Somalia stands at a critical juncture. The hopes raised in 2017 when President Mohammed Abdullahi “Farmajo” won the election – that he could unite the nation to confront its myriad challenges – have dimmed as infighting between the federal government and its member states increases. Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda franchise Al-Shabaab continues to carry out attacks in both cities and the countryside; external actors compete for influence; and both clan conflict and food insecurity persist. With federal elections approaching again in 2020 and 2021, Crisis Group aims to help the government tackle insecurity and improve governance, and the federal member states address subnational disputes. We also work to mitigate risks attending the pending drawdown of AMISOM, the African Union’s peacekeeping mission.
The International Court of Justice on 12 October handed down a decision mostly upholding Somalia’s claims in a long-running maritime border dispute with Kenya. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Meron Elias assesses the potential impact on relations between the two countries.
The Al-Shabaab insurgency is in attack mode as elections draw near in Somalia. To stop the militants from disrupting the vote, federal and regional authorities should bolster security measures around polling stations and prepare impartial means of resolving disputes that may arise over the outcome.
Somalia’s elections are fast approaching but the proper arrangements for monitoring and dispute resolution are not in place. To give authorities time to make procedural reforms, and thus lower the odds of turmoil, politicians should seek consensus behind a delay of one to three months.
Firefights have broken out between federal Somali soldiers and troops from the Jubaland region. A heightened confrontation could embolden Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency. The African Union should press Ethiopia and Kenya, which back Mogadishu and Kismayo, respectively, to coax the two sides into negotiations.
The coronavirus pandemic could pose a huge challenge to Somalia. To manage the crisis, the federal government should reach out to and coordinate with political rivals. It should avoid a unilateral postponement of elections due in November, which could trigger a violent backlash.
Somalia and Somaliland have been at odds since the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence, which the former rejects. The dispute has cooled after heating up in 2018, but lingering tensions could threaten regional stability. To restart dialogue, the two sides should meet for technical talks.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, is diminished but still potent. One understudied source of its resilience is the support of women, active and passive, despite the movement’s stringent gender ideology. Understanding the range of women’s relationships to Al-Shabaab is critical to countering the group going forward.
Al Shabaab is fully embedded in Somali society, especially in areas under their control, where local populations have little choice but to engage the group.
Through these specific talks [in Somalia], Farmajo really didn’t play much of a role, but that doesn’t mean that he permanently is sitting out the campaign period.
Any sort of miscalculation could happen [in Somalia]. It just takes one trigger-happy soldier to fire on the other side, and that's going to erupt those dynamics.
[Somalia’s election impasse] comes down to unresolved internal political tensions, but also a lack of preparation and political will.
[The U.S. war in Somalia appears to be] on autopilot [and] people need to pay attention.
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.
Could the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban just before the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks be a turning point for jihadist militancy worldwide? (Online Event, 28th September 2021)
A similar rapid collapse of state institutions awaits if Somali elites and Western governments don’t alter their approach.
Originally published in Foreign Policy
In this second episode of The Horn’s mini-series exploring jihadism along the Swahili coast, Alan Boswell talks to regional expert Samira Gaid about the evolution of Al-Shabaab and how Somalia can use external stabilisation support more effectively.
Online Event to discuss Vice News' recent documentary "Inside the U.S. War on Terror in Somalia", with input on the situation from Crisis Group's interim Vice President, Comfort Ero, and interim Chief of Policy, Steve Pomper.
This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by Mohamed Mubarak, a political and security analyst, to talk about the ongoing political crisis in Somalia, fighting in Mogadishu, and the long-term implications of the current impasse.