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.
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.
Arrest of former Al-Shabaab leader and candidate in 19 Dec South West State presidential elections sparked deadly clashes between police and his supporters, and parliament speaker tried unsuccessfully to impeach President Farmajo. Somali police reportedly backed by Ethiopian forces in African Union mission (AMISOM) 13 Dec arrested popular former Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow; AMISOM 15 Dec denied involvement of its Ethiopian troops. Arrest led to clashes between Robow supporters and police in South West state capital, Baidoa 14-15 Dec, at least eleven protesters killed; tensions diminished by end month. Candidate backed by federal govt Abdiaziz Laftagareen won South West state’s presidential elections 19 Dec. Speaker of parliament Mohamed Mursal and opposition MPs 12 Dec introduced motion to impeach President Farmajo, motion dismissed as it failed to garner required 92 MPs’ signatures; fourteen MPs 13 Dec accused Mursal of forging their signatures. PM Khayre brokered agreement between pro-Farmajo camp and Mursal, who withdrew motion 20 Dec. In capital Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab attacked checkpoints near president’s residence Villa Somalia with twin car bombs 21 Dec killing twenty civilians including veteran and renowned journalist Awil Salaad. In Bay region, Al-Shabaab raid on military base 29 Dec triggered heavy fighting with regional troops, fourteen militants and eight soldiers reportedly killed. In middle Juba region, U.S.-backed Jubaland forces 30 Dec reportedly carried out series of operations against Al-Shabaab militants and training camp. U.S. airstrikes on Al-Shabaab strongholds continued; airstrikes in Gandarashe area 15-16 Dec killed 62 militants; airstrikes near Beled Amin South 19 Dec killed eleven militants. Eritrean President Afwerki 13 Dec visited Mogadishu for first time, as part of ongoing tripartite summits between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia; leaders discussed how to advance bilateral and regional cooperation.
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.
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 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’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?'
One of the problems is that there is growing discontent within the [Somalian] security services. That should have sent of a clear warning signal, and al-Shabaab took advantage of that situation.
This has always been the billion-dollar question. If you think about how much money goes to Somalia every year, will this generate the political will to do what needs to be done to stabilize [the country]?
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