Sunday, 18 December 2011
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Thursday, 8 December 2011
Here is my report for the BBC on Al Shabaab's latest experiment with the power of the internet:
The first tweets gave a hint of what was, within a few hours, to become the most intense fighting for several months between the Islamists and government troops backed by African Union or AMISOM peacekeepers in Mogadishu.
The tweets spoke of an attack by Al Shabaab on an AMISOM base in the north of the city. This was despite the fact that Al Shabaab in August announced that it had withdrawn from Mogadishu, something the transitional government described as a massive victory.
The tweets then launched into what Al Shabaab described as the utter failure of Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. One quoted a BBC story about the plan for Kenyan troops to join AMISOM. It said this was proof that Kenya had run out of money to pay for the military operation, so need the African Union to pay for it instead. The advice to the Kenyan soldiers was put into one word, in capital letters. It said simply ‘FLEE’.
There was also a tweet referring to the need for Somali government soldiers to sober up, accusing them of being intoxicated by the narcotic leaf, qat, which has been banned by Al Shabaab.
The Al Shabaab Twitter site has attracted dozens of followers since it was launched a few hours ago. So far, Al Shabaab is following nobody.
The Islamist movement has in recent months become increasingly adept at communicating its activities and messages to a non-Somali audience. It writes sophisticated press releases in excellent English, complete with photographs.
And now it has a Twitter account. Perhaps this is in response to the highly active Twitter account of Kenya’s military spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir. He issues a steady stream of information about what he says are Kenya’s military successes in Somalia.
So far, he appears to be winning the Twitter war. He has nearly ten thousand followers. Al Shabaab has four hundred, but its site has only been active for a few hours, and that number increases every time I look at it.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
‘Mary Harper has written a brilliant book that will completely change the way you look at not just modern Somalia but also much contemporary journalism. So much reporting today divides the world beyond Britain into Goodies and Baddies – Mary Harper's book cuts through that simplistic naivety in a fantastic way. She vividly shows how the cartoon nightmare vision of Somalia as a failed state is wrong. It's like being lifted up in a helicopter and looking at something you thought you knew in a completely new way.’
Monday, 21 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Sunday, 6 November 2011
I have just received this press release from the African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The photos came with the press release.
"Hundreds of Mogadishu residents last week took to the beaches for the first time in three years in a dramatic display of a new found sense of security following the forcing out from the city of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.
The revellers, who included former president Ali Mahdi Mohamed, converged on the scenic Lido beach on Friday where they enjoyed a game of football and took a dip in the waters.Ever since the Somali National Army, with the support of the African Union Mission in Somalia, forced the extremists' retreat in August, the capital has been experiencing something of a resurgence. Roads are being repaired, homes rebuilt and markets reopened. Real estate prices along Via Moscow have doubled and there are people out in the streets late into the night, despite the ongoing threat of terrorist attack.
However, as the city reawakens, it is also experiencing problems common to other capitals around the world. Traffic jams along the busy streets are a perennial headache and crime rates are up, according to Mayor Mohammed Nur 'Tarzan'.
Last week, the city's business community presented a gift of thirty animals to AMISOM in appreciation of the Mission's effort in helping secure the capital."
Friday, 4 November 2011
As I sit here in Nairobi speaking to Somali friends about how uncomfortable things have become for them following the Kenyan incursion into/ intervention in/ invasion of Somalia, I cannot help but be amazed by the increasingly surreal stream of tweets coming from the Kenyan army spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir.
Here is a compilation of his tweets on how donkeys should now be considered the enemy:
"Information reaching us confirms that Al Shabaab has resorted to using donkeys to transport their weapons. The locals use donkeys to fetch water for domestic use however, due to the heavy rains water fetching is not feasible. Thus, any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered as Al Shabaab activity. In addition we are also reliably informed that the cost of donkeys has risen from $150 to $200 for a donkey. Kenyans dealing in donkey trade along the Kenya-Somali border are advised not to sell their animals to Al Shabaab. Selling donkeys to Al Shabaab will undermine our efforts in Somalia."
You can read more of his tweets on Twitter: @MajorEChirchir
Monday, 24 October 2011
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