More than 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are suffering famine conditions, with millions more at risk, according to an analysis by UN agencies and aid groups that blamed conflict for the worst food crisis in a decade.“There is famine now in Tigray,” the UN aid chief, Mark Lowcock, said on Thursday after the release of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.“The number of people in famine conditions … is higher than anywhere in the world, at any moment since a quarter million Somalis lost their lives in 2011,” Lowcock said.
Most of the 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid. Fighting broke out in the region in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2 million from their homes in the mountainous region.Ethiopia rejects calls for ceasefire in Tigray, claiming victory is nearThe most extreme warning by the IPC – a scale used by UN agencies, regional bodies and aid groups to determine food insecurity – is phase 5, which starts with a catastrophe warning and rises to a declaration of famine in a region.The IPC said more than 350,000 people in Tigray are in phase 5 catastrophe.
This means households are experiencing famine conditions, but less than 20% of the population is affected and deaths and malnutrition have not reached famine thresholds.“This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, movement restrictions, limited humanitarian access, loss of harvest and livelihood assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets,” the IPC analysis found.For famine to be declared, at least 20% of the population must be suffering extreme food shortages, with one in three children acutely malnourished and two people out of every 10,000 dying daily from starvation or from malnutrition and disease.“If the conflict further escalates or, for any other reason, humanitarian assistance is hampered, most areas of Tigray will be at risk of famine,” according to the IPC, which added that even if aid deliveries are stepped up, the situation is expected to worsen through September.
The Ethiopian government disputed the IPC analysis, saying food shortages are not severe and aid is being delivered.Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told a news conference on Thursday that the government was providing food aid and help to farmers in Tigray.“They [diplomats] are comparing it with the 1984-1985 famine in Ethiopia,” he said. “That is not going to happen.”Mituku Kassa, the head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee, said on Wednesday: “We don’t have any food shortage.”The Nobel committee should resign over the atrocities in TigrayBut the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said a humanitarian nightmare was unfolding.“This is not the kind of disaster that can be reversed,” she said. Referring to a previous famine in Ethiopia that killed more than 1 million people, she said: “We cannot make the same mistake twice. We cannot let Ethiopia starve.
We have to act now.”The World Food Programme executive director, David Beasley, said that to stop hunger from killing millions of people in Tigray, there needed to be a ceasefire, unimpeded aid access and more money to expand aid operations.According to notes of a meeting of UN agencies on Monday, the IPC analysis could be worse as “they did not include those in Amhara-controlled areas” in western Tigray.
Existing Signal users might be getting more notifications than usual. “Jack is on Signal,” “Cathy is on Signal,” “Miriam is on Signal,” all pings showing phone contacts who are joining the secure messaging app.
Those pings reflect the fact that there’s been an influx of new users. Known for its end-to-end encryption and independent structure as a non-profit organization run by a foundation — not a big tech company — Signal has previously been the communication method of choice for activists, people in the hacker community, and others concerned about privacy.
Recently, it’s gone mainstream.
Recently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp — which is end-to-end encrypted using Signal’s protocols — began issuing a privacy update notification to users making clear that it is sharing user data with Facebook (which it has actually been doing for years). That’s led people to look elsewhere for a secure communications app, helped along by Elon Musk’s Jan. 7 tweet which simply stated: “Use Signal.”
Over the past three years, Signal has also been investing in more infrastructure and features to support its users. That’s a good thing: Signal first saw an increase in users in the spring as people participating in anti-racist protests around the killing of George Floyd realized how closely law enforcement was surveilling them and asking companies to hand over user data. It’s only become more popular since then. As of this writing, Signal is at the top of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and its two-factor authentication onboarding system even got briefly delayed Thursday because so many people were trying to sign up.
So, thinking about joining Signal? Bottom line: If you care about privacy, it’s a good idea. Here’s what you need to know.
OK, so what is Signal?
Signal is a free, privacy-focused messaging and voice talk app you can use on Apple and Android smartphones and via desktop. All you need is a phone number to join. You can text or make voice or video calls with friends, either one-on-one or in groups, and use emoji reactions or stickers just like in other apps. But there’s one big difference: Signal is actually really private.
Is the Signal app secure?
Communications on Signal are end-to-end encrypted, which means only the people in messages can see the content of those messages — not even the company itself. Even sticker packs get their own special encryption.
Signal created the encryption protocol (basically, the technical way you implement this) that other companies including WhatsApp and Skype use. Plainly put, it is the gold standard of privacy.
Is Signal really private?
Yes — and that privacy goes beyond the fact that the content of your messages is encrypted. You can set messages to disappear after certain customizable time frames. Plus, Signal collects virtually no data on its users. The only information you give the app is your phone number, and the company is even working on a way to decouple that from using Signal by making encrypted contact servers. If the police come knocking to Signal for data on its users, it says, truthfully, that it has no data to hand over.https://d
Part of the reason it collects no data is because Signal is a non-profit organization, not a for-profit company. It has no advertising, so no incentive to track users. Instead, it’s funded by grants and private investors — one of whom had a huge personal interest in making a privacy-oriented platform. Though a small group of privacy activists created Signal in 2013, it has grown in recent years. In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton donated $50 million to create the Signal Foundation, which now runs Signal. Acton got on board with the mission to make a truly private messaging service after Facebook acquired WhatsApp and Acton reportedly left the company amid clashes with Facebook over how it was eroding WhatsApp’s privacy.
Signal vs. WhatsApp (and other messaging apps).
Both Signal and WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted using the same technology. That means the content of the messages you send and calls you have are both private. However, Facebook collects lots of other information in the form of usage statistics, metadata, and more. And there’s no longer a way to opt out. https://d-29504138532505392658.ampproject.net/2012232217000/frame.html
Signal does not have as many fancy customization features as WhatsApp, like backgrounds. But when it comes to true privacy, there is no comparison.
You can see a full list of alternatives to Facebook-owned messaging services here.
Another app rising in popularity is Telegram. Telegram says it’s also all about privacy, but it actually has plenty of downsides. Messages on Telegram are not truly end-to-end encrypted by default. Plus, the fact that private groups are unlimited in size, can be joined via a link, and are explicitly not moderated has made it a hotbed for toxic and illegal content, like terrorism and revenge porn (also known as non-consensual pornography). Signal does not moderate content either, but it limits groups to 1,000, and is more about communicating with people who are actual contacts than joining groups of strangers like on WhatsApp and Telegram.
Africa needs journalism that innovates and supports innovation in a modernizing continent, he says, one that not only grows, but promotes growth and the development of society. It needs journalism that not only generates the ideas that are the engine of social transformation, but also moderates the debates that emerge from these societal changes.
Digital media and journalism as a sector is evolving, and there are plenty of job opportunities in the field. However, Aspiring journalists have to build their experience and gather certain skill sets to thrive in the industry, said: shakir essa ( shakir is a somali digital media and journalist news publisher at allafrica
If you’re interested in starting (or growing) a career as a media in east africa, then you have a lot to learn from shakir essa
Shakir started his career in journalism as an intern at the allAfrica news website and quickly scaled through his career as a journalist, amplifying African voices and stories.
Shakir essa is digital media publisher and PR consultant who is currently consulting at Media allAfrica news, as a radio producer, media relations trainer and digital journalism trainer. He also works as a volunteer youth mentor and freelance journalist.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
Latest years shakir had a successful career at one of the africa leading international news sites and radio, the ALLAFRICA.
While working for AllAfrica, he works as trucking industries on Amazon prime in USA
Also he led several productions including creating digital content for younger audiences and news coverage of somali politics
In June 2016, he took one of the lead roles in setting up somalia and the breakaway region somaliland
For live broadcasting on social media His work helped direct the day to day running of the live broadcasting and training journalists on storytelling and social media skills.
Shakir Essa served as editor at allafrica news media and somali news tvs
At the end of August this year, WorldRemit, one of the leading players in the world of international money transfers, put in a reported $500m bid for the takeover of the US app-based remittance company Sendwave. Not bad going for a company that was founded only 10 years ago by a Somali entrepreneur, Ismail Ahmed.
Remittances today account for more than FDI or overseas development aid. The global market is estimated at $700bn a year. Nigeria alone received an estimated $24bn in remittances in 2018, up from $4bn in 2013.
Many economists predicted that the economic meltdown caused by Covid-19 would lead to a massive drop in remittances and as a result, adversely impact emerging markets. The World Bank, at the start of the pandemic in April, estimated a 20% fall in remittances, anticipating catastrophic consequences.
However, these predictions were confounded when some countries, such as Kenya, posted growing year-on-year remittance numbers as at August. Ahmed is not surprised by this. He says he couldn’t fathom the World Bank estimates as experience had shown him that remittances were generally countercyclical.
The rise in remittances, for example in countries like Kenya, has been attributed to a number of factors. One is that many of the people sending money back home are actually those ‘essential workers’ who have kept health facilities going, and provided the services that have kept the economies of the West afloat.
In addition, government stimuli had cushioned the economic blow and the different economic mitigation schemes have meant that in some countries, such as the US, disposable income at the end of the month has at times actually been higher than what many workers were earning before the pandemic.
Ahmed says that the figures for WorldRemit, as at October, were quite strong for the year. “The only region where there was a noticeable fall are the Gulf countries, especially with Indian workers sending money back home.”
Recalling his life story, he says it seems that he was destined to work in money transfer services. He was born and raised in what is now Somaliland and he reflects that his family often received monies from a relative working in the Gulf.
With an excellent head for figures, he was awarded a World Bank scholarship to study economics at the University of London in the UK. But before he could take up the offer, the Somali Civil War intervened.
In the chaos that followed, he managed to escape and thanks to the money sent to him by his brother working in Saudi Arabia, he was able to purchase an air ticket out of Djibouti to the UK.
Expertise in the world of remittances
Fascinated by the world of remittances, he wrote a research paper on the subject at Sussex University; and whilst at the London Business School, as part of a case study project, he put together a model of a remittance business. This was to become the blueprint for what is today WorldRemit.
Before setting up WorldRemit, Ismail worked at the UN to advise on the system of remittances after 9/11.
While working on a UN Development Programme for Somalia, out of Nairobi, he noticed fraud involving senior colleagues. He blew the whistle and, for this, was dismissed.
He fought his corner, alleging unfair dismissal. He won his case and substantial compensation. This was the seed money he used to launch WorldRemit together with Catherine Wines, who also had extensive experience in money transfers, having herself restructured a remittance business that was subsequently sold to Travelex.
He says the scope of their ambition right from the get-go was big – hence the name of the company. As a student, he had experienced the frustrations and high charges involved in sending money back home. Working at the UN, he had realised that the process could be expensive as well as far from frictionless.
Right from the outset, he says, he knew that using rapidly improving IT technology was going to be the ace in their pack. Properly deployed, it could challenge the two giants in the field – Western Union and Moneygram.
He sees WorldRemit as an aspect of the increasingly important fintech sphere. The runaway success of M-Pesa and mobile money in Kenya underscored to him, in the early 2000s, the enormous potential of digital.
However, breaking into the market wasn’t plain sailing. The dominant players had, in many cases, struck exclusivity deals with banks or agents and seemed unassailable.
Given the very tight space left in the market, WorldRemit started with a single agent in both Uganda and Kenya. But the company still managed to get considerable business. This proved to them that their business was viable and also that the market was growing apace.
It was not long before WorldRemit became a substantial global player. Today the company operates in over 6,500 money transfer corridors worldwide and sends money from 50 countries to more than 150 nations.
The acquisition of Sendwave will make it a company that generates over $200m in revenue and manages more than $7.5bn of remittance flows.
The deal will strengthen the company’s position in the US, the world’s biggest source of outward remittances. “You can’t be big in money transfers if you’re not big in the US,” says Ahmed.
Industry more streamlined
The remittance industry has definitely benefited from having more players in the market: costs have been drastically reduced and the spread on exchange rates has also fallen considerably. However, some analysts warn that it is becoming an increasingly difficult area in which to make money as competition is eroding margins and the marketing costs to acquire new customers are greater than the gains.
Ahmed doesn’t agree; he counters that the industry will not only grow but will evolve. One factor behind the resilience of remittances has been the digitisation of payments. “Somaliland is pretty much a cashless society today. In Kenya, 90% of remittances are non-cash based, with the majority going to mobile money. In Nigeria 90% of international money transfers will end up in a bank account. So even during lockdowns, remittance flows still take place.”
He believes that the digitisation of remittances will also enable countries and analysts to better understand and make use of data that is now more readily available.
He also anticipates that the infrastructure backbone of remittances, which is ultimately about matching and settling trades, can help play a greater role in business transactions such as purchasing machinery or goods from abroad, as well as in intra-African trade, where too often buyers need to access dollars or euros to settle a payment within Africa.
Remittances have often been overlooked as a development tool, he says, but today they are a key indicator from a macro-economic perspective. Nonetheless they have been criticised for being ‘unproductive’ capital in that they are used in the ‘receiving’ country to make basic purchases.
Ahmed refutes this and says that as well as covering expenses such as school fees, food or medical bills, a big chunk of remittance payments goes to starting new businesses, investing in land and property.
6 Psychological Reasons Why You Feel So Emotional All the Time
#1: Unchecked expectations
Shakir Essa 10/17/2020 · 10 min read
Why am I so emotional? has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I hear as a psychologist.
But it’s a tricky question to answer, primarily for two reasons:
Many different factors affect how we feel emotionally. Everything from your genetics and attachment style to what you ate for breakfast and how much sleep you got last night play some role in how you feel emotionally.
There’s no clear standard for how much emotion is “normal.” For example: There’s no rule book that says feeling 6 out of 10 anger is normal, but 8 out of 10 anger is abnormal. Or that feeling angry for a few minutes is normal but feeling it for a few hours is abnormal.
Still, many people do experience higher and more prolonged levels of painful emotion than they need to. And while this excessive emotionality is sometimes due to factors outside their control, frequently that’s not the case.
Often it’s subtle psychological factors that are the real cause of feeling too emotional.
This is good news because, in general, a lot of your psychology is under your control — unlike your genes or what your parents did to you as a child.
What follows is a collection of subtle but powerful psychological causes of excessive emotionality. If you can learn to identify these in your own life, there’s a good chance you can use that knowledge to regulate your emotions more effectively and feel a little more emotionally balanced as a result.
1. Unchecked expectations
Expectations are beliefs about how other people or things in the world should behave or turn out.
There are two major problems with expectations, both of which often lead to heightened levels of emotion:
They’re rarely updated as often as they should be. Suppose you have an expectation of yourself that you do A+ work all the time. While this may have been (sort of) reasonable as a very bright student in a pretty easy school setting when you were 16, it may not be all that reasonable now that you’re a 45-year-old working professional with a mortgage, 4 kids, and sick parents. In other words, your expectation of stellar work all the time is the driving force behind your perfectionism. And your perfectionism is probably driving a lot of excess anxiety, stress, and self-criticism.
We often use expectations as a defense mechanism. When you believe that something (or someone) should be or act a certain way, it can give a false sense of certainty and control about things that are fundamentally not under your control (and therefore, anxiety-producing). For example: Is your expectation that your children get straight As in school really about your kids’ best interest or is it more about alleviating your anxiety and guilt about not being around your kids enough and this having negative effects on them? The illusion of control and certainty that comes from expectations can make us feel better in the moment. But long term it tends to make us feel worse because it’s a form of denial.
There’s a time and place for expectations. But here’s the thing: If you never check in on your expectations, update them, or investigate what function they’re really serving, they can easily lead to a lot of unnecessary emotional pain and distress.
The trick is to make sure that you are being thoughtful and intentional with your expectations.
Make a time to check in with your expectations for key people and relationships in your life and adjust them to be as realistic and helpful as possible.
When people say they feel so emotional, one of the most common forms is feeling too anxious.
But here’s the thing many people don’t understand about anxiety:
Anxiety doesn’t just happen. It’s created and maintained by the mental habit of worrying.
This distinction between the anxiety you feel and the worry that leads to it is crucial. Because if you want to feel less anxious, the only real solution is to learn to manage your worry habit better.
Ultimately, worry is a form of thinking — a version of negative self-talk, to be more specific. It involves trying to problem-solve things in the future that either A) aren’t really problems, or B) you aren’t capable of solving.
Like all other emotions, anxiety is not something you can influence directly. You can’t decide to be less anxious any more than you can decide to be happier. Emotions don’t work that way.
We can only influence our emotions indirectly, primarily through the way we think.
If you’re constantly worrying about the future, you’re going to constantly feel much more anxious than you need to. On the other hand, if you can reduce your habit of worrying by just 20 or 30%, you’ll take a major chunk out of your excessive feelings of anxiety.
If you often feel too anxious, it’s because you’re worrying too much. The trick is to validate the anxiety and take control of the worry.
Rumination is the flip-side of worry. When we worry, we engage in unhelpful thinking and problem solving about the future using our imagination. When we ruminate, we think unproductively about the past using our memory.
You get home from work and try to engage with your spouse or play with your kids, but you keep going over and over that nasty comment your manager made to you during a meeting at work.
After a fight with your girlfriend, you replay the fight repeatedly and search your memory for all the examples in your past where she’s been just as guilty of the thing she’s criticizing you for.
Like, worry, rumination often feels good or helpful because it feels like you’re doing work and solving problems. But in reality, you can’t control the past any more than you can control the future.
When you get stuck in a habit of rumination, it only fuels your anger and shame in the long run. And as a result, keeps you feeling more emotionally volatile.
Also like worry, rumination tends to be compulsive because — very briefly — it makes us feel good. It gives us a sense of control that temporarily alleviates our anxieties or insecurities.
Rather than accepting the fact that your manager doesn’t really like you, you temporarily make yourself feel better by analyzing the situation over and over to try and find out what you could have done or said that would have made things better.
Rather than exploring the possibility that maybe your girlfriend was right to criticize you, you distract yourself from your feelings of shame by getting defensive and angry and making her out to be the bad gal.
Now, this doesn’t mean thinking about the past can’t be helpful sometimes. To the contrary, calmly and objectively reflecting back on our past can be enormously helpful and productive.
So how do you know if you’re doing unhelpful rumination or helpful reflection?
The best indicator I’ve found to distinguish helpful reflection from unhelpful rumination is intentionality. When we get stuck in cycles of unhelpful rumination, it’s typically a relatively mindless and reactive process — we just find ourselves rumination. On the other hand, genuine reflection is usually very intentional — it’s initiated deliberately and thoughtfully.
Finally, helpful reflection is always aimed at understanding not feeling.
So ask yourself:
Am I dwelling on the past to genuinely understand something better, or am I doing this to make myself feel better or avoid dealing with some other uncomfortable situation or reality?
4. Waiting for motivation
Most people look at motivation as fuel — when you feel good enough, inspired enough, or motivated enough, it gives you the energy to do things:
If you feel energetic enough, you go for a run.
If you feel inspired enough, you work on that creative project.
If you feel motivated enough, you write a new blog post.
And while there’s certainly some truth to this idea that feeling good helps us take action, when viewed in isolation, it’s actually dangerous.
Feeling good does make it easier to do hard things, but it’s not a requirement for doing hard things.
Which makes sense if you really think about it…
If someone held a gun to your head and said to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes, you could do it… regardless of how you felt initially.
If someone said here’s a check for $1,000,000 if you finish that blog post you’ve been meaning to write, you could do it… regardless of whether you were feeling inspired or not.
The point is simple:
We are perfectly capable of doing difficult things despite not feeling like it.
But here’s the most important implication of this idea: Doing important things makes us feel good!
Working on a creative project regardless of how you feel will lead to you feeling more inspired.
Going to the gym regardless of how you feel will lead to you feeling more energized.
Action leads to motivation at least as often as motivation leads to action.
The problem is, most people don’t really believe this. And so they sit around waiting to do important things until they feel like it.
Unfortunately, this habit of waiting for motivation leads to a lot of chronic shame, sadness, and self-criticism. Because you’re essentially living in a chronic state of procrastination — putting off the things you know you should do and doing something easier instead.
When this habit gets really entrenched, it leads to a state of perpetually low self-esteem and poor self-worth, which makes you keenly vulnerable to difficult emotions and bad moods.
Passive communication is a tendency to ignore your own wants and needs and “go with the flow” of other people’s wishes in order to avoid conflict.
Your spouse suggests going to a movie for date night. You think to yourself, It’d be nice to go to dinner instead so we can actually talk. But then you think to yourself, No, he always complains about “fancy restaurants” and how expensive they are. Better just do a movie. At which point you find yourself saying, Sure, honey.
Obviously, deferring what you want and doing what someone else wants isn’t a bad thing necessarily. In fact, for any relationship to function healthily we need to be able to sacrifice and compromise sometimes.
But many people have gotten into a habit of always compromising on what they want and always deferring their needs to those of others. And for most significant relationships in our lives, this is just as unhealthy as never compromising.
The reason is, it leads to chronic resentment and anxiety. And when you’re chronically resentful of people and at the same time anxious, it’s very difficult to maintain a balanced, non-reactive emotional life.
When you habitually avoiding external conflict, you’re simply shifting all that conflict inside yourself.
And when you’re full of inner conflict, your emotions are going to feel all over the place and extreme.
If you want to cultivate true emotional peace and stability, you must learn to be assertive. You must learn to express your wants and needs clearly and honestly.
6. Unclear values
Answer this question to yourself honestly:
How much of your time do you spend doing things you genuinely want to do?
If we’re honest with ourselves, I think it’s probably a lower number than we’re comfortable admitting.
Of course, there’s boatloads of privilege wrapped up in that idea: Many people, out of sheer necessity, have to spend nearly all their time doing things they don’t especially want to do.
That being said, it’s a strange phenomenon that so many of us actually have the freedom to spend time doing things we really care about, believe in, and are passionate about, and yet… we don’t. And as a result, we live in this state of constant low-level shame about ourselves.
This perpetual sense of feeling like we’re not spending our time wisely is a huge vulnerability to feeling overly emotional.
Think about it: If you’re already feeling bad about yourself for wasting time, procrastinating, or indulging superficial goals at the expense of genuine ones, even small stressors and setbacks are going to hit you that much harder.
Part of this chronic procrastination is a result of the waiting for motivationproblem described above in #4. But I think there’s actually a deeper reason why we live in this perpetual state of self-disappointment where we’ve got a list of things we should be doing or working on and yet we find ourselves wasting time on things that don’t really matter to us…
We don’t really know what our values are.
I mean, we kind of do. We know the vague outlines of our values and what we want:
You know you want to get in shape and be healthy.
You know you want to spend more quality time with your family.
You know you want to be more creative.
You know you want to travel more.
The problem is, these are all incredibly vague, non-specific ideas. And that lack of specificity makes it extremely hard to actually move forward on any of them and gain the emotional benefits of doing so.
They have specific, clear goals and values and make steady progress toward them.
Because when we spend our time and energy doing the things that really matter to us — the things we really value — it’s like a super injection of emotional stability and energy.
But the trick to getting there — the trick to getting over the chronic procrastination hump — is to get really clear about your values. And to make extremely clear, specific plans and systems that will help you move toward these values.
So, don’t be satisfied with vague values. Take the time to really get to know your values in a clear, concrete way.
When you do, you’ll find that you’re able to make much better progress toward them; and as a result, feel more confident and emotionally stable as a result.
All You Need to Know
If you chronically feel more emotional than you think you should, there’s a good chance one or more of these habits may be a significant cause:
A cheetah cub receives care from representatives of Somaliland’s Ministry of Environment and Rural Development, in a village near Erigavo, Sanaag, in August 2020. According to reports, the cubs were being held by local farmers who surrendered them to the authorities, as the result of conflict with the mother cheetah near their livestock. (Photo: Twitter / Ministry of Environment and Rural Development)
A recent spate of cheetahs being seized in Somaliland has shown that the illicit demand for these animals remains strong. Cheetahs are highly prized as exotic pets in the Gulf states, and in supplying this market, traffickers have heavily impacted local cheetah populations in Africa, a situation compounded by the fact that many animals die en route.https://spkt.io/a/1132481?isAmp=1&Player=MinimalPlayer#amp=1
In late July, two cheetah cubs were rescued from a 25-day ordeal at the hands of wildlife traffickers by the Awdal region police in Borama, a city in Somaliland not far from the Ethiopian border. Members of the local community helped look after the dehydrated and underweight cubs until the rescue team arrived. The cubs were then given care by Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) staff before being transported to a CCF safe house.
These cubs were part of a series of recent seizures of cheetahs in Somaliland. Through July and August, 20 cheetah cubs were rescued over five missions jointly conducted by the ministry of environment and rural development, the Selel regional administration and the Somaliland police, with support from the CCF and Torrid Analytics.
On 14 September, two cheetah cubs were seized in the Sool region in the south-east: the youngest was only two weeks old. In total, 25 cubs have been reported as seized or rescued in Somaliland so far this year.
Cheetah trafficking in Somaliland is not a new issue. Since 2010, when reporting became more consistent, there have been 193 rescued or surrendered cheetahs. Nearly a third of these occurred after the country ratified its Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Law in August 2018, which has reportedly led to increased awareness and better coordination between wildlife officials, police and the army.
Many of the cheetahs seized in Somaliland are believed to originate in Ethiopia, which shares an 800km border with the self-declared state. At least 25% of seized cheetahs in Somaliland have been found at or near the Ethiopian border – the two cubs intercepted near Borama in August, for example, were less than 15km from the border.
As known cheetah populations in Ethiopia total no more than 300 adolescent and adult specimens, it is clear that the trafficking of cubs is taking a significant toll on cheetah populations. Ethiopia and South Sudan, along with Somalia/Somaliland where cheetah populations are unknown, are also the last remaining stronghold of the North East African cheetah subspecies, Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii.
Cheetah cubs are mostly taken from the wild when the mother hides them to go hunting, either opportunistically by nomadic herders or by poachers. A cub can sell for between $200 and $300 in Somaliland, although prices vary greatly: an unhealthy cub can be bought for as little as $80, while a healthy, older cub can cost up to $1,000. The same cheetah can be sold for up to $15,000 in the Gulf states.
Mortality is high, as most cubs are removed from the wild at only two to eight weeks from birth and are subjected to maltreatment and poor nutrition in the hands of poachers and dealers, compounded with the rigours of the trip across the Gulf of Aden. While difficult to estimate, it is thought that more than 60% of cheetah cubs die before they reach the market to be sold.
Somaliland is vulnerable as a conduit for the illegal wildlife trade not only due to its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula’s wealthy consumer markets for exotic wildlife, but also due to the country’s rampant poverty, weak legal frameworks and a lack of environmental awareness.
Corruption also drives the cheetah trade. There are instances of illegally obtained cheetah cubs being sold back to smugglers by corrupt officials after a confiscation has been reported. That being said, Somaliland’s cheetah trade has been more extensively researched than other countries and regions of Somalia. Its relative importance as the main cheetah trafficking route into the Middle East might be in part connected to underreporting from other countries.
Across the Gulf of Aden
From Somaliland, cheetahs are transported by boat – hidden in hampers, crates or cardboard boxes – from the northern coastline across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen at an estimated rate of 300 cubs per year. The 140 nautical miles between the ports of Berbera in Somaliland and Aden in Yemen can be covered in just over seven hours at a dhow’s average speed of 20 knots.
Once in Yemen, cheetahs are reportedly transported by boat or road across the Saudi border to animal markets such as Al-Jazan or Al-Khouba, or delivered to Saudi traders, who will then offer them throughout the Gulf states to known buyers on ecommerce and social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, or, more recently, through private chat groups.
Research carried out by CCF researchers found that at least 2,000 cheetahs had been advertised online between 2010 and 2019. Most were found on Instagram, with sellers offering cheetahs in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
“It is enough to mention that they are ‘cats’ on the box and to pay certain people I know. It is easy for me because I work there and I know who will take the money. I give them between KWD500 and KWD1000 ($1,600–$3,200 to allow illegal animals (through the country).”
There have also been isolated reports of cheetahs arriving in Oman from Yemen, as well as being transported from Oman into the UAE via the Hatta border crossing.
An illegal status symbol
Cheetahs have long been popular household pets or hunting companions in the Gulf states, where they are viewed as status symbols. This popularity has been boosted in recent years by wealthy or famous individuals posing with their exotic pets on social media.
However, few cheetah owners know how to provide the proper care for these animals, with some social media posts advertising cheetahs that have been declawed – an extremely painful process for the animals.
Many pet cheetahs in the Gulf states do not live beyond the first year, and few live longer than five years, according to information collected by CCF.
Trade in wild cheetahs for commercial purposes is illegal in all the Gulf states, either through the states being party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) or through domestic legislation.
In December 2016, the UAE enacted a law banning the private possession of exotic and dangerous pets, although only one seizure (of four cheetahs) has been made since 2015, suggesting that the ban is seldom enforced.
Under CITES regulations, however, captive-bred cheetahs can be traded commercially by registered facilities. The CITES trade database reports that 16 “captive-bred” cheetahs were exported into Armenia from Bahrain and the UAE between 2009 and 2015.
However, the probability that cheetahs in the Gulf (both those kept as pets and those exported) are truly bred in captivity or traded in compliance with national laws or CITES regulations is low.
First, only two such registered breeding facilities exist worldwide – both are in South Africa.
Second, cheetahs do not breed well in captivity. Based on information from the International Cheetah Studbook, a voluntary register of captive cheetahs worldwide, the first report of captive-bred cheetahs in the Gulf states was in 1994. Since then, six facilities have reported a total of 304 cheetah births in captivity, with a 31% mortality rate for cubs under six months.
It is therefore more likely that purportedly “captive-bred” cheetahs in the Gulf come from elsewhere, as suggested by the “captive-bred” cheetahs exported from Bahrain to Armenia. There are no known cheetah breeding facilities in Bahrain, suggesting that the cheetahs’ real origins were masked.
A contentious issue
The issue of the illegal cheetah trade has been on the CITES agenda since 2013, when it commissioned a study that led to decisions and recommendations aimed at reducing demand and encouraging international collaboration. However, the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP), held in August 2019, voted to delete these decisions based on a report from the standing committee to the secretariat.
The report concluded that the illegal cheetah trade was limited, based on official seizure reports from nine countries that cited 32 specimens (13 live, 19 parts or products) between 2015 and mid-2018. Based on this, the CoP agreed that matters related to the illegal cheetah trade could be addressed by a Big Cat Task Force, jointly run by CITES and the Convention for Migratory Species, which is currently in the process of being implemented.
However, Kenya and Ethiopia – two cheetah-range countries – argued that the numbers reported by CITES “underestimate the full extent of the trade, since they only include confiscated animals appearing in official records and omit data from many countries, including key primary source countries for trafficked cheetah”. They cited information showing 393 cheetah specimens (274 live animals and 119 parts), including the 32 seized specimens reported to CITES, during the same period.
The countries’ joint statement – submitted to the CITES CoP – went on to add: “Given the perilous state of [East African] cheetah populations that are the source of illegal trade, any ongoing trade in wild cheetah is alarming.”
The recent spate of seizures in Somaliland seems to confirm those fears. The illegal trade in wild cheetahs appears to be continuing apace, with potentially grave consequences for East African cheetah populations. DM
This article appears in the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s monthly East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin. The Global Initiative is a network of more than 500 experts on organised crime drawn from law enforcement, academia, conservation, technology, media, the private sector and development agencies. It publishes research and analysis on emerging criminal threats and works to develop innovative strategies to counter organised crime globally. To receive monthly Risk Bulletin updates, please sign uphere.
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Wheelchair-bound Abdihakim Osman came forward last month to confirm to DailyMail.com that Ilhan Omar married her own brother
A woman close to Omar has posted a YouTube video packed with degrading insults about Osman
Malyun Ali pressed members of her Somali-American clan to go after him
‘Why are you not protecting us from this nasty man who is composed only of a head and a stomach,’ she said
Osman has a ‘big bell, small udder, pillar-like head’, she added, and mocked his disability which was caused by contracting polio as a child in Somalia
‘Why don’t you stop this crippled dog?,’ she asked
Osman has made a complaint to the Minneapolis police
The man who came forward to say on the record that leftist congresswoman Ilhan Omar married her own brother has told DailyMail.com he is now in fear for his life.
A woman close to Omar posted a YouTube video packed with degrading insults about wheelchair-bound Abdihakim Osman and pressed members of her Somali-American clan to go after him.
Abdihakim Osman says he has been threatened since blogger Malyun Ali posted a video on YouTube inciting members of her clan to go after him +20 Abdihakim Osman says he has been threatened since blogger Malyun Ali posted a video on YouTube inciting members of her clan to go after him Osman has made a complaint to police in Minneapolis and repeatedly demanded that YouTube take down the offending video — which was met with silence from the media giant until DailyMail.com asked why it was still on the site.
It finally removed it on March 10, replacing it with a note saying: ‘This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on harassment and bullying.’
In the video, the woman, Malyun Ali, asked members of Omar’s Majeerteen clan ‘What is wrong with you?
Witten in the Somali language and translated of a special in African languages at the University
‘Why are you not protecting us from this nasty man who is composed only of a head and a stomach,’ she added, insulting his disabled status.
‘You Majeerteen men…why don’t you defend us from this person…this fat ram who gets money taken from the taxes we pay.’
She went on to say Osman has a ‘big bell, small udder, pillar-like head’ and mocked his disability which was caused by contracting polio as a child in Somalia.
‘You Majeerteen men, we despise you,’ she added, talking to her clan members. ‘You are letting this ox seated on the ground harass us.
‘Why don’t you stop this crippled dog?’
Ali did not respond to an email sent by DailyMail.com for comment. Instead she posted the email on her Facebook page under a picture of herself captioned: ‘I cannot be silenced.’
Ilhan Omar and Abdihakim Osman, here during her 2016 election campaign for he Minnesota House of Representatives, had been close friends for years. +20
Osman, 40, came forward last month in a DailyMail.com exclusive to confirm that Omar, a freshman congresswoman from Minnesota, had married her own brother, Ahmed Elmi, to allow him to get student loans in the United States.
Elmi and Omar both went to North Dakota State University.
Osman said Elmi suddenly appeared in the Somali community in Minneapolis in the late 2000s and both Omar and her then-husband Ahmed Hirsi told him that Elmi was her brother.
He said no-one knew they had married until the press uncovered their marriage certificate many years later, which showed they had gone to a Christian minister to perform the service even though they are both Muslim.
Osman was particularly close to Hirsi — the father of Omar’s three children — and occasionally helped out at his hookah bar.
Now though, he says he is living in fear. ‘I am very careful where I go. I have changed all my routines, he told DailyMail.com through an interpreter.
‘I am sure they will do something and make it look random. I am very worried and I am very scared. But I want to make it clear — I’m pre-reporting so when it does happen people will know it is because of this video.’
He said he believes followers of Ali — a popular Somali YouTube personality — will eventually get him.
‘They will retaliate either by setting me up for a crime or something or they will physically harm me,’ he said.
‘YouTube will have to bear the consequences if anything happens to me. I am a disabled man and she is threatening me. It has been shared thousands of times,’ he said before the video was removed.
YouTube only took down Ali’s post after DailyMail.com asked the company, part of the giant Google empire, why it was still on the site
It has long been rumored that Omar and Elmi (pictured) are siblings, but because of a lack of paperwork in war-torn Somalia, positive proof has never been uncovered +20 It has long been rumored that Omar and Elmi (pictured) are siblings, but because of a lack of paperwork in war-torn Somalia, positive proof has never been uncovered Osman said: ‘When [Hirsi] and Ilhan got married, a lot of people were invited. It was a big Islamic wedding uniting two large clans in the Minneapolis community. I would say there were 100-150 people there.’ But, he said: ‘When she married Elmi, no one even knew about it.’ Pictured: Omar (left) with Elmi (right) +20 Osman said: ‘When [Hirsi] and Ilhan got married, a lot of people were invited. It was a big Islamic wedding uniting two large clans in the Minneapolis community. I would say there were 100-150 people there.’ But, he said: ‘When she married Elmi, no one even knew about it.’ Pictured: Omar (left) with Elmi (right) ‘Squad’ congresswoman Ilhan Omar told friends years ago that the man who went on to become her second husband was in fact her brother, DailyMail.com can confirm. And now for the first time one of those friends has come forward to reveal exactly how Omar and Ahmed Elmi scandalized Minneapolis’s large Somali community – while she was still married to her first husband Ahmed Hirsi (pictured together) +20 ‘Squad’ congresswoman Ilhan Omar told friends years ago that the man who went on to become her second husband was in fact her brother, DailyMail.com can confirm. And now for the first time one of those friends has come forward to reveal exactly how Omar and Ahmed Elmi scandalized Minneapolis’s large Somali community – while she was still married to her first husband Ahmed Hirsi (pictured together) Elmi and Omar married on February 12, 2009 at a Hennepin County office in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis, their license shows. The marriage was conducted by Christian minister Wilecia Harris. When DailyMail.com approached her last year, she would not discuss the ceremony or why a Muslim couple would have asked her to marry them +20 Elmi and Omar married on February 12, 2009 at a Hennepin County office in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis, their license shows. The marriage was conducted by Christian minister Wilecia Harris. When DailyMail.com approached her last year, she would not discuss the ceremony or why a Muslim couple would have asked her to marry them A company spokeswoman told DailyMail.com: ‘Nothing is more important than protecting the safety of our community.’
Despite the threats he has received, Osman said he does not regret his decision to come forward and tell what he says is the truth about 37-year-old Omar.
‘I decided to out her and to use my name and I am proud and happy that I did.’
Osman is a member of the Dhulbahante clan, many of whom resent the Majeerteen for allegedly lording it over them for too long. ‘The Majeerteen think they’re royalty,’ one Somali leader said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s second husband was her brother Loaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00 Play Current Time0:00 / Duration Time0:22 Fullscreen Hirsi, Omar’s ex-husband, is a member of a third clan, the Habargidir. He has kept quiet since he and the congresswoman divorced in November, leading to claims he received a six-figure settlement to stay mum. Soon after the agreement was reached he swapped out his old Nissan Maxima for a BMW 528i, which sells for $54,000 new.
Omar is believed to have received a large advance for her memoir This Is What America Looks Like which is due out in May.
The divorce came after DailyMail.com revealed that Omar was having an affair with her chief fundraiser, Tim Mynett. Mynett and his wife Beth Jordan divorced in December.
In his only public comment, Hirsi posted on Facebook last month: ‘Ilhan and I had an amicable divorce. We are focused on being great parents to our children. That is the most important thing to us.’
He said he has not and will not attack his ex-wife or back any of her three primary rivals. ‘I am not supporting or involved in the campaigns of any of Ilhan’s opponents, contrary to what you might hear,’ he wrote.
Facebook photos of Somalian YouTube star Malyun Ali, who said Rep. Ilhan Omar is free to marry 50 men if she wants to +20 Facebook photos of Somalian YouTube star Malyun Ali, who said Rep. Ilhan Omar is free to marry 50 men if she wants to Ali Feer, who refers to herself as M. M. S (Mama Malyun Suuban), pronounces her nickname like a rapper promoting her album and then adds, “BAM!” +20 Ali Feer, who refers to herself as M. M. S (Mama Malyun Suuban), pronounces her nickname like a rapper promoting her album and then adds, “BAM!” Abdihakim Osman (pictured with Hirsi) is the first person to go on record to speak of how Omar said she wanted to get her brother papers so he could stay in the United States, at a time when she was married to Ahmed Hirsi. But hardly anyone realized that meant marrying him +20 Abdihakim Osman (pictured with Hirsi) is the first person to go on record to speak of how Omar said she wanted to get her brother papers so he could stay in the United States, at a time when she was married to Ahmed Hirsi. But hardly anyone realized that meant marrying him ‘No one knew there had been a wedding until the media turned up the marriage certificate years later,’ Osman, 40, told DailyMail.com +20 ‘No one knew there had been a wedding until the media turned up the marriage certificate years later,’ Osman, 40, told DailyMail.com ‘Using our divorce to go after Ilhan isn’t something I will even condone.’
Osman said since his interview he has received support from Hirsi’s clan. ‘I have had Habargidir come up and kiss me in the supermarket. I now go to where the Habargidir go, the same coffee shops and malls.
‘I have even changed my mosque,’ he added.
Ali’s video is the culmination of a long-running feud between her and Osman, who runs a popular Somali-language Facebook blog called Xerta Skekh. ‘They are both people who like to stir things up,’ another Somali leader said.
Osman said his page has been inundated with threatening messages since DailyMail.com published his accusations about Omar. Many, he said, are purporting to be from people with Anglicized names, but he believes they are Somalis with false accounts.
One man, using the name Allan Landman, posted a message saying: ‘Shariah law will allow his accusers to kill him.’
‘That’s ironic,’ said Osman. ‘Ilhan Omar having an affair with a married man is much more against Shariah law than anything I have done.’
He also said Omar supporters have threatened to report him to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority for his anti-gay postings, in a bid to get him kicked out of his home.
Osman, who describes himself as a devout Sunni Muslim — he broke away from the interview to pray at one point — admits he is anti-gay rights because Islam forbids homosexuality. ‘It is haram,’ he said, using the Islamic term for a prohibited activity.
In her video, Ali describes herself as Omar’s aunt, but sources say the
two are not blood relations, merely members of the same clan.
‘But a clan relative is just as close as a real relative,’ one Somali leader told DailyMail.com. ‘She is insulting the men of her own clan, calling them effeminate for not doing anything about what Abdi has said.’
Ilhan Omar’s ex-husband has officially remarried Loaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00 Play Current Time0:00 / Duration Time0:58 Fullscreen Osman is a member of the Dhulbahante clan, many of whom resent the Majeerteen for allegedly lording it over them for too long. ‘The Majeerteen think they’re royalty,’ one Somali leader said +20 Osman is a member of the Dhulbahante clan, many of whom resent the Majeerteen for allegedly lording it over them for too long. ‘The Majeerteen think they’re royalty,’ one Somali leader said Malyun Ali is an American citizen, who lived in Minneapolis for several years before relocating to Arizona. More recently she has been living in Kenya. +20 Malyun Ali is an American citizen, who lived in Minneapolis for several years before relocating to Arizona. More recently she has been living in Kenya. Malyun Ali is an American citizen, who lived in Minneapolis for several years before relocating to Arizona. More recently she has been living in Kenya. +20 Malyun Ali is an American citizen, who lived in Minneapolis for several years before relocating to Arizona. More recently she has been living in Kenya. YouTube eventually took down Malyun Ali’s video on March 10, nearly three weeks after it was first posted, saying it violated the company’s policy on harassment and bullying +20 YouTube eventually took down Malyun Ali’s video on March 10, nearly three weeks after it was first posted, saying it violated the company’s policy on harassment and bullying In the video, Ali, speaking in Somali, said: ‘I am addressing the wise Majeerteen elders and the religiously educated men, why are you watching this crushed metal can-like man abuse us?
‘Don’t we have young men? Don’t we have elders? If we fail to be protected by the law, we better be protected by your five fingers,’ she said using a Somali phrase meaning personal strength.
‘Oh, you Majeerteen men in the streets, stop this man from what he is doing. You are camped in the town of Minnea-hopeless from which I moved because of curses. May the curse be on you.
‘Why are you afraid? Are you afraid of being arrested? Are you afraid of prison?’
She also accused Osman of being an alcoholic and a drug addict, both of which would go against the tenets of Islam. ‘I have never had a single drink of alcohol or taken any illegal drugs,’ Osman said.
‘Even when I go to a hookah bar I only smoke the nicotine-free stuff.’
Ali is an American citizen, who lived in Minneapolis for several years before relocating to Arizona. More recently she has been living in Kenya. She runs her YouTube page under the pseudonym MMS —Mama Malyun Suuban. Suuban was her mother’s maiden name.
Osman did not claim that Ilhan Omar herself is behind the threats or knew of them in advance.
When allegations that Omar’s husband was also her brother first appeared, the congresswoman said the idea that the spouses were also siblings were ‘baseless, absurd rumors’, accusing journalists of Islamophobia, but has since stayed quiet.
Her spokesman now says she does not discuss her personal life, ignoring the fact that marriage fraud is a federal crime.
In her video attacking Osman, Ali barely addressed that controversy: ‘He said she married one man — let her marry 50. She has her freedom.’
Bihi refused to meet with “the oppressive ambassador
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Somaliland’s president has reportedly rejected a conditional offer by a delegation of Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats to cut ties with Taiwan, and added that he is taking steps to strengthen relations with the country.
On Monday (Aug. 3), news broke that President Muse Bihi Abdi has directed “close confidants” to examine ways of bolstering Somaliland’s relations with Taiwan, including “the possibility of mutual recognition between Taiwan and Somaliland.” On Tuesday, reports surfaced that a Chinese delegation would visit Somaliland on Wednesday (Aug. 5), while China’s ambassador, Qin Jian (覃儉), has reportedly been in the self-ruled state since Saturday (Aug. 1) attempting to arrange a meeting with Bihi.
Researcher and analyst Rashid Abdi on Tuesday posted a tweet in which he wrote that Qin “started putting on the ‘warrior diplomacy’ act and threatening Somaliland,” but that Bihi rebuffed his tactics and hours later ordered his ministry of foreign affairs to begin the process of recognizing Taiwan. Twitter account Somalia News on Wednesday stated local reports indicated that Bihi refused to meet with “the oppressive ambassador.”
On Thursday (Aug. 6), the Somaliland Chronicle cited government sources as saying that Bihi met with the delegation, which included Qin, for several hours. During the meeting, the Chinese side offered a development deal which included road and airport infrastructure projects and the installation of a liaison office in Somaliland on the condition that Bihi sever ties with Taiwan.
Bihi reportedly rejected the Chinese offer and informed them that rather than cut ties with Taiwan, his country is actually “working to strengthen diplomatic ties with Taiwan.” The newspaper on Monday reported the president has ordered an analysis of the TAIPEI Act, which was signed into law in the U.S. in March, and to present him with options and an assessment of “the pros and cons of unilateral recognition of Taiwan.”
What is of particular interest to Bihi is Section 3, Item 2 of the TAIPEI ACT, which states that the U.S. government should consider “increasing its economic, security, and diplomatic engagement with nations that have demonstrably strengthened, enhanced, or upgraded relations with Taiwan.” Bihi’s government may be particularly emboldened after the White House National Security Council (NSC) on July 10 posted a tweet lauding Taiwan for increasing its engagement in East Africa and included a link to a U.S. News & World Report article announcing the establishment of Taiwan-Somaliland ties.
In response to reports of Somaliland considering diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, MOFA spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) on Monday said the ministry does not comment on reports by the Somaliland media that have not cited their sources. She added that MOFA and its Somaliland counterpart will “continue to consult on establishing future bilateral cooperation plans based on the principle of mutual benefit and reciprocity and to promote the economy and people’s livelihoods.”
When Tsai took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus and only acknowledged that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a “historical fact.” In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by stealing away diplomatic allies through its debt-trap diplomacy tactics.
Since the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Chinese diplomats have started to lash out at critics and attempt to intimidate their counterparts with a new “wolf warrior” ploy. The term “wolf warrior” refers to a Chinese propaganda film that depicts People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers fighting foreign mercenaries who are led by a character named “Tom Cat.”
Shakir Essa served as manager at somaliland press media and Somali news tv
But another Facebook page, run by twin brothers who immigrated from Mexico, reached substantially more eyes. Their reposting of Mr. Obama’s endorsement, with a simple “BREAKING” text over the video, clocked over 23 million views.
Meet Rafael and Omar Rivero, the co-founders of Occupy Democrats, the social media mavens of the left who are quickly emerging as a counterweight to the dominance of right-wing online sites.
In a presidential race playing out on iPhones and screens more than any in history, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, these digital entrepreneurs can drive the political conversation online and influence how candidates are seen as much as a campaign’s well-funded digital advisers can.ADVERTISEMENT
The twins, 33, started the Occupy Democrats Facebook page eight years ago and, combined with an accompanying website, they have reached a digital dominance rarely seen among liberals — one that keeps pace with viral news sites and regularly outperforms President Trump’s own page, as well as the Daily Caller, Fox News and other right-wing websites or personalities. What was once a hobby between gigs has grown into a full-fledged, full-time operation with five additional staffers.
Over the past month, nearly half of the 40 top-performing videos on Facebook that mention “Trump” were from Occupy Democrats. They have had a top-10 performing post on Facebook regularly for months. A video they recently posted called “The Liar Tweets Tonight,” sung by a choir of individually recorded voters to the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” was viewed 41 million times, among the most-watched videos on Facebook over the last month.
“Democratic voters are tired of the Democratic Party kind of taking barrages from Republicans on the right on social media and Trump himself, taking that lying down and not fighting back,” Omar Rivero said. “So we fight back with the truth. But we make sure that we punch them in the mouth with the truth.”
Though they claim not to have taken tactics from the right, there are some clear commonalities between the Occupy Democrats posts and some of the right-wing sites that have mastered the art of writing shareable copy that acts like gasoline on a social media outrage fire — amplified by anger-inducing adjectives contextualizing the news, or an all-caps “BREAKING” to introduce a post.ADVERTISEMENT
They also are relentless in their posting on Facebook. On Sunday, a relatively slow news day by the Trump-era pandemic standards, the Facebook page published 80 items, a mix of original, text-heavy memes; cross-posts from Mr. Biden’s social media pages; commentary with links to mainstream news stories and videos; and links to original posts on the Occupy Democrats website.
It has helped them earn 25 million more interactions than Mr. Trump’s page, and 63 million more interactions than Mr. Biden’s over the past 30 days on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned data tool.
Occupy Democrats is a rare bright spot for a party and political wing that once was proudly “the party of tech” but has since ceded nearly every digital stronghold to the right. As Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is moving headlong into a general election with a digital operation that is dwarfed by the Trump campaign, the Occupy team has started to step in.
“I think one of the big mistakes of 2016 was not immediately embracing Hillary as a change agent and as someone to get excited about,” Rafael Rivero said.
Rafael also wanted to prove that, yes, Mr. Biden could indeed go viral.
On the same day Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, Rafael started the “Ridin’ with Biden 2020” page, employing meme tactics, social media copy and video promotion similar to those that power the central Occupy Democrats page.
An Avengers-esque meme of Mr. Biden, Jill Biden, Mr. Obama and Michelle Obama striding across the White House lawn overlaid with the text “When America Was Great” reached 2.2 million viewers.
Soon, the “Ridin’ With Biden” page was outperforming the campaign’s own account, with their own content.
A digital video ad released by the Biden campaign received more than one million views on Facebook, a successful showing for most campaigns. But on “Ridin’ With Biden,” it got 8.6 million views, with little added window dressing than text on the video that read: “Holy cow … this Biden ad is GOOD 🔥🔥🔥.”
When the Occupy page shared the live video of Hillary Clinton endorsing Mr. Biden, the live viewership jumped from 15,000 to 25,000 in a matter of minutes.
Democratic campaign operatives note that these types of booming online communities benefit from being a bit rougher around the edges.
“They’re able to say things that are not quite as polished as what the parties are going to produce or what the Biden campaign is going to produce, or any campaign,” said Kenneth Pennington, a Democratic digital strategist who was Mr. Sanders’ digital director in 2016. “But it’s kind of the unvarnished, unpolished stuff that actually does really well online because people are seeking that kind of authentic sass.”
Mr. Pennington added that these types of pages can help boost a campaign as well, crediting a different Facebook page — The People for Bernie Sanders — as one of the reasons Mr. Sanders catapulted “from a no-shot candidate into an online sensation that raised $230 million in 2016.”
While the social media dominance of Occupy Democrats may surprise some, social media experts note that there has always been a liveliness among liberal groups online, but they just get less attention.
Whitney Phillips, a media studies and communications professor at Syracuse University, said the reported distress on the left about “losing the edge on social media” wasn’t the full picture. “The framing is maybe not fully representing all of the activity and all the vibrancy that’s happening on the left because all the stories get written about what Ben Shapiro is up to,” she said, referring to the popular conservative writer.
The video of former President Barack Obama endorsing former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. was viewed more than 23 million times on Occupy Democrats’ Facebook page.
Occupy Democrats does try to give readers their vegetables, too. A post about Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments on the newest Democratic proposal for a coronavirus relief package, for example, included highlights from the Democratic proposal.ADVERTISEMENThttps://e9a82a00fde94b3b898e9c9acfe89e55.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
“People clicked to be mad about McConnell, but while they read about that, they learn about what the Democrats are doing,” said Colin Taylor, the editor in chief of Occupy Democrats. “In this kind of outrage-heavy online sphere, it’s kind of hard to get people’s attention with the more wonky stuff.”
The group’s origins date to the movement that informs its name — and a dissatisfaction with it. The Rivero twins found themselves in Zuccotti Park back in 2012, when the Occupy movement had camped out in Lower Manhattan and quickly garnered a national news profile. Both brothers were drawn to the ideals of the movement — economic equality, social justice and addressing climate change — but they saw the Occupy movement’s leaderless ethos as a critical failure, and one that would never allow it to grow.
“I looked around and thought, wow, there’s not a single Occupy congressman,” Omar Rivero said. “In the end, we’re not pulling the levers of power. So I thought, well, you know, maybe we should try to make Occupy a force that not only helps Democrats but also keeps them honest. Similar to what the Tea Party is doing to Republicans.”
Omar started the Facebook page after leaving a job at an investment bank — “working for the man at a bank” — heavy in debt to both the federal government and his mother after earning an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from ESCP Europe. In between side gigs cleaning short-term rental apartments, and sometimes while cleaning, he continued to build an audience. But he needed help with the visuals.
Omar turned to his twin brother, who was running his own real-estate rental business in Miami at the time, to put his graphic design background to use and join the effort.
“My mom staged an intervention, literally, with my aunt and uncle,” Rafael said. “They thought, you guys got the scholarships to Swarthmore and Cornell, and you guys are throwing all that away to focus on something called a Facebook page.”
But with Rafael making memes, the page began to grow. Quickly. The two moved to California and lived in a friend’s pool house. When the demand for content grew beyond the twins’ capabilities, they posted hiring ads on Craigslist. Mr. Taylor, a former line cook who blogged on the side, was their first hire, and the pool house soon doubled as the Occupy newsroom, now with multiple writers churning out dozens of posts a day, building both the Facebook page and the website into traffic machines.
They survived the reorientation of the Facebook algorithm after the 2016 election — which pushed down independent, less verified sites in favor of more mainstream news content — by repeatedly boosting and sharing mainstream news articles, introduced with their own spin. Though they had to lay off a few writers in the wake of those Facebook changes, they have kept churning out content.
And, of course, countless memes.
The memes and videos are what generate the most engagement, and Occupy Democrats’ white-and-yellow text on a black background both grabs the eye with its harsh color contrast and conveys a sense of urgency. Distilling the news into a single shareable photo that remains on Facebook has quickly caught on, particularly among older users.
But with this newfound power, the Rivero brothers want to expand and build a broader network with other Democrats.
“We’re not only the largest political network on Facebook, but we’re the largest partisan political network on Facebook,” said Omar. “And I think that the Democrats should take advantage of that.
His latest work is A Life Well-Lived, a selection of photos and stories of people across Nebraska highlighting their stories from the past 70 years. These are photographs and stories of those who might be forgotten in the rush of history.
Get in touch with the shakir essa posts, videos, news article's, He is the presenter of both africa times news (sub saharan africa) and digital media creator(infographics video). shakir is a senior contributor at the africa times news (afrika-times.com