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.
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.
Al-Shabaab maintained attacks, but at lower rate. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab militants 2 Aug killed prominent businessman and activist Mohamed Sheikh Ali, sparking protests across country and in diaspora; and 3 Aug attacked restaurant killing three civilians. In Lower Shabelle region, Al-Shabaab car bombing on military base at Afgoye, 30km north west of Mogadishu 5 Aug killed two soldiers. Govt forces foiled car bombing outside Mogadishu 14 Aug having received information from civilians, arrested five Al-Shabaab militants. Govt forces recaptured from Al-Shabaab Marka city in Lower Shabelle, on coast about 100km south west of Mogadishu 20 Aug. Puntland forces 17 Aug said they had retaken from Al-Shabaab Af Urur town without a fight. U.S. airstrikes continued: first 120km north west of Mogadishu 2 Aug killed four militants, second 46km north east of Kismayo in south 21 Aug killed two militants; third about 40km south west of Mogadishu 27 Aug killed three militants. Puntland region maintained military standoff with Somaliland over disputed territory. Following President Farmajo’s visit to Eritrea in July, Eritrean foreign minister 13 Aug visited Mogadishu to strengthen ties. Farmajo met Djiboutian President Guelleh in Djibouti 16 Aug; Somalia’s support for lifting UN sanctions on Eritrea imposed in 2009 has soured Somalia’s relations with Djibouti; UN placed sanctions on Eritrea partly because latter had not withdrawn its forces from disputed border area following clashes with Djibouti in June 2008.
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.
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
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.