Eruptions of joy across the Somali-speaking Horn of Africa greeted the election of President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo, but to deliver a cure for Somalia’s chronic ills he will need to counter distrust in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya and win support from the African Union.
Parliament elected new president, former PM Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, as Al-Shabaab continued to launch attacks on national and international forces in capital Mogadishu and rural areas. Delayed electoral process concluded 8 Feb when Farmajo won four-year presidential term, beating incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud 184 votes to 97. Al-Shabaab senior official 18 Feb said group would target anyone who collaborates with new president. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab fired mortars on presidential palace 16 Feb, day of presidential handover, killing two children; suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen 16 Feb killed traditional elder; Al-Shabaab assassinated National Intelligence and Security Agency general 18 Feb; officials blamed Al-Shabaab for 19 Feb suicide bombing at central market that killed at least 39 people. In rural areas, Al-Shabaab 7 Feb ambushed AU mission (AMISOM) convoy near Mahaday town, Middle Shabelle region, claimed it killed several Burundian troops. Al-Shabaab attacked Somali National Army (SNA) checkpoint in El-Wak town, Gedo region 8 Feb, killing two soldiers; overran two SNA camps in Tihsile and Warmahan villages outside Mogadishu 12 Feb, killing at least two soldiers; reinforcements en route to villages hit by roadside blast same day near Walanweyn, Lower Shabelle region, four military personnel killed. In Galmudug state, Al-Shabaab clashed with SNA in Adaley village near Amara 14 Feb, at least seven people killed; group took control of Amara 15 Feb. Al-Shabaab attacked AMISOM convoy outside Mogadishu 18 Feb. In Puntland, pro-Islamic State militants 1 Feb beheaded three of five civilians abducted late Jan in Bosaso; abducted and beheaded five Puntland soldiers in Af Karin, SE of Qandala; claimed 8 Feb attack on hotel in Bosaso, two guards killed. In Galkayo, which straddles contested border between Puntland and Galmudug Interim Administration (GIA), skirmishes between militia from each side resumed 10 Feb. UN warned country is on brink of new famine due to persistent drought in north.
Somaliland’s clan-based democracy has consolidated a state-like authority, kept the peace and attracted donors. But the territory now needs to reform its political bodies, judicial institutions and international engagements to protect itself from continued fragility in neighbouring Somalia – which rejects Somaliland’s independence claims – and civil war in nearby Yemen.
Despite military gains against Somalia’s Islamist group Al-Shabaab, the insurgents’ defeat will remain elusive until the Somali government and its international partners address longstanding social – often clan-based – grievances through parallel local and national processes, as the basis for the revival of conventional governmental authority.
Puntland’s presidential election, scheduled for January, threatens to exacerbate clan tensions and polarise the population. To keep the regional state on the path of democratisation, deep investment from local, national and international actors will be crucial.
As a new Somali government is established, Turkey’s engagement in the war-ravaged country must be thoughtful and carefully coordinated so as not to lead to yet another failed international intervention.
If the international community can agree on but a few core policies, there is the best chance in years to foster peace in Somalia.
As Kenya advances into southern Somalia, it must act cautiously and avoid prolonged “occupation”, lest it turn local opinion against the operation and galvanise opposition Al-Shabaab can co-opt, much as happened to Ethiopia in 2006-2009.
[Farmajo] should turn his attention firmly [to strengthening the army] and appeal to the West and Arab countries to give Somali troops proper training, equipment, salary.
The concern in Washington [about Al-Shabaab in Somalia] has been mounting for some time now ... U.S. special forces are already on the ground. Drone attacks have been scaled up.
If [Somalia's new president Mohamed Abdullahi] wants to re-adjust the relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia, he has to be very careful. If he uses the old anti-Ethiopia rhetoric, he is going to quickly run into trouble.
If I were to advise [the new Somali president], I will tell him to go slow in relation with [Ethiopia and Kenya] and to build new bridges.They ultimately have collective, strategic interest working together to stabilize Somalia.
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
The recent election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is an important step toward Somalia's recovery after decades of instability. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group encourages the European Union and its member states to support the government by injecting new life into the national reconciliation talks and boost assistance for sub-national governance.
A stretch of Somalia's coast has been seized by Islamic State fighters who split from the country's main jihadist militia Al-Shabaab, which is aligned with Al-Qaeda. A concerted response by the Somali federal authorities is now urgently required to contain the threat.
Three members of Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa staff consider the implications of Al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to broaden its campaigns from Somalia into the wider East Africa region.