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.
Polls likely due in 2024 could unsettle Galmudug, a building block of Somalia’s federal project, increasing frictions along clan and other lines. State and federal authorities have a shared interest in ensuring a clean vote. They should cooperate toward that end.
Govt’s attempt to revitalise offensive against Al-Shabaab in central regions backfired, with military retreating after making initial gains in Galgaduud region.
Military offensive against Al-Shabaab suffered setback as troops retreated. President Mohamud 5 Aug travelled to Galmudug state capital, Dhusamareb, to reinvigorate stalled offensive against Al-Shabaab in central regions. Army and allied clan militias 14 Aug launched operations in Galgaduud and Mudug regions (both Galmudug state) and in following days made initial progress. Notably, army 16 Aug successfully cleared mines in several villages on border between Galgaduud and Hiraan regions, 21 Aug regained key Wabho town, next day captured Cowsweyne village and 24-25 Aug took over strategic Elbur town (all Galgaduud). Troops however lost ground after Al-Shabaab militants 26 Aug launched major attack involving suicide bombs in Cowsweyne, inflicting heavy losses on govt force. Govt forces in following days reportedly pulled back from villages and towns recently captured, including Budbud, Wabho, Galcad, El Dhere and Masagaway, and 29 Aug also left Elbur.
Al-Shabaab militants continued to pose major threat in several regions. In Lower Shabelle region (south), bomb aboard passenger bus 9 Aug killed six and wounded 12 on road between Marka to Qoriyoley districts. In Hiraan region (centre), Al-Shabaab suicide bomber 10 Aug targeted Jalalaqsi district governor, killing five including district officials but leaving governor unharmed. Militants 23 Aug launched suicide attack on security forces in Kadha area on Mogadishu’s outskirts, killing two soldiers. Meanwhile, authorities 4 Aug announced arrest of ten govt staff from various departments including intelligence agency for allegedly collaborating with Al-Shabaab, serving as reminder that group has infiltrated govt security structures.
Security situation remained tense but stable in Puntland state. After Puntland parliament in July passed constitutional amendments allowing for direct election of state president, Puntland President Said Deni 1 Aug pledged to hold presidential and parliamentary polls by 8 Jan 2024; opponents however continued to accuse him of seeking to use transition to direct universal suffrage to extend term or set rules of the game in his favour.
If military pressure is designed to push toward the complete elimination of Shabaab, then I think we'll miss opportunities to resolve this conflict.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. President Joe Biden promised to end the “forever wars” launched after the 9/11 attacks. In Somalia, however, his administration has reinvigorated a flawed military-first approach to battling Islamist militants. Washington should complement those efforts with others aimed at stabilisation and political reconciliation.
The CrisisWatch Digest Somalia offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard speaks with Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group's Somalia expert, about the Somali army’s latest offensive, together with clan militias, against Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency and challenges as the battle moves from central Somalia to Al-Shabaab’s southern strongholds.
In this video, Omar Mahmood discusses the Somali government’s recent gains in its war with the Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab, mainly in central Somalia.
In conjunction with clan militias, the national army has dislodged the Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab from swathes of central Somalia, marking a breakthrough in the fifteen-year war. As its campaign proceeds, Mogadishu should take steps to strengthen its hold on the territory it has retaken.
This week on The Horn, Alan speaks with Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group's senior analyst for Eastern Africa, about the government offensive backed by local clans that is making gains against Al-Shabaab in central Somalia, and what comes next.
Somaliland is going through considerable political turmoil. The government and opposition disagree over the sequencing of two forthcoming high-stakes elections, and both sides are digging in. International partners should push the two sides to reach consensus, while standing by to mediate if talks fail.
In this video, Crisis Group staff speak about the complex relationship between climate change and violent conflict in Somalia.
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