Somalia recently emerged from a long and difficult election process that resulted in the sizeable election victory of President Mohammed Abdullahi "Farmajo". The rare moment of unity, however, has been offset by attacks in Mogadishu and rural areas carried out by al-Qaeda’s franchise Al-Shabaab. The risk of famine also looms large over the country, in part driven by drought and clan-based conflict. Crisis Group’s research and analysis help the Somali government strengthen the fragile administrations of federal member states and to address the underlying causes of conflicts between and within them. We also aim to advise the government as it works to mitigate the risk of insecurity attendant to the upcoming withdrawal of the African Union Mission (AMISOM), scheduled for October 2018.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
Clashes between security forces and protesters in capital Mogadishu left five civilians dead, as Al-Shabaab kept up attacks in Mogadishu and rural areas and could escalate insurgency in month of Ramadan starting 5 May. In Mogadishu, after police shot dead young rickshaw driver at checkpoint in Howl-Wadag 13 April, residents same day protested against govt; protests led to clashes between protesters and security forces, that left five civilians dead. President Farmajo accused opposition of orchestrating protests. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab car bombing near police academy 4 April killed at least one person; car bombing near police station and hotel 17 April killed four; unclaimed car bombing 22 April injured at least two civilians. In Lower Shabelle region in south-centre, following heavy fighting between army and Al-Shabaab in Sabid 1 April, govt forces seized truck loaded with explosives. In Bosaso town, Bari region, Puntland, at least six soldiers injured in roadside bombing 11 April; also in Bosaso unclaimed land mine targeting governor of Bari region 24 April injured at least three security guards. In Lower Juba, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions, suspected Al-Shabaab attacks 17-23 April killed a dozen Kenyan soldiers in African Union mission (AMISOM), seven Somali soldiers and one local official. Senior Al-Shabaab official Aden Abdi Mohamed “Aden Obe” 23 April surrendered near Bardhere in Gedo region in south. U.S. airstrikes continued, killing five Al-Shabaab militants four Islamic State (ISIS)-Somalia militants including deputy leader of ISIS-Somalia 9-26 April. Following late March allegations by NGO Amnesty International that U.S. airstrikes had caused civilian deaths, U.S. conducted internal review and 5 April for first time admitted that airstrikes in 2018 caused two civilian deaths. After Kenya mid-Feb recalled its envoy to Somalia and expelled Somali ambassador over maritime border dispute, officials from both countries in Nairobi 3 April agreed to allow ambassadors to return to station.
Al-Shabaab remains focused on recapturing power in Somalia, but it continues to plot attacks in Kenya and Tanzania – and perhaps in Uganda as well. To counter the movement, East African states should eschew heavy-handed crackdowns and work instead to reduce its appeal to potential recruits.
A dispute between Puntland and Somaliland over the contested areas of Sool and Sanaag risks escalating into open war. The UN, supported by states with influence on the two sides, should renew diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire and press both to enter negotiations.
The quarrel between Gulf monarchies has spilled into Somalia, with the fragile state now caught between the rival interests of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The competition has already aggravated intra-Somali disputes. All sides should take a step back before these tensions mount further.
In 2018, the African Union (AU) and its new Assembly Chairperson President Paul Kagame of Rwanda have the chance to push ahead with much-needed institutional reforms. But the AU must not lose focus on dire conflicts and defusing potential electoral violence.
The 14 October 2017 twin bombings in Mogadishu mark the deadliest attack in Somalia since 2007. As Somalis unite in their disgust at the most likely perpetrator Al-Shabaab, President Farmajo must immediately provide care for victims and use surging support for the government to redouble efforts aimed at overcoming the divisions in Somalia's society that make Al-Shabaab such a persistent threat.
Chronic conflict is preventing effective response to Somalia’s prolonged drought and humanitarian crisis. This special briefing, the third in a series of four examining the famine threats there and in Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria, urges Somalia to improve governance and promote countrywide clan reconciliation to end the war.
[The U.S. war in Somalia appears to be] on autopilot [and] people need to pay attention.
Somalia has become a chessboard in the power game between Qatar and Turkey on the one side and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies on the other.
Somalia has been caught in the middle of an effort [by some Gulf countries] to try to expand influence, commercial and military, along the coast.
Somalia’s federal system has reistered progress. The picture overall is not hopeles. But, if [the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)] pulls out in a hasty manner, all that will be lost.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints from Somalis saying ‘There’s a huge Western navy on our shores - why can’t those people come to help us?'
Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on seizing a chance for peace in Mali, avoiding escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, mitigating conflict in Syria’s peripheral regions, and helping Somalia overcome obstacles to reform. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Clan divisions, a persistent jihadist presence and regional instability pose serious challenges as Somalia prepares for its first direct elections in decades. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 early-warning update, Crisis Group urges European policy makers to support reforms aimed at bridging Somalia’s political and social divides ahead of elections in 2020.
A year after the Qatar crisis began, it’s having potentially dangerous reverberations in the Horn of Africa.
Originally published in The Atlantic