Daily Archives: January 4, 2019

Young Muslims Celebrate with First Somali-American in Congress

On Thursday, the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were sworn into office, as inspired young Muslim Americans and refugees watched closely.

In the evening, a group of young Muslim men and women from Minnesota, Ohio and the Washington metropolitan area, were buzzing about the news as they gathered at an event in McLean, Virginia to celebrate Omar’s journey from Somali refugee to U.S. congresswoman.

At the event, Omar told the celebrating crowd the story of her arrival in the United States from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya 23 years ago.

Suud Olat, 28, a Somali-American, journalist and a refugee advocate, came to the U.S. five years ago as a refugee, escaping hopelessness and poverty in the same camps in Kenya where Omar spent four years before coming to America.

In Trump era, when anti-immigrant and Muslim rhetoric is high, to witness Ilhan Omar who shares the same values and background with me, sitting in the Capitol Hill and celebrate with her was an amazing moment and inspirational for me, he said.

Kowthar Yabarow, a 24-year-old of Somali heritage who chose to wear the hijab, sees the news of Omar as a reflection of her faith, community and belonging.

Although my parents came from Somalia to this country, I was born and raised here as a Muslim girl and to see a hijabi Muslim woman like me in Congress is a big reflection, she said.

Omer Arain, a 23-year-old Pakistani American, said, It is very reassuring for young Muslim Americans like me that they can be in such positions of power.

Parents’ pride

Ibrahim Ismail is a father of four. Like Omar, he came to the United States as a refugee in 1996 after fleeing the conflict in Somalia. His oldest daughter is now in a training school for new Virginia police recruits. He said the news about the two Muslim congresswomen meant something special for him.

“It is an inspiration and special for me that I can show, finally, to my daughter that, there is a Muslim woman like Ilhan Omar, an immigrant and a woman of color, a Somali, who is able to stand up for Muslim values, share them with the American public through a strong voice in the Congress, he said.

“I am so proud to see people with my value like Omar and Tlaib being leaders in this country and I am happy that my daughter will grow up in an era where to have Muslim leaders in the U.S. politics is not news but a normal, said Tahira Khanana, a 38-year-old mother of three with the Cincinnati chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

At Omar’s celebration, she focused on other issues. She noted that her celebration comes at a time the federal government remains partially shut down, and her homeland, Somalia, is still affected by Trump-imposed limits on immigration.

I came from a country under our president’s immigration ban. If this was happening 23 years ago, I would not represent all of you in Congress today, she said struggling to hide her tears.

She said one of her first tasks as a representative in Congress is to fight to end the shutdown.

“I came to Washington when our federal government remains shut down over a silly border wall. I have to join the fight to reopen it,” she said.

Source: Voice of America

US Dragnet Closes Around Group Accused of $2B ‘Secret’ Loans in Mozambique

JOHANNESBURG It sounds like a Hollywood caper: A group of investors and officials convince European banks to loan a total of $2 billion to a resource-rich African nation trying to rebuild after a bruising civil war.

The money promptly disappears, and then this caper turns tragic. The government doesn’t learn of the loans until three years after they happen. It defaults on the loans, and that triggers an economic crisis: the currency tumbles, prices rise, hospitals run out of basic supplies and key roads go unrepaired. Thousands of people contract cholera � an easily preventable and treatable illness that is often caused by a breakdown of health services.

This isn’t Hollywood. This, allegedly, is Mozambique, according to an indictment that has resulted in the arrests of at least four figures in recent days, including a former finance minister. The men are now awaiting extradition to the U.S. for their role in defrauding U.S. investors when seeking the loans.

VOA obtained a redacted copy of the indictment, issued by the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of New York. It accuses the four, plus another man who has not been arrested and two others who were not named, of “creat(ing) the maritime projects as fronts to raise money to enrich themselves and intentionally divert(ing) portions of the loan proceeds to pay at least $200 million in bribes and kickbacks to themselves, Mozambican government officials and others.”

Last week, South African officials arrested Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, on an Interpol warrant as he transited through the country.

This, says analyst Alex Vines of the Chatham House think tank, is a very big deal. This matter has been investigated by both an independent firm and also by the British government, and until now, nothing has come of it.

“So it looked as if nothing would happen about these many millions, probably billions, of U.S. dollars that were (un)accounted for,” Vines told VOA. “So the indictment that has occurred from the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, for key characters involved in this loan scandal, is very very significant and is a game-changer, I think.”

The reaction: Public vs Party?

That’s certainly the case in Mozambique, where commentator Fernando Lima notes the public has largely applauded the arrests, while the ruling Frelimo party has been silent.

“There is a sentiment of huge enthusiasm and joy, which causes a lot of irritation on the other side, meaning people related to the Frelimo party,” he told VOA “It caused this huge, huge embarrassment for the current government. And up to now, which is also very, very surprising, no Mozambican authorities have said anything related to the arrest of Mr. Chang. Neither the government, neither Frelimo party, neither the attorney general’s office, or our parliament.”

Vines says it’s unclear how President Filipe Nyusi � who was defense minister at the time of the secret loans � will come out of this scandal, but he says there may be a bright side for investors who are eager to put money into the nation, which will start exporting natural gas in 2023.

“The International Monetary Fund, IMF, and bilateral donors to Mozambique had suspended lending to Mozambique, or direct government lending, should I say,” he said. “They do want to move on, and so again, I think this might help clear things up so that longer term, the relationship of Mozambique with some of its international creditors and international partners can be improved.”

Rudi Krause, the South African lawyer representing the former finance minister, Manuel Chang, says they’ll fight the U.S. extradition request.

Krause said attorneys had not been given a full copy of the indictment by South African officials at the time of Chang’s arrest and so could not comment on the allegations.

VOA was unable to reach Krause after receiving the U.S. copy of the indictment, for further comment.

Chang will appear in a South African court on January 8. But the court of public opinion will also have its chance to weigh in, when Mozambique goes to the polls in October.

Source: Voice of America

US Dragnet Closes Around Group Accused of $2B ‘Secret’ Loans in Mozambique

JOHANNESBURG It sounds like a Hollywood caper: A group of investors and officials convince European banks to loan a total of $2 billion to a resource-rich African nation trying to rebuild after a bruising civil war.

The money promptly disappears, and then this caper turns tragic. The government doesn’t learn of the loans until three years after they happen. It defaults on the loans, and that triggers an economic crisis: the currency tumbles, prices rise, hospitals run out of basic supplies and key roads go unrepaired. Thousands of people contract cholera � an easily preventable and treatable illness that is often caused by a breakdown of health services.

This isn’t Hollywood. This, allegedly, is Mozambique, according to an indictment that has resulted in the arrests of at least four figures in recent days, including a former finance minister. The men are now awaiting extradition to the U.S. for their role in defrauding U.S. investors when seeking the loans.

VOA obtained a redacted copy of the indictment, issued by the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of New York. It accuses the four, plus another man who has not been arrested and two others who were not named, of “creat(ing) the maritime projects as fronts to raise money to enrich themselves and intentionally divert(ing) portions of the loan proceeds to pay at least $200 million in bribes and kickbacks to themselves, Mozambican government officials and others.”

Last week, South African officials arrested Mozambique’s former finance minister, Manuel Chang, on an Interpol warrant as he transited through the country.

This, says analyst Alex Vines of the Chatham House think tank, is a very big deal. This matter has been investigated by both an independent firm and also by the British government, and until now, nothing has come of it.

“So it looked as if nothing would happen about these many millions, probably billions, of U.S. dollars that were (un)accounted for,” Vines told VOA. “So the indictment that has occurred from the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, for key characters involved in this loan scandal, is very very significant and is a game-changer, I think.”

The reaction: Public vs Party?

That’s certainly the case in Mozambique, where commentator Fernando Lima notes the public has largely applauded the arrests, while the ruling Frelimo party has been silent.

“There is a sentiment of huge enthusiasm and joy, which causes a lot of irritation on the other side, meaning people related to the Frelimo party,” he told VOA “It caused this huge, huge embarrassment for the current government. And up to now, which is also very, very surprising, no Mozambican authorities have said anything related to the arrest of Mr. Chang. Neither the government, neither Frelimo party, neither the attorney general’s office, or our parliament.”

Vines says it’s unclear how President Filipe Nyusi � who was defense minister at the time of the secret loans � will come out of this scandal, but he says there may be a bright side for investors who are eager to put money into the nation, which will start exporting natural gas in 2023.

“The International Monetary Fund, IMF, and bilateral donors to Mozambique had suspended lending to Mozambique, or direct government lending, should I say,” he said. “They do want to move on, and so again, I think this might help clear things up so that longer term, the relationship of Mozambique with some of its international creditors and international partners can be improved.”

Rudi Krause, the South African lawyer representing the former finance minister, Manuel Chang, says they’ll fight the U.S. extradition request.

Krause said attorneys had not been given a full copy of the indictment by South African officials at the time of Chang’s arrest and so could not comment on the allegations.

VOA was unable to reach Krause after receiving the U.S. copy of the indictment, for further comment.

Chang will appear in a South African court on January 8. But the court of public opinion will also have its chance to weigh in, when Mozambique goes to the polls in October.

Source: Voice of America