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TANZANIA: UNHCR begins integration of Somali Bantus .

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Somali Bantu refugee in Tanzania.

Nairobi,Kenya,15 MAR 2003-The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began on Thursday the integration of more than 3,300 Somali Bantu refugees into the local community in Tanzania, the UN agency reported.

UNHCR reported that the Somali Bantus fled to Tanzania in 1991 and 1992 following civil war and the collapse of the Siyad Barre government in Somalia. This group was among "tens of thousands" of Somalis who "travelled on overcrowded and rickety dhows to Kenya's coastal town of Mombasa", it said.

"They made their way farther south to Tanzania's Tanga region, following a reverse path that their ancestors had taken more than three centuries ago when they were transported as slaves," it added.

The first group of about 130 refugees was transported on Thursday in two buses and trucks to a newly built settlement, 80 km from the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. UHHCR said the convoy marked the beginning of its operation to transfer the Somali Bantus from Mkuyu, their home of more than 10 years, to the new Chogo settlement.

The UNHCR representative in Tanzania, Chrysanthus Ache, said the transfer of the refugees from Mkuyu to Chogo could be completed by mid-April.

"The Chogo settlement, complete with a health centre, schools, a market and a police post, is the result of nearly three years of construction work at a 5,000-acre site that was set aside by the government of Tanzania in 1999 to integrate the Somalis locally," the UNHCR said.

It said many of the Somali refugees could trace their origins to Chogo, close to the coastal town of Tanga, in the northeast, an area mostly inhabited by the Zigua community.

"The Somali Bantus still speak Zigua, as well as Kiswahili, which is the national language of Tanzania. The refugees also share many cultural practices with their new community," the agency said.

It added that the Somalis were renowned for their industriousness, and that they would be likely to get down to work in their newly acquired homes to benefit from an upcoming rainy season. Chogo, situated 100 km from Tanga, has large areas of woodland and arable land suitable for fruits, vegetables, maize and cassava.

"Each refugee family in Chogo will receive more than two acres of land for its home and farmland," UNHCR said.

"Other amenities and facilities in the settlement will be used by both the refugees and the local community, estimated at some 1,000 inhabitants," it added.

Somalia’s Interior Minister Hospitalized at KFSHRC.

JEDDAH, 15 March 2003 -Somali Interior Minister Dahir Muhammad Sheikh has been admitted to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHRC) here. Somali Consul General Muhammad Elmi Omer told Arab News yesterday that the minister was being treated at KFSHRC for “minor ailments” after he was flown in here last week. Omer noted that the Saudi government had extended many similar medical services to Somali leaders in the past. ***

The living conditions in the Baidoa had deteriorated.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard, said in a statement published yesterday that fighting in southwestern town of Baidoa had interrupted relief activities for more than eight months and that living conditions in the town had deteriorated.

Since last July, Baidoa has been a scene of fighting between two rival factions of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA). A power struggle and division within the senior ranks of the RRA had caused the fighting. “I am gravely concerned for the welfare of the people of Baidoa. Since the fighting erupted, access to the area has been extremely limited and civilians have been displaced several times over. Aid activities ranging from food distribution to health services have been seriously disrupted,” Gaylard added.


The TNG vs Ethopia.
Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG) on Wednesday accused Ethiopia of sending military forces with heavy military hardware into some regions in south Somalia. According to media reports, the TNG said that it will not take part in the ongoing peace talks in Kenya while Ethiopia is a member of the technical committee organizing the peace talks.

“We hope that the international community appreciates our position that mediation by the Ethiopian government between the TNG and the opposition is neither reasonable nor fruitful. While Ethiopia is part of the mediation group, the TNG will not participate,” the TNG statement said.

The technical committee organizing the peace talks comprises representatives from Ethiopia, Djibouti Kenya. East African body of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had mandated the three countries to broker the peace process. Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tekede Alemu, told the BBC that the TNG allegations were completely false. He denied that Ethiopia was massing troops on the border. He also rebutted an earlier charge that some Ethiopian forces had already crossed into Somalia.

UK saves Somalia peace talks .

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Prime Minister of the Somalia transitional national government (TNG) Hassan Abshir.

Nairobi,Kenya,15 MAR 2003-The troubled Somalia peace talks appeared back on track after British government officials held separate meetings in Nairobi with the main groups in the conflict on Wednesday and yesterday.

The two UK delegations also met with the Kenyan envoy to the talks, Mr Bethwell Kiplagat, who later announced a breakthrough.

After meeting the Prime Minister of the Somalia transitional national government (TNG), Mr Hassan Abshir, on Wednesday, the Kenyan envoy announced: "So far, the latest is that they (TNG) are going to be here. I just had a meeting with the Prime Minister.

"We have exchanged views on how to move the reconciliation conference forward. We had a very constructive and productive meeting."

The TNG delegations and government allies agreed to resume the peace negotiations after a three-hour meeting with British high commission officials.

Meanwhile, the European Union declared support for the talks, a statement from the organisation's presidency in Athens, Greece, said.

The EU hailed the role played Mr Kiplagat and the Igad technical committee.

The EU said it was discouraging that a ceasefire accord signed last month had been violated, especially in Mogadishu.

The statement urged the Igad committee to identify the objectives of the third and final phases of the talks that started in Kenya late last year.



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