Sweden’s Foreign Policy towards Somalia.

Interview with Cecilia Julin, swedish ambassador in Madrid.

By: Nathalie González

-You are the first Swedish female ambassador here, how did you end up in Madrid and how is your day to day life as an ambassador?

-The post as an ambassador was available  in 2011, I applied for it at my department and eventually they chose me for my  CV and languages. As I had already been an ambassador and have a large summary of works, the ministry of foreign affairs trusted I was suitable for the post.My day to day life consists of representing and promoting Swedish interests in all areas in Spain. At the embassy we also provide service to Swedish authorities, companies, organizations and individual citizens. I also regularly send reports to the ministry in Sweden with information and analysis of different areas for example at this moment a priority for foreign missions is to promote Swedish economic interests abroad by providing services to Swedish companies and encourage foreign investment in Sweden.

-Swedish Embassy in Madrid is likely to hold in high esteem among Swedish Foreign Ministry employees?

-It’s among the best jobs in Europe, an attractive service to come to Spain.

It will be the second time that Cecilia Julin service as ambassador to Sweden abroad. The first time was in 2003 when she set up embassy in Slovakia until 2006. Then waited for the role of Communications at the Foreign Ministry. That means she has been in charge at the State Department for the communication to the public and to Swedish and foreign media, Press Officer and Web Manager.

-If you choose Diplomatic Programme at the Foreign Office, what chance do you have to work as a career diplomat?

-If you are looking into and entering the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic program, you will after completing the programme be sent out on your first posting abroad and your  “career”  will be started.

-In 1995 you were working as an Assistant General Director for relations trade with Africa. Is there anything you can say about the relations with Somalia today?

-Sweden participates actively in the efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the situation in Somalia, including through the International Contact Group on Somalia, led by UN Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. Sweden’s ambassador to Somalia, based in Nairobi, where also the Swedish aid office for Somalia is. The Government’s commitment to Somalia is significant, largely because there are a large number of people with Somali origin in Sweden.

-Does Sweden currently have an Ambassador for Somalia?

-Mikael Lindvall is currently Special Envoy for Somalia and his new post as ambassador to Somalia, is based in Nairobi.

-Sweden was in 2012 the third largest bilateral humanitarian donor  in the world after the U.S. and Britain. Since 2005, the Swedish contributions to humanitarian assistance has increased from 3.3 to over 5 billion in 2012. How much of this money was sent to Somalia?

-London held a high-level international conference on Somalia in order to give the Somali government international support in rebuilding the country because Somalia has for some time been badly affected by the conflict and climate-related crises. Somalia has taken several steps forward in the past year with a new president and a new government and Humanitarian aid has been important and will continue to play a role. In 2012, Somalia received a total of 155 million- more or less in humanitarian assistance from Sweden. Aid in Somalia allocated as a page to UN agencies, including UNICEF. For 2013, Sweden has committed SEK 146 million in aid to Somalia, with a focus on disaster preparedness and increase the resilience of vulnerable groups.

-How Is the situation in Somalia today? And is there any future? Can Sweden help?

– For the first time in many years, there is hope for the future of Somalia. The world stands ready to increase its involvement, and at the international Somalia conference in London to show their support for the new government’s development plans.

Sweden is obviously there. We are heavily involved in Somalia’s development since long, and by the EU, the UN and NGOs we work to support the country that focus on tangible results. Now we can also work increasingly with Somalia’s new government. Sweden participates in all EU safety promotion efforts in Somalia, and we have for many years been one of the largest donors to the country.

Interview with a diplomat of the Spanish embassy in South Africa.

Written by: Alberto Hernández Nieto.

Interviewed: Marisol Lana Flores.

How were you sent to South Africa and what was your duty there?

Once in the diplomatic corps you have two options, having a post in Spain to go to the international institutions, but always working from our country, or working in different commercial offices that are located in different countries. In the commercial offices, organically you depend on the ambassador from the embassy you are in, but functionally you depend on the Economy Minister of your country. First  I asked for a post in Praha, but because of my seniority, the post was given to another person, so I was sent to Johannesburg. Our job there was giving all type of assessment to people related to our country who wanted to do business in South Africa.

How come that South Africa , a country that monopolizes 25% of the Gross Domestic Product of all the country has an unemployment rate of ¼ of the total population and that these unemployed live with less than 1.25 dollars a day?

There are several important facts to understand this; the first one is immigration. A lot of people come from all the bordering countries to work in South Africa. These people are added to the population already existing there with few job opportunities. The other fact is the big exodus that exist from the country to the city; hundreds of thousands of people who live in the rural area and that most of them are not registered in the census, so they are not in the official statistics;  all this creates a huge amount of people with no type of preparation and therefore with no access to a job. With reference to the black South African university student population, the first generation of university students is very recent; it was from the 2003-2004. This fact is important to understand the scarce proportion of qualified people. All this promotes big pockets of poverty, centered historically in the country, but gradually extended to the urban centers.

Figures indicate 50.000 homicides each year, so it is one of the African countries with biggest crime rates, what is your experience and your opinion about this problem?

In the time we were there we didn´t have any problem with this, but you have to take into account that we followed conscientiously all the security measures that we were told by the embassy, it´s not a country where you can move around peacefully from one place to the other. In fact, you can´t find a lot of people walking on the street, only around watched areas: commercial centers, crowded parks and specially touristic/commercial areas. It´s true that there are a lot of homicides and robberies, specially at the weekends. The burglaries and attacks in houses are carried out with intimidation and murder. You have to add to this the racial problem; historically white people in South Africa feel threatened by the black community, that´s why they are strongly armed.

The 17th August 2012, there was a slaughter that went all around the world. The one about the miners in Lanmin who asked for better working conditions.34 miners died. This episode recalled clearly the apartheid violence, as from its abolition there had never been such a big slaughter. What message do we get from this fact?

To be able to understand this we have to know the cause of the problem; the mining trade union (NUM) was created by the family of Sr Ramaposa, a well-known multimillionaire. The negotiations of this person with the African national congress have been very important for the democracy being installed in this country. This person considered himself very important and it was said he would become Mandela´s successor , but he dedicated himself to do business and started to get rich, that´s why miners don´t feel represented by this person any more, they see he doesn´t defend their interests and that he doesn´t deserve being their trade union representative, that´s why all those violent protests took place the day of  the slaughter.

With eight wifes and 18 children, Jacob Zuma is the current leader of the African national congress, he also has 783 corruption and rape accusations, nevertheless  he got his presence after reaching a 70% in the last election. How is this possible?  Which is the president´s reputation is his own country?

The data about his wives and kids is irrelevant as this is something usual and it is seen as something normal. The issue about the accusations is true. In spite of this, he is very skilful man politically, he comes from a very humble family, his mother was a maid, he´s not like other ex-presidents who have studied in western countries; despite of all this he´s had a great career and now counts with an important political prominence. He is very much appreciated inside the party.

The new legislation proposed by the African national congress proposes the prohibition for many white people to get posts which are exclusively reserved for black people; this and other changes of a certain discriminatory character, are making the emigration rates increase on the part of these affected communities. Some statistics collect data on more than 1.000.000 white people emigrating since 1994. It seems as if South Africa has always been immersed in racial problems. Do you think the current government is not doing the right thing to solve this problem or it´s just a consequence of a dark past? Is the CAN in the right thing?

The past has a lot of weight on the current situation, on the other hand the CNA hasn´t assimilated its mission, what Mandela wanted, they have become bourgeois, they have fallen into an kind of apathy, they have forgotten about their own compatriots and lot of injustice in their country. Either they recover the right way again or it could fall in decadence, the example is that the abstention that is raising , as the population don´t feel in them because most of the population has remained where it was. This could turn out into a big problem in the future.

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Interview

Hassan Yera came to Spain as an illegal immigrant a couple of years ago. Now and thanks to other immigrants he can stay and he is trying to find a job and also helping other people that are in the same situation that he was. He gave us a few minutes of his time.

 

Interviewer: What does Africa mean to you?

Hassan Yera: There are a lot of things…home, family, beauty…..but poverty is also in Africa, it is the worst of Africa indeed.

I: You came from Ivory Coast. What it is the actual situation there?

HY: It is not like before…not that much pain you know…two years ago the civil war ended; now things are calm over there.

There is no organization at a governmental level and the politicians are strange. Corruption is killing the country you know.

I: Why is Africa not moving on?

HY: Because of the poverty, is poverty, poverty is what causes the wars, refugees…and corruption. Poverty and corruption are killing the inside of Africa. Did you know that the police accepts bribe for leaving peaceful the refugees and immigrants?

I: No, I did not know.

HY: Of course they do that, the problem is that either the cops are corrupted and evil or they are so poor that accept the money in order to buy the meal of that day.

I: So, Mafias are installing in Africa?

HY: I would not say they are mafias; at least not in Ivory Coast. I cannot speak for the rest of Africa. But in my country there are no mafias….no organization…most of them are thieves (here he smiled) but no like the concept you have here, no, no, no… there a thief can kill you…no doubts…it is not like here. It is the desperation you know, it leads them to murder.

I: And what about enterprises? Are they profiting of Africa?

HY: Everyone, everyone…everyone takes advantage of Africa. Africa has no friends, Europe, America, the Chinese all of them profit at our expenses. And they do not pay anything, no, no, not at all, they get rich, leave Africa and leave us with nothing. Africa has a lot of resources; and where is everything? Not in Africa I am certain about that.

I: Moving into the education. There is no stability?

HY: In my country you go to school when you are five or six…you continue if you have resources if you do not, you are nothing.

I: Nevertheless, a lot of help is given to Africa in education matters?

HY: Yes, yes, but no. The problem is not to built schools; it is to give resources to the families so the kids can go and stay in school.

I: Africa has big issues with the children, hasn’t it?

HY: Bufff; you have no idea…here…in Europe is different but very different. Here you hit a children and cops suddenly everywhere….but there! Bufff nothing happens, children gets hit even with sticks by persons that are not even they parents….is radical…radical.

I: Any international or Foreign efforts (international and humanitarian aid, NGOs…) are not working there?

HY: No, no, no…the “middle man” end up with that aid you know…because of responsibility and things like that. They came with the aid, but the responsible of spreading it are the government or the army and they start to take things for themselves. They give a part to people so here people belief they are really helping, but they are not.

I: Then, How do we really help?

HY: By spreading the aid yourselves, do not leave that to the local government, do it face to face to the poor people, it is like this. The world should do until the end…no “middle man”.

I: Another big issue of Africa is immigration. How do we solve this?

HY: Oh la la…difficult really difficult. Immigration is force…always…in Africa 95% is force or because of necessity. From my country to here…long journey, very long….you cross to Mali, then to Mauritania then you can try to reach Europe in a boat if you have the money you know…or go north to morocco and try there. But the problems are in the coast…crossing those countries is alone it is when you reach the coast when the criminals are organized and they take all the money from the people and sometimes they dropped them there with nothing, if you are lucky you reach Europe.

I: Is there hope for Africa?

HY: I will not lose hope, but I know it is going to take time. A very slow process but it is my house and my country, family and friends are there so I will not lose hope, sure.

I: Thank you very much for your time M.Yera.

HY: You welcome.

 

Thanks to M.Yera for his time.

Andrés Escorial

Africa- is there any hope?

Since the very beginning of our research about the Sub-Saharan Africa region, all the members of our group has been able to see that the starting point, the reason of all the problems that exist in this region is very clear: hunger.

In our opinion, hunger is the origin that results in consequences such as, arm conflicts, corruption, pirates, lack of education and health care. All these problems have been increased due to the lack of basic needs.

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As an example to see this clearer, there have been cases of guerillas that have started because of the peasants who fight over the few resources that the countries have, this is extended into a tribal social issue, in which politics and religions also gets involved. As we can see in the Kony case, a conflict can start with the fighting over food, and when the conflict enlarges one side, usually the weaker one, uses their religion to convince others of the same religion position to fight by their side, using the religion itself as an argument to why they should get involved.

Other important issue extended in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa is the conflict of terrorism. These groups take as an advantage the lack of education (analphabets) in these areas to recruit and train them as soldiers and to fight by their side, without them really knowing what they are fighting for.

The most common problem that is derived from these issues that we mentioned above, are the child soldiers that along with the women; are the forgotten victims of all these conflicts.

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We truly believe that to end all these conflicts, and give stability to this region (both in a political and a civil sphere) it will be necessary to provide and cover the basic needs in the Sub-Saharan Region of Africa.  Once that the basic needs alongside with a minimum of health medical assistance were covered, it would be possible to develop the rest of the areas needed in order to give stability to the region, such as; an educational, administrative, economic and social systems. Once these are achieved, certain governments will be allowed to exert control and lead the country into a good path.

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In our view, Africa cannot achieve all this goals by itself. It will need the help of the rest of the world. Nevertheless, our principal critic is focus on the aid that the rest of the world provides and the Medias. First of all, the aid that the rest of the world sent to Africa is not enough and with the actual financial crisis is starting to be lower and lower, to the point that famines are starting to rise in all the regions (e.g. Somalia). Second, the Medias are not really focusing on the issues that exist there so there is no awareness created; a good example is the bombing that took place at the same day in Boston and Somalia. Despite of this Boston overlap Mogadishu.

Finally, from our point of view the conflicts in Africa will not be solved until they cover all the basic need and this will not be a realistic solution unless the rest of the world is willing to send aid and technological devices to the Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa’s future is still not hopeless, nevertheless if we do not take any action that day may be closer than we think.

No website has been consulted, as this is an opinion article, we rely on the information obtained during these months of studying the Sub-Saharan Region.

Nathalie González, Andrés Escorial, Alberto Hernández, Jorge del Prado & Sandra Elorriaga.

Another “Pirate´´ attack in Nigeria

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Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, security sources said on Tuesday.

Increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Africa’s No. 1 oil producer Nigeria and is a significant source of cocoa and metals for world markets, is jacking up costs for shipping firms operating there.

The Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix was boarded by gunmen in the early hours of Saturday around 40 nautical miles off the coast of oil-producing Bayelsa state, two security sources said, in a stretch of water often targeted by pirates in recent months.

There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew aboard the vessel when it was attacked, one of the sources asid, and is ignored if there are still alive or not.

A spokesman for ship operator Val Oil Trading, who refused to give his name, confirmed there had been an “accident”, without giving further details.

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Last month there were two attacks in the Gulf of Guinea where foreigners were kidnapped and released a few weeks later. Security sources believe ransoms were paid – an increasingly lucrative business for criminal gangs.

International navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea, leaving the many vessels that anchor off Nigeria vulnerable to attack.

On the other hand, the Eastern side of Africa, piracy that was once a scourge off the coast of Somalia has been largely brought under control by international naval patrols and the stationing of armed guards aboard merchant vessels, companies that now are working at the Nigerian coast and at the rest of the gulf of Guinea are starting to consider the use of the services of these “mercenaries´´ at the oil tankers and the oil rigs because the governments of that part of the world are unable to protect them and the international society is not interested to send war ships because, unlikely to the Somalian case, that region is not a important crossroad for the international business. That even is not as good as the red sea to hunt boats gad made the increasing of the number of pirates that can act freely in the region.

The majority of the world have ignored this action and even the Pakistan government has not make any comment yet. Time will say if we are able to stop this before this became a new red sea.

Joseph Kony

After the campaign that made Joseph Kony infamously worldwide known, not only haven’t he still been defeated, but also he is still being the leader of the war that has, under his command, the largest amount of child soldiers.

Not long ago, we were told that there were ‘only’ a few hundred of soldiers left, but this number of soldiers has not only not been proved but is also in a huge risk of increase in a short period of time and very rapidly. This is considered for him the quality of child soldiers, they can be recruited, prepared and armed in an alarming short term, another considerate ‘quality’ of child soldiers is that it is scarily easy to gain an access to control them, even brainwash them, as they won’t be aware of another reality but war.

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Joseph Kony, ABC.

In south Sudan the war and the quantity of children that are traumatized by this experience, converts into a perfect cultivation field for the recruits that have to be harvested, when they leave their homes due to the damages of the war.

Additionally the Sudan war turned into a contention wall for Kony, a conflict which covered his rearguard of possible offensives from the north allowing him to concentrate in specific fronts, and have an option and a way to escape.

Currently the South Sudan government have started to initiate ‘anti-Kony’ operations inside their territory with the support of international agent like the famous ‘white preacher’ that is well known as Sam Childers, a preacher from Minnessota that has since 1998 fought against the LRA (Lords Resistance Army), which is the name of Kony’s army.

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These actions that has been taken out by public and private organizations seems to have induced the exile of Kony toward the Central African Republic with another 200-500 soldiers who would exceed the number of soldiers that Kony had under his command in 2011 (around 300 soldiers max).

This collides with the anti-kony campaigns that had been realized between 2011 and 2012, for despite of them the number of troops and soldiers has increased.

Surprisingly the actions that have really made an impact has been those of the same character taken by Mr.Childers, thanks to his effort and collaboration with the army of South Sudan they have together managed to expel Kony out of this territory and later on also from Uganda. Recently other persons of the Western World have track and report to the world in more detail the brutal activities of Joseph Kony, a very good and extremely precise report is the one made by Lara Logan for the CBS.

The future of what will happen with Kony is uncertain but with all the information explained before we can see that the only effective action against him seems to be direct action and military, not an awareness campaign based on wristbands and messages on twitter.

Is the world watching Somalia die?

Once again, Africa is hit by its most furious and merciless enemy: Hunger. It has killed over 260.000 people in Somalia, half of them children. The amount of food was not enough to cover the basic nutritional needs of that amount of people, and when the aid arrived, it was already late.

According to the UN News Center this happened because the international community did not act quickly enough. Due to the magnitude of the victims, half of them infanticide deaths, Philippe Lazzarini (Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia) had declared “we could have done more before the famine was declared” and in future terms “we need to ensure that Somalia never goes through another famine again”.

BBC sources let us know that more or less 4.6% of the total population and 10 % of the children under five died in southern and central Somalia. In lower Shabelle 18% of the children under the age of five died and in Mogadishu there were 17 %.

This famine is to be considered as one of the worst famines in over 25 years and the number of deaths this time surpassed the latest famine in Somalia in that occurred in 1991-1992 and about 250.000 people died in the famine due to drought and war.

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Even though this famine was declared to be over in February 2012 and the conditions are considerably better this sub-Saharan country still has got one of the highest rates of child malnutrition and infant mortality according to Ben Foot from the charity organization Save the Children.

The situation is so desperate that Somalia has urgently asked Uganda for some humanitarian help. The Somali government admitted its lack of capacity of providing food to 3.7 millions of its people in the south of the country; this is the reason why they asked for help to its neighbor country, Uganda, specifically providing food around their borders, in an attempt to avoid the escape of Somali citizens to Uganda, New Vision confirmed this information this week and also informed that the Uganda government is thinking of taking the lead and distribute itself the humanitarian aid.

Oxfam gave in a report the three main causes of what this famine happened:

1. A two year drought that has caused record food inflation. This with levels of malnutrition and premature mortality has caused a very quick famine.

2. The drought has killed off the cereal fields and has killed most of the cattle, leaving the population without enough resources.

3. The incapacity of the Somalia government of content the spread of the drought over the country.

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The combination of these three causes plus the actual instability that it is installed in the country has favored the famine.

Once again, hunger has hit Africa and again the rest of the world is too late to help them. This issue has been going on for a long time and every time than an event of this characteristics  takes place the rest of the world that it is time to change things, but in the end it happens all over again.

Alberto Hernández, Andrés Escorial, Sandra Elorriaga, Jorge del Prado & Nathalie González