The Karnon Foundation: Working for Understanding in the Horn of Africa

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Problems in Kenya

NAIROBI, 27 January 2010 (IRIN) – In the year since Mehmoud Hassan arrived in Nairobi from Baidoa in southern Somalia, he says he has been arrested more than 10 times by the Kenyan police and paid more than US$300 in fines to secure his release. His crime, says the 29-year-old former civil society activist, was being a Somali national in a city increasingly hostile to the flood of refugees from the battered Horn of Africa state.

Even this cycle of arrest and release failed to prepare Hassan for his latest encounter with the police. He and his 80-year-old grandmother were among more than 2,000 people – including Somali members of parliament in Nairobi for a meeting – who were rounded up in a week of raids and arrests following a 15 January protest against the detention and subsequent deportation of a radical Islamist cleric by the Kenyan government. Muslim human rights activists claimed five people were killed in the demonstration while the government has limited the official death toll to one.

(c) IRIN 2010, reproduced with permission

The Karnon Foundation

a balanced understanding of the region

The Karnon Foundation has been established with two clear objectives:

  1. to act as a focal point for information on the Horn of Africa and its bordering states, including southern Arabia and
  2. to help the young people in immigrant communities, whose families originate from the region, to gain a balanced understanding of the realities of the region.

chaos and failed states ...

At this time it seems that the only news in the international media about the Horn of Africa and its neighbouring territories, like the Yemen, is about conflict, terrorism, piracy and famine, the Karnon Foundation believes that no policies affecting the region can be effective unless policy-makers and opinion formers have an objective and clear understanding of the complex and interwoven problems of the region.

It is increasingly clear that the problems of Somalia and the other countries of the region can no longer be contained, and their populations abandoned, in a state of isolation. Members of overseas Somali communities have become involved in the fighting in that country, a phenomena that it likely to spread to Yemen communities. Too often young men have travelled to the area, full of idealistic notions, to find themselves actors in extreme violence on behalf of groups to whom they have no natural connection.

a key strategic area

The Horn of Africa also sits astride one of the great ship lanes of the world, the Gulf of Aden, though which Europe receives the bulk of its crude oil supplies from the Middle East and the huge flood of goods and materials from China and India.

The region is therefore of critical strategic importance, and furthermore has enormous potential for future oil discoveries, especially in Somalia. It is an area that we cannot afford to ignore.#

simplistic explanations

The Horn of African has been bedevilled by "solutions" devised by outsiders with little understanding of the immense complexity of the issues. Simple solutions have no place here.For example is does not help the understanding of the problems of the region to claim that the current fighting in Somalia and Yemen is simply the extension of Al-Qaeda into new territories. A failure to get to grips with the issues, or an over-identification with one group or another, mindset which has bedevilled our understanding of the situation in Afghanistan, and which has only worked to the advantage of those who wish to discredit Western intentions in the region.

famine and drought ...

Somalia and the other countries of the region are now experiencing one of the worst droughts for twenty years and this has lead to famine and increased the flow of economic refugees from the region. It is vital that the international community understands the causes of these problems and focuses on the long term impact of climate change in the region.




Child Trafficking

SANAA, 25 January 2010 (IRIN) – Fewer Yemeni children were trafficked to Saudi Arabia in 2009 than in recent years, according to a Yemeni Ministry of Social Affairs official.

The reasons for this included awareness campaigns on child trafficking, collaboration between the Yemeni and Saudi authorities and the volatile situation in northern Yemen, according to officials.

“Only 602 children were trafficked to Saudi in 2009, compared to 900 in 2008,” Abbas Ghalib, head of the juveniles department at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MSAL), told IRIN in Sanaa.

Child welfare centres set up by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and run by MSAL aim to alleviate the problem.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the children, mostly boys, are smuggled for “forced begging, forced unskilled labour, or forced street vending.”

(c) IRIN 2010, reproduced with permission