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Journalists become endangered species in Somalia, Amnesty International

At least eight journalists have been killed since 2017, and at least eight more fled the country fearing for their lives, Amnesty said.

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Relatives and fellow journalists carry the body of Somali journalist Abdulaziz Ali Haji during his funeral , on September 28, 2016, in Mogadishu. - Abdulaziz Ali Haji , a reporter for Shabelle radio, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on his way home north of the capital Mogadishu. Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers: 45 Somali journalists were killed between 2007 and 2015, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). (Photo by MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB/AFP)

Somalian journalists have become endangered species and are “under siege”, facing bombings, beatings, attacks and arrests, rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday in a report.

The East African nation has long been seen as one of the riskiest places to work as a journalist, with the twin threats of reporting on conflict and draconian restrictions imposed by the authorities.

But now the situation is getting even worse, Amnesty said, in a report titled “We live in perpetual fear”, detailing what it called a “dramatic deterioration” in press freedom, AFP reports.

“A surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers is entrenching Somalia as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist,” Amnesty said, calling on the government to take action.

Journalists face threats on all fronts, from attacks by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-allied Al-Shabaab fighters, to the internationally backed authorities.

At least eight journalists have been killed since 2017, and at least eight more fled the country fearing for their lives, the report said.

“From barely surviving explosive-wired cars, being shot, beaten up and arbitrarily arrested, journalists are working in horrifying conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s head for eastern and southern Africa.

“This crackdown on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom is happening with impunity. The authorities hardly investigate or prosecute perpetrators of attacks on journalists,” Muchena said.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Somalia 164th out of 180 countries on its global list of press freedom, with more than 43 journalists killed over the past decade.

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Kenyan Start-up Pula Raises $6 Million in Series A Funding

The start-up specialises in digital and agricultural insurance to protect smallholder farmers in Africa from risk.

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Kenyan insurance-tech start-up, Pula, has raised $6 million in its Series A round of funding. The start-up specialises in digital and agricultural insurance to protect smallholder farmers in Africa from risk.

Pula delivers agricultural insurance and digital products to help smallholder farmers improve their farming practices, navigate climate risks, and bolster their incomes over time.

Through its Area Yield Index Insurance product, the startup leverages machine learning, crop-cut experiments and data points relating to weather patterns and farmer losses, so as to build products that cater to various risks.

Investors who took part in the round include early-stage venture capital firm, TLcom Capital and Women’s World Banking. As part of the fundraising, TLcom’s senior partner Omobola Johnson will join Pula’s board. 

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According to Pula, the fund will be used to scale up operations in its existing 13 markets across Africa which are Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.

In 2018, Pula raised another $1 million in seed investment from Rocher Participations, Accion Venture Lab, Omidyar Network, and several angel investors.  

Furthermore, the company is looking to propel its expansion for smallholder farmers in Asia and Latin America.

Its clientele includes the World Food Programme, Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Zambian and Kenyan governments. Social enterprises like One Acre Fund, startups like Apollo Agriculture and agribusiness giants like Flour Mills and Export Trading Group are also among Pula’s clients.

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Kenyan Denies Ivory, Rhino Horns Trading Charges in U.S. Court

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A Kenyan man, Mansur Mohamed Surur, has pleaded not guilty to trafficking ivory and rhino horns worth millions of dollars in a U.S. court.

He also denied charges of money laundering and drug dealing but continues to be detained without bail.

Audrey Strauss, the Southern District of New York’s Attorney General, in a statement, said Surur was arrested by Kenyan authorities on July 29, 2020, in Mombasa, southeast Kenya “on charges of conspiracy to traffic in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both endangered wildlife species, which involved the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.”

Surur was also accused of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin.

Surur is accused alongside three accomplices: Moazu Kromah, a citizen of Liberia, who was deported to the US from Uganda on June 13, 2019; Amara Cherif, a citizen of Guinea, who was extradited to the US from Senegal on April 3, 2020 and Abdi Hussein Ahmed, a citizen of Kenya who remains a fugitive.

Surur and three others are accused of agreeing to illegal sales with buyers in Manhattan, as well as others in South East Asia.

The statement said 60-year-old Surur is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and two counts of wildlife trafficking, which each carry a maximum sentence of five years; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years; and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

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Somali Government Intercept Smuggled Weapons, Ammunitions

The ministry did not, however, identify the entities and quantity of ammunition intercepted nor did he provide any proof to back up the report either.

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The Somali government has commenced investigations into the source and origin of certain sophisticated weapons and ammunition which it intercepted while they were being smuggled into the country.

The country’s minister of information said there had been an attempt by Somali and foreign entities, to illegally import high caliber weapons and ammunition into the country without government knowledge and permission.

In a statement issued in the capita Mogadishu, the minister said “the federal government of Somali has a robust system in the supply chain of weapons and ammunition from the point of procurement to post distribution, and it is these existing frameworks that have enabled the government to respond timely and block the deliveries.”

The ministry did not, however, identify the entities and quantity of ammunition intercepted nor did he provide any proof to back up the report either.

The ministry said the Somali government takes very seriously, violations of territorial sovereignty and integrity as well as any actions that can have potential destabilizing effects.

“The government is investigating the origin and motives of the weapons and ammunition it has blocked intended for Somalia,” the report said.

Shortly after Somali plunged into civil war 25 years ago, The United Nations imposed a blanket arms embargo on the nation.

The statement followed hours of fighting in the southern town of Beled Hawo between the security forces of Jubaland and and government forces as the two sides battled to take control of the strategic town which is a key entry of the Gedo region.

The Somali government did however say its forces managed to repel the militia group, and managed to recover illegally imported arms and ammunition, also flushing out Jubaland security forces.

Bothe sides have reportedly suffered casualties, even though the local authorities have not established the number involved.

This is not the first time that The Somali government and Jubaland forces will battle over that land. In March 2020, both forces were engaged in a similar battle to take control of the town.

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