Somalia

Long-overdue elections that returned President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to power in 2022 have raised hopes that Somalia can close a highly divisive chapter in its recent history. But the challenges it faces remain daunting. Relations between the federal government and member states are still uneasy, talks over Somaliland’s status have made little progress and vital state-building tasks, like finalising the provisional constitution, are lagging behind. Meanwhile, a historic drought is undermining local livelihoods while also foreshadowing the long-term challenges posed by climate change. Further, even as Mohamud has declared “total war” on the Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab, which remains a defiant actor, a security transition premised on the withdrawal of African Union troops by the end of 2024 is fast approaching. Crisis Group’s work in Somalia aims to foster and maintain political unity, address the root causes of insecurity, including climate change’s impact, and consider means to wind down the long war with Al-Shabaab.

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CrisisWatch Somalia

Deteriorated Situation

Mogadishu reacted furiously to Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal; absent de-escalation, diplomatic row could weaken anti-Al-Shabaab campaign and further undermine regional stability.

Diplomatic row erupted over Ethiopia’s sea access deal. Govt rejected Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement signed 1 Jan, which grants Ethiopia sea access for naval facility via Somaliland, and potentially paves way for Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland’s independence (see Somaliland); Mogadishu 2 Jan denounced “act of aggression” violating Somalia’s sovereignty and recalled ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations. Thousands 3 Jan protested against agreement in capital Mogadishu, and President Mohamud 6 Jan signed bill nullifying deal. Govt mobilised support among international partners, with AU, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, EU, U.S. and others reiterating support for Somalia’s sovereignty. Mohamud also engaged regionally, travelling to Eritrea 8 Jan and to Qatar 22 Jan. Mogadishu 18 Jan rejected engagement with Ethiopia, saying “there is no space for mediation” until Addis Ababa retracts agreement. 

Operations against Al-Shabaab militants continued at slow pace. In Mudug region of Galmudug state (centre), security forces and Al-Shabaab 6 Jan clashed in Jeeh-jeeh area, and militants 24 Jan temporarily overran pro-govt clan militia position in Caad district. Airstrikes targeting militants in central states of Galmudug and Hirshabelle, including in Galhareeri 25 Jan, Cali Heyle 27 Jan, and Buq Aqable same day, showed govt’s reliance on international air support. Meanwhile, militants continued attacks, albeit at lower level; in Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab 11 Jan killed UN security guard in mortar attack targeting airport compound, and 16 Jan killed four people in suicide attack near Banadir regional administration. Suspected Al-Shabaab combatants 10 Jan also kidnapped several UN contractors after their helicopter crashed in Galmudug. Potential rupture in Somalia-Ethiopia relations would have significant consequences on security operations, given Somalia’s cooperation with Ethiopia against Al-Shabaab.

Puntland election cycle concluded peacefully with President Deni’s re-election. Puntland President Said Deni 8 Jan won second five-year term in indirect election; opposition largely accepted result despite alleging manipulation in selection of MPs who took part in vote; legislators representing Dhulbahante community participated in elections after SSC-Khatumo (self-declared administration for Dhulbahante in territory also claimed by Somaliland) vowed not to in Dec. Vote concluded peacefully, offering parties opportunity to move on from divisive episode.

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In The News

25 Aug 2023
If military pressure is designed to push toward the complete elimination of Shabaab, then I think we'll miss opportunities to resolve this conflict. Reuters

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
5 Apr 2023
Al-Shabaab continues to mount resistance in parts of central Somalia and fighting al-Shabaab in its southern strongholds will probably be a tougher slog. Financial Times

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
1 Nov 2022
Things [in Somalia] are likely to get worse before they get better as both the government and al Shabaab are locked into war mode right now. Irish Times

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
4 Sep 2022
Despite President Biden’s campaign promise to end the forever wars, Somalia remains one of the most active areas in the world for U.S. counterterrorism operations. The Intrecept

Sarah Harrison

Senior Analyst, U.S. Program
5 Aug 2022
I think the reason why [Mukhtar Robow, ex-Al-Shabab leader] was brought from house arrest to the cabinet minister is to create a counter-narrative to that of al-Shabab. Al Jazeera

Zakaria Yusuf

Analyst, Somalia

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Zakaria Yusuf

Zakaria Yusuf

Analyst, Somalia

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