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.
Somalia and Somaliland have been at odds since the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence, which the former rejects. The dispute has cooled after heating up in 2018, but lingering tensions could threaten regional stability. To restart dialogue, the two sides should meet for technical talks.
Al-Shabaab kept up insurgency in capital Mogadishu and rural areas, tensions remained high between Puntland and Somaliland over contested areas and between Somalia and Kenya over disputed maritime border. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab 15 June launched two car bomb attacks in heavily secured govt areas killing eleven. In south, security forces killed five Al-Shabaab fighters in Gedo region 3-9 June; Al-Shabaab ambush of Kenyan soldiers in African Union mission (AMISOM) in Burgavo, Lower Juba 24 June left nine militants dead; clashes between security forces and Al-Shabaab near Bur Eyle, Bay region 22 June left eleven soldiers and five militants dead; Al-Shabaab attack on military base in Bulo Marer, Lower Shabelle 27 June left three militants and two soldiers dead; clashes between security forces and Al-Shabaab 27 June left at least eight militants dead in Jamame, Lower Juba; three Al-Shabaab militants surrendered to security forces in Bay and Gedo regions 2-11 June. In north, Al-Shabaab fighters 8 June captured military base in Af-Urur in Puntland only for Puntland forces to retake it 11 June without a fight; after suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed police officer near Galkayo, local militia 14 June killed nine members of Rahanweyn clan which it believes provides recruits to Al-Shabaab; Al-Shabaab bombing of teashop in Af-Urur 25 June killed four Puntland soldiers and one civilian. Puntland and Somaliland forces 14 June reportedly clashed in Badhan town in Sanaag region, which both administrations claim, no casualties. U.S. claimed its airstrikes killed six Islamic State (ISIS) militants and four Al-Shabaab fighters 4-25 June. Arab Parliament, legislative arm of Arab League, 20 June called on Kenya to recognise Somalia’s maritime borders. International Court of Justice 25 June scheduled hearing for maritime border dispute between Somalia and Kenya for 9-13 Sept.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, is diminished but still potent. One understudied source of its resilience is the support of women, active and passive, despite the movement’s stringent gender ideology. Understanding the range of women’s relationships to Al-Shabaab is critical to countering the group going forward.
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 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?'
Against all sensible advice, the Federal Government of Somalia muscled in on a local election to shove aside an Islamist conservative candidate. It scored a tactical victory but created significant additional risk for the country already wracked by conflict and divided along regional and clan lines.
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.
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.