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.
Al-Shabaab continued to carry out attacks in capital Mogadishu and rural areas and made modest territorial gains in south-central as delayed electoral process continued. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab 2 Jan carried out twin suicide bombings at Somali National Army (SNA) checkpoint near airport and hotel killing seven people; claimed car bombing near UN compound 3 Jan that injured four guards; car bombing and assault on Mogadishu hotel 25 Jan left at least 28 dead. Al-Shabaab temporarily captured base of Kenyan troops (KDF) in AU mission (AMISOM) in Kulbiyow 18km from Kenyan border 27 Jan, claimed it killed at least 57 troops; KDF said nine soldiers died and that it killed 70 militants. Al-Shabaab 31 Jan attacked army base near Hudur, Bakol region in south, killing two soldiers. In Puntland, Al-Shabaab intensified attacks including killing two police in Bosaso 15 Jan; clashed with Puntland forces 16 Jan 60km south of Bosaso, at least three soldiers and four militants killed. Pro-Islamic State militants 27 Jan abducted nine people including Puntland soldiers in Medlehe, Bari region. Internal SNA quarrels over checkpoint control allowed Al-Shabaab to seize new positions, including War Sheekh, Middle Shabelle region 7 Jan. Al-Shabaab 17 Jan released video of execution of Ugandan soldier captured during Sept 2015 assault on AMISOM base in Janaale, Lower Shabelle region. At least twenty SNA soldiers defected to Al-Shabaab from outposts in Bay, Bakol, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba and Gedo regions. Al-Shabaab tax officer and administrator for Garbaharey, Gedo region surrendered 9 Jan. Burundi govt 10 Jan said it would withdraw troops from AMISOM following EU’s decision to pay troops’ salaries individually not via central bank, reversed decision 21 Jan when EU agreed to pay via private banks. Parliamentarians 11 Jan re-elected Mohamed Osman Jawari as lower house speaker and 22 Jan elected former Minister for Culture and Heritage Abdi Hashi Abdullahi as upper house speaker. Delayed parliamentary vote on new president, due 24 Jan, postponed to 8 Feb.
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.
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.
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.