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Kenya diverts qat exports to Somalia after British ban +PICTURE'S

180_PImports of qat into Mogadishu from Kenya have soared in recent weeks, ever since the British government implemented a ban on the stimulant last month.
Prior to the ban, the United Kingdom was Kenya's biggest export market for qat, known locally as miraa.
Now, Kenyan qat traders have diverted most of their product to Somalia for a fraction of the price, said Habon Sheikh Ali, a qat trader at Mogadishu's KM4 intersection.
"Before qat was banned in the United Kingdom, Mogadishu used to receive between 13 to 15 planes of qat daily, but now there are 23 to 25 planes of qat coming in daily," he told Sabahi. "This has resulted in a decline in qat prices, with each bundle selling for about $5 to $10, while it used to be between $15 and $20 a bundle before."
K_TALEach plane brings in 80 sacks of qat, with each sack containing 100 bundles. This means Somalis spend millions of dollars each day on qat brought into the country, Ali said.
Abdirisaq Mohamed Abdirahman, an economist who teaches at Simad University, said the detrimental impact of qat on the Somali economy was twofold.
No only does qat consumption reduce individuals' personal wealth, it also harms the country's economy as a whole because people who chew qat work fewer hours than those who do not, resulting in a decline in productivity, he said.
"For example, if a person earns $15 a day and spends $10 on qat, that poses a problem for that person and his family as the money is spent in a meaningless manner," Abdirahman told Sabahi.
"It is also harmful to the country's general economy considering the fact that qat is brought into Somalia daily, yet we do not export any goods to the country it comes from," he said. "Instead, cash is removed from this country and it goes to the country the qat is imported from. That money that is being spent is very harmful to Somalia due to [the lack of] balance in trade."
Calls to ban qat
Abdirahman said qat should be banned in Somalia and the government should encourage qat traders to seek out and establish new enterprises.
"If qat is banned, the money that is spent on it would come back to the country and the people who trade in qat would create new businesses," he said, adding that "there are other unexploited businesses that need to be taken advantage of."
The government and private investors currently in the qat business should invest in rebuilding and revitalising the country's agricultural and fishing industries and help re-establish Somalia as a major exporter of exotic fruits and seafood such as mangoes, bananas and lobsters, he said.
The government's investment in these sectors can create thousands of new jobs without any of the negative elements associated with qat trade and consumption, he said.
For his part, Somali religious scholar Sheikh Mukhtar Haji Ahmed said he would support a nationwide ban on qat because its widespread use has been one of the major causes of Somalia's economic and social decline.
"According to our religion, anything that harms the life and health of a person is not allowed. Qat is a drug and according to sharia, any drug that alters the mind is forbidden," Ahmed told Sabahi. "Therefore, I urge Somalis to follow their religion and stop the sinful [use of] qat which is destroying their wealth and lives."
According to Doctor Mohamed Omar, who works at Dar es Salaam Clinic in Mogadishu's Hodan district, regular use of qat causes serious health and social problems.
"A person who chews qat usually suffers from stress and eventually gets a mental illness," he told Sabahi. "This person also does not eat much and even forgets to eat at times."
"Qat [also] breaks up many families since the father spends the money he gets on qat. This results in financial arguments within the family and eventually leads to a family break-up," Omar said.
The recent drop in price of the drug, caused by the sudden influx from Kenya, will increase public use and only exacerbate the negative impacts its widespread use has had in Somalia, he said.
Mohamed Hassan, a 27-year-old truck driver who works at the Mogadishu port and earns between $300 and $350 monthly, told Sabahi he buys and chews qat daily.
"Every day I spend about $5 to $10 to buy qat to chew," he said. "I am in debt by the end of each month, forget about me saving any money."
"I would like to see [qat] banned completely because I would then be forced to stop chewing it, save some money, marry a woman and have children," he said. "I cannot do any of that right now because I cannot save any money."

Palestinian Gaza death toll soars amid peace push

abachaThe Palestinian death toll from Israel’s devastating assault on the Gaza strip reached climbed past 320 as international efforts to broker a truce between the Jewish state and Hamas militants continued.
Israel also suffered its biggest loss since hostilities between the two sides erupted more than two weeks ago, announcing that two of its’ soldiers had been killed by militants who breached the country’s border.
An army statement said the two were killed during a clash with a number of militants who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from Gaza. Earlier in the day, Hamas said its fighters used one a tunnel to slip into Israel, inflicting casualties.

Saudi king tells Sisi his country supports Egypt's Gaza truce proposal

KING_SISIIn a telephone call with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz affirmed his country's support for the Gaza truce proposal made by Egypt last week, according to presidential spokesman Ihab Badawy.
In a statement issued Saturday, Badawy added that the Saudi king praised Egypt's efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, in spite of the country's internal problems.
"The king further pointed to the importance of the international community carrying out their responsibility towards the Palestinian people, and facilitating the arrival of food and medical aid to the [Gaza] Strip," added the statement.

Exclusive: U.N. monitors allege 'conspiracy' to divert Somali assets

xasanfowziyaA United Nations panel that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions on Somalia has accused the country's president, a former minister, and a U.S. law firm of conspiring to divert Somali assets recovered abroad, according to a new report.
    The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, an 8-person committee, disclosed the findings in a confidential report to the U.N. Security Council's Somalia/Eritrea sanctions committee. Reuters reviewed a copy of the 37-page document.
    The U.N. Monitoring Group said the information it has gathered so far "reflects exploitation of public authority for private interests and indicates at the minimum a conspiracy to divert the recovery of overseas assets in an irregular manner."
    Most of the overseas assets were frozen at the outset of the civil war in 1991 and include cash and gold held in banks during two decades of chaos and conflict in Somalia, as well as government properties on foreign soil.

After long break, US welcomes Somali ambassador


Washington (AFP) -  The United States on Monday welcomed a new ambassador from Somalia -- the first in over two decades.
The State Department said the government of the troubled east African nation had sent Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.
"We are pleased to announce the arrival of Ambassador Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the first Somali ambassador to the United States in over twenty years," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
His arrival marks "the latest progress in advancing US-Somali relations," she added.


Civil war erupted in Somalia more than 20 years ago. Washington recognized the country's new government, led by internationally-backed President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, in January 2013.

Earlier this month, US defense officials admitted the US military has secretly maintained forces in the country since 2007, despite earlier public statements claiming it had no presence there until last October.
Washington has deployed up to 120 troops and hopes to bolster its security ties to Somalia's government as it battles al Qaeda-linked Shebab militants, a defense official recently told AFP privately.


Although the militants have been rolled back out of the capital Mogadishu, large swaths of rural areas are still controlled by the extremists.
The new ambassador takes up his post less than a week after Shebab rebels carried out an attack on Somalia's presidential palace.
Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of the government or the security forces, seemingly as part of a bid to discredit claims the authorities are winning the war against the Islamists.
Source: AFP


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