The United Nations, human rights organization, and others have lately been reporting on the systemic use of thousands of people; graduates from the Eritrean National Service work for free or pittance for the government in the civil sector, the party owned farms and factories, and business entities run by army generals. Like a vacuum machine, the state sucks most of the able bodied people in the land into its war economy; leaving them little agency to manage their lives. Prior to their being corralled by the state; the large majority were teen age students; and the rest unemployed, underemployed people; subsisting on donations from people living abroad.

There was no manufacturing sector to begin with in Eritrea; having endured a thirty years the factories from the past were in ruins; with little chance for recovery. More alarmingly, the command economy had a stranglehold on the private sector leaving neither capital nor labor for its existence. In other words; a large majority of the people had no job or were partially employed for years. The regime’s panacea for this was a massive militarization; not even sparing the millions of poor farmers eking a poor existence.  The highly glorified “self-sufficient” economy of Eritrea is nothing but a thorough war economy.

In sum, the purpose of this article is to encourage economists and development experts to explore the lethal effect of revenues from precious commodities by a totalitarian state. In comparison with the ravages of the state such as Eritrea’s, the lot of millions of people living under a Dutch Disease, or Resource curse is much humane and tolerable. Arguably, humanitarian emergencies of the magnitude, which exists in Eritrea; rarely happens in countries afflicted with the Dutch Disease.

Middle East | News Analysis |​​NYT Now A Policy Puzzle of U.S. Goals and Alliances in the Middle East By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKMARCH 26, 2015

A Policy Puzzle of U.S. Goals and Alliances in the Middle East – NYTimes.com

Middle East | News Analysis |​​NYT Now A Policy Puzzle of U.S. Goals and Alliances in the Middle East By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICKMARCH 26, 2015