Somalia recently emerged from a long and difficult election process that resulted in the sizable 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.
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.
Al-Shabaab continued to attack civilian and military targets in Somalia and Kenya (see Kenya). In Mogadishu area, Al-Shabaab claimed IED explosions that killed two civilians in Elasha district 20km north east of capital 1 July and targeted African Union mission (AMISOM) convoy in Middle Shabelle 18 July; Al-Shabaab claimed car bombing 18 July at checkpoint on Mogadishu-Afgoye highway that left three dead; suspected Al-Shabaab suicide car bomb killed ten, mostly civilians, in Mogadishu 30 July. In south east, militants 30 July ambushed AMISOM convoy in Lower Shabelle’s Bulamareer district, killing at least 23 soldiers. In south west, militants 23 July killed at least four soldiers in IED explosion near Baidoa 250km south west of capital; 24 July ambushed AMISOM convoy in Bardhere, Gedo region but caused no casualties. Al-Shabaab 24 July released seven aid workers it abducted near Baidoa in south west 16 July, reportedly after receiving weapons as ransom. Security forces continued operations against Al-Shabaab, reportedly killing eighteen militants early July in Puntland’s Galgala hills in north; group denied any casualties. Kenyan AMISOM forces 16 July reportedly killed 40 militants in airstrikes near Garbaharey in Gedo in south west and killed senior Al-Shabaab commander Hassan Isaack Ibrahim in joint operation with Jubbaland security force in southern Gelef 19 July. U.S. airstrikes on Al-Shabaab training camp near Sakow in Middle Juba in south 2 July, on Al-Shabaab-held territory 4 July and near Tortoroow in Lower Shabelle in south 29 July killed undisclosed number of militants. U.S. and Somali forces 13 July attacked Al-Shabaab in two locations in Lower Shabelle in south, including Kunya-Barrow where they freed detainees and killed several militants; Al-Shabaab said its fighters foiled attempted attack.
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.
There is clearly an IS threat in Puntland, and the [group of former Shabaab cleric Mumin] is escalating its activities and attacks, but Al-Shabaab remains a much bigger threat in Puntland than IS does.
Somalia and the international community have a good change to take advantage of [the London Conference on Somalia], but if pledges are not followed up that will create problems for Somalia.
The Ethiopian government backed a different candidate, so there was speculation that the new Somali president may actually be hostile to Ethiopia.
Somalia has always remained strategic to the geopolitics of the region and beyond and has been gaining importance with time as the conditions in the country improve.
[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.
The 11 May 2017 London Conference on Somalia will discuss boosting humanitarian aid and security reforms that will increase the army’s numbers to 18,000. But the government must tackle corruption and restart national reconciliation if it wants to build effectively on recent progress toward ending the 25-year conflict.
Somalia has a genuine opportunity to promote needed political and security reforms following the election of a new president and renewed international interest. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union to seize the momentum by achieving consensus with its international partners on realistic goals ahead of the upcoming London Conference on Somalia in May.
Despite suffering significant blows in Syria and Iraq, jihadist movements across the Middle East, North Africa and Lake Chad regions continue to pose significant challenges. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to prioritise conflict prevention at the heart of their counter-terrorism policy and continue investment in vulnerable states.
For the first time in three decades, four countries, driven by war, verge on famine. Over coming weeks, Crisis Group will publish special briefings on Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Each conflict requires tailored response; all need increased aid and efforts to end the violence.
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.