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Following announcement of phase two of offensive against al-Shabaab, central regions continued to be main theatre of operations; humanitarian situation remained dire amid extreme weather events and conflict.
Second phase of offensive against Al-Shabaab got off to slow start. After President Mohamud in March announced second phase of anti-Al-Shabaab offensive, progress in April remained limited in southern regions. In South West state, security forces 17 April recaptured several small villages north of Baidoa city in Bay region, including Adegeow and Tarabow. In Jubaland state, preparations continued with President Ahmed Madobe 10 April visiting recently recovered town of Janay Abdalle. Focus of operations remained country’s centre. In Galmudug state’s Galgaduud region, govt forces 7 April recaptured Galcad town and 15 April took control of Bud Bud village, which Al-Shabaab had controlled for over six years; reports suggested govt may aim to retake Ceel Buur, insurgents’ last remaining major city in area, and establish new front in western Hiraan region (Hirshabelle state). Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to challenge govt’s efforts to project its authority. In Galgaduud, militants 19 April launched raid on military base near Bud Bud, and 22 April attacked Masagawaay village causing unconfirmed number of casualties.
Govt continued efforts to secure regional support for offensive’s second phase. After Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti in Feb agreed to support Somali forces in fighting Al-Shabaab, govt early April held second “front-line states” summit, with deliberations focused on detailing plans for joint regional offensive. Countries contributing to AU transition mission 27 April agreed on procedures for drawdown of 2,000 troops by 30 June as part of mission’s coordinated exit by Dec 2024.
UN Sec Gen highlighted humanitarian crisis amid prolonged drought. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 11-12 April visited Mogadishu and camp for internally displaced persons in Baidoa city (South West state), called for increased support for 2023 humanitarian response plan for Somalia as country grapples with effects of extreme weather events and conflict. Current rainy season expected to see below average rainfall for unprecedented sixth consecutive time, while flooding in Gedo and Bay regions (both south) between mid-March and mid-April displaced 140,000.
Govt continued preparations for expansion of military operations against Al-Shabaab further south.
President Mohamud announced second phase of offensive against Al-Shabaab. National Security Adviser Hussein Sheikh Ali 1 March said Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti will deploy troops to Somalia within two months to assist efforts against Al-Shabaab. Mohamud 26 March announced official start of second phase of anti-Al-Shabaab offensive, concentrating on southern Jubaland and South West states. Govt’s efforts to reduce Al-Shabaab’s footprint in central Somalia continued at slower pace. Notably, govt forces 25 March reportedly cleared Run Nirgood district, Middle Shabelle region (Hirshabelle state), and 29 March secured several villages in El Dheere district, Galguduud region (Galmudug state).
Al-Shabaab launched multiple attacks, demonstrating continued resistance. In Jubaland, militants 7 March briefly took control of Janay Abdalle military base in Lower Juba region, using vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIEDs); 14 March launched VBIED attack targeting govt officials in Bardheere town, Gedo region, leaving several dead and injuring Gedo Governor Ahmed Bulle Gared; 29 March launched complex attack and allegedly overran army base in Kismayo district, Lower Juba. In Hirshabelle, Al-Shabaab 21 March launched suicide VBIED attack targeting local fighter base in Adan Yabal district, Middle Shabelle region, and 29 March stormed Bardhere military base, Hiraan region.
National Consultative Council took place in absence of Puntland leader. President Mohamud and federal state leaders 16 March gathered in Baidoa city for National Consultative Council (NCC) meeting marred by absence of Puntland state leader Said Deni (who suspended ties with Mogadishu in Jan). Leaders notably agreed to discuss, at next NCC in May, electoral model and timelines for next elections; all states aside from Puntland have added one year to their term, and both houses of federal parliament early March appointed committees to examine motion supporting constitutional amendment for one-year term extension of MPs and president, which opposition strongly opposes.
Drought continued to drive hunger, displacement. UN and Somali govt report released 20 March estimated that 135 people currently die each day in Somalia due to drought, with 18,100 to 34,000 drought-related deaths in first six months of 2023.
Govt and clan militia offensive against Al-Shabaab faced resistance in central states but started in southern Jubaland state; political tensions subsided in South West state.
Anti-Al-Shabaab offensive made slow progress in Galmudug, Hirshabelle states. Govt offensive against Al-Shabaab slowed in Galmudug state with govt forces focusing on clearing rural areas, particularly between Xaradheere and Bacadweyne towns in Mudug region. Amid heavy fighting, govt 10-11 Feb took back Doonlaye and Shabellow towns, and 14 Feb took control of Qeycad town, while other fronts in Galmudug remained largely stagnant. In Hirshabelle state, govt forces began pushing westward across Shabelle river and 23 Feb captured Shaw village. Al-Shabaab continued to put up significant resistance in Hirshabelle state, notably targeting Macawisley clan militia and govt position near Afcad village in Hiraan region and Eji village in Middle Shabelle region around 15 Feb. Al-Shabaab 21 Feb also attacked house reportedly hosting recuperating Macawisley members in Mogadishu, killing at least ten people.
Military operations against Al-Shabaab kicked off in southern state of Jubaland. Govt forces launched offensive in Jubaland with aim of clearing main road from state capital Kismayo to Afmadow town; Qunbi village recaptured 12 Feb. Group attempted to stymie operations in Jubaland: militants 11 Feb attacked Afmadow town with vehicle-born improvised explosive devices; temporarily took control of Bar Sanguni village 16 Feb. During Somalia-Frontline States Summit in capital Mogadishu, leaders from Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti 1 Feb vowed to support Somalia’s war with Al-Shabaab, as expansion of operations to Jubaland and South West states would likely involve Kenyan and Ethiopian bilateral forces.
Political tensions subsided in South West state. Conference to reconcile political elites in Baidoa in South West state, led by House Speaker Adan Madobe, 3 Feb concluded. Parties agreed to compensation following late Dec clashes between govt and opposition forces, while opposition accepted South West President Lafta-Gareen’s one-year term extension, with state-level presidential election to be held in Jan 2024. President Mohamud attended closing ceremony, stressing need to resolve political tensions in order to maintain pressure on Al-Shabaab.
As govt offensive against Al-Shabaab shifted to Galmudug state, group launched series of attacks to undermine govt’s territorial gains in Hirshabelle state; Puntland state suspended ties with Mogadishu.
Anti-Al-Shabaab offensive shifted to Galmudug. Govt forces made progress in Galmudug state, capturing towns of Massargaweyne 1 Jan, Barag Sheikh Amir 15 Jan, Galcad next day, and more significantly Ceel Dheere 17 Jan. Military also pushed south from Hobyo and Wisil towns, taking control of Ceel Huur town 14 Jan and strategic Xarardheere town (which had been major centre of Al-Shabaab activity) 16 Jan. Al-Shabaab militants 20 Jan stormed military base in Galcad town; govt reported seven soldiers and 100 Al-Shabaab killed, but militants claimed significant losses on govt side.
Al-Shabaab increased attacks in Hirshabelle following govt’s gains there. Al-Shabaab launched series of deadly improvised explosive device attacks both along main Jowhar-Beledweyne route and near border with Galmudug, temporarily overrunning some army positions. Notably, group 4-17 Jan targeted Mahas, Jalalaqsi, Bulobarde and Halgan towns as well as Hilowle-Gaab and Hawaddley villages. Al-Shabaab also maintained pressure in Hirshabelle by raiding clan militia positions in Dudan Dad village 4 Jan and Tabantab village 13 Jan, and by attacking civilians accused of supporting govt forces and clan militias in Beer Xano village 2 Jan, and El Xeero village 11 Jan. Meanwhile, suicide bombers 22 Jan attacked Banadir regional office in Mogadishu, killing at least six.
Puntland state suspended relations with Mogadishu. Puntland state govt 9 Jan announced it would operate as autonomous entity until Somalia’s provisional constitution is finalised, collaborating with Mogadishu only on humanitarian affairs. Separately, series of small-scale grenade attacks in first half of Jan took place in Bosasso city following onset of voter registration for “one person one vote” polls at district level.
In other important developments. Approximately 2,000 (out of 5,000) Somali troops trained in Eritrea returned starting 21 Dec. After political dispute over South West state President Lafta-Gareen’s term extension in Dec turned violent, reconciliation conference organised by national Lower House Speaker Aden Madobe and attended by President Mohamud 16 Jan kicked off in state’s largest city Baidoa.
Govt offensive against Al-Shabaab made significant advances notably in Hirshabelle state; political dispute in South West state turned violent.
Govt forces and allies solidified gains against Al-Shabaab in central regions. Middle Shabelle region of Hirshabelle state cleared from Al-Shabaab after govt forces and local clan militiamen around 3 Dec captured group’s regional headquarters at Adan Yabal town and 22 Dec took over Runirgod town (Al-Shabaab’s last remaining stronghold in Middle Shabelle). PM Hamza Abdi Barre 14 Dec visited Adan Yabal, most significant town taken from Al-Shabaab to date. Capture of Runirgod allowed forces to move further into Galmudug state by late Dec, including to Galcad area (Galgaduud region) 27 Dec; other fronts in Galmudug however saw little progress. In South West state, govt forces in Dec recaptured Daynuunay village and Goofgaduud town (Bay region) after recent Al-Shabaab advances, but situation remained precarious with Al-Shabaab 28 Dec temporarily occupying Goofgaduud again.
Violence erupted in South West state amid dispute over president’s term extension. Clashes 23 Dec broke out in South West state’s largest city, Baidoa, between state security forces and militia protecting local opposition figure who argues President Lafta-Gareen’s term has expired; at least two civilians killed. After mediation by Lower House Speaker Adan Madobe, Lafta-Gareen and leading state opposition figures agreed to reconciliation meeting on 5 Jan.
Federal govt pursued rapprochement with member states, sought foreign support. During National Consultative Council meeting, President Mohamud and federal member states 25-28 Dec agreed on federalising judiciary, sharing power in line with federal constitution and strengthening operations against Al-Shabaab; Puntland state requested more time to study proposals. Mohamud solicited further foreign support to fight Al-Shabaab, travelling to Djibouti 6 Dec to attend regional forum; to Saudi Arabia 9 Dec for China-Arab summit, and to U.S. 13-15 Dec for U.S.-Africa Leaders summit.
In other important developments. Mohamud early Dec discussed resuming Somalia-Somaliland reconciliation talks with Norway-Türkyie delegation, and deadly clashes late Dec erupted between Somaliland security forces and protesters in area claimed by Puntland (see Somaliland). UN experts 13 Dec said over 8mn Somalis badly food insecure, and 700,000 at risk of famine between April and June.
Federal govt’s clan-based offensive against Al-Shabaab faced setbacks amid resistance from militants; Mogadishu continued to prioritise cordial relations with member states.
Offensive against Al-Shabaab in central regions slowed down. In Galguduud region, govt forces 9 Nov captured Wabxo town, 11 Nov pulled out allowing Al-Shabaab to re-capture town; major Al-Shabaab assault 7 Nov temporarily displaced govt forces from Qayib town, while govt forces 25 Nov repelled Al-Shabaab assault on Qayib. In Middle Shabelle region, govt forces 3 Nov captured El Harereri town, 17 Nov took control of Cad Caddey village. Use of U.S. and Turkish drones reportedly supported govt forces’ advance in Middle Shabelle, while outbreak of clan conflict between two Abgaal sub-clans in Adale district from mid-Nov hampered efforts. In Hiraan region, govt forces focused on shoring up gains south of Beledweyne city and preventing Al-Shabaab infiltration from across western side of Shabelle river; military 11 Nov foiled large-scale Al-Shabaab assault on govt forces in Burdaar area. Al-Shabaab continued attacks in urban centres. Notably, militants 27-28 Nov laid siege to hotel near presidential palace in capital Mogadishu, killing at least eight people.
President Mohamud invested in good relations with members states and regional partners. Mohamud late Nov travelled to war’s front lines in Galmudug and Hirshabelle states in effort to reinvigorate offensive against Al-Shabaab. Earlier, federal govt and member state leaders 27-31 Oct met in Mogadishu for third time since Mohamud took office in May; leaders agreed to share funds that federal govt recently received from international actors, and all member states committed to participate in operations against Al-Shabaab. As part of Mogadishu’s efforts to find regional support to further develop security institutions and bolster current offensive, defence ministry 2 Nov and National Intelligence Service Agency 5 Nov signed agreements with Sudanese and Ethiopian counterparts, respectively.
Humanitarian situation remained dreadful. Mohamud 15 Nov told MPs that record drought had devastated country’s economy and acknowledged looming famine in parts of country as UN agencies continued to warn that 6.7mn people face severe food insecurity. In report released 14 Nov, UN human rights office said Al-Shabaab is exacerbating impact of drought and risk of famine, including by destroying wells and other essential infrastructure.
Military offensive against Al-Shabaab continued mainly in central regions; in response, group launched deadliest attack in five years, leaving 120 dead.
Govt forces and allies continued to take back rural areas from Al-Shabaab in centre. Intense fighting continued in Hirshabelle state’s Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions. In Hiraan, military and local Ma’awisley militiamen engaged Al-Shabaab in Bulobarde and Beledweyne districts, reportedly killing over 200 Al-Shabaab militants around 9 Oct near Jicibow town in Bulobarde district. In Middle Shabelle, govt forces and local militia 15-18 Oct wrestled control of multiple villages notably in Bal’ad district; 20 Oct cleared several villages in Adale district; 22-30 Oct cleared Al-Shabaab stronghold of Cali Gadud (also Adale), with over 100 militants reportedly killed. In Galmudug state, govt forces and allies 25 Oct captured Qayib town, Galgadud region, reportedly killing dozens of Al-Shabaab militants. Lower-scale operations also continued in South West state to clear Al-Shabaab-controlled areas around Buur Hakaba and Qansadheere towns in Bay region as local population continued to face major food insecurity.
Al-Shabaab conducted large-scale, exceptionally deadly attacks. In deadliest attack in country since 2017, Al-Shabaab 29 Oct launched twin bombing at busy Kilometer 4/Zoobe junction in capital Mogadishu, leaving at least 120 dead. In Hiraan, Al-Shabaab launched bomb attacks against govt and security targets in Beledweyne city 3 Oct, and in Bulobarde and Jalalaqsi towns 19 Oct, killing over 40. In Jubaland state’s Lower Juba region, Al-Shabaab 23 Oct laid siege to hotel in Kismayo city, killing nine civilians. Meanwhile in South West state’s Bakool region near Ethiopian border, fighting between Al-Shabaab militants and Ethiopian Liyu police forces in Rab Dhuure district 1-7 Oct allegedly resulted in over 100 fatalities on both sides.
Discontent rose in Puntland state over presidential term. Puntland President Said Deni in Sept replaced mayors of Puntland’s major cities and key officials in his cabinet, and late Oct appointed new judicial and security officials. Former Puntland Presidents Abdirahman Mohamad Farole and Abdiweli Gaas 7 Oct accused Deni of planning to extend his term beyond elections scheduled for Jan 2024; dispute follows recent term extensions in other federal member states.
As famine looms in country’s south, centre-periphery tensions persisted over resource-sharing, and govt forces gained ground in large-scale offensive against Al-Shabaab in central regions.Relations between Mogadishu and federal member states remained strained. After member state finance ministers late Aug threatened to stop cooperation with federal finance ministry amid disagreement over resource sharing, federal and state finance ministers 13 Sept met in capital Mogadishu, agreed on allocation of $94mn disbursement from World Bank. State humanitarian ministries 14 Sept complained they had not received funding that United Arab Emirates had allocated to Mogadishu three months ago; PM’s office pledged to address issue. State-level term extensions continued with Galmudug state parliament 13 Sept adding a year to terms of state president, govt and parliament.Clan militias and govt forces made gains against Al-Shabaab in central regions. Federal govt 25 Sept said army and local clan militiamen had recaptured 40 settlements in Hiraan region and six in Galgaduud region in less than three weeks. Notably in Hiraan, national army reported 43 Al-Shabaab killed 16-17 Sept on outskirts of Bulobarde town; U.S. airstrike 18 Sept also killed 27 militants near Bulobarde. Govt forces and local clan militia around 20 Sept also recaptured strategic town of Booco in Hiraan. Further south, local militia 26 Sept reportedly captured four settlements on outskirts of South West state capital Baidoa (Bay region) with support of national forces. Al-Shabaab responded with punitive actions against communities from which militias hail. Notably, Al-Shabaab fighters overnight 2-3 Sept killed at least 19 people on Beledweyne-Mahas axis in Hiraan; suicide bombing 25 Sept targeted military facility in Wadajir district of Mogadishu, killing up to 15 people.Hundreds of thousands could die from hunger before year’s end. U.S. Development Agency’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network 5 Sept said famine projected before Dec in southern Bay region. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths same day warned “famine is at the door” as drought worsens and global food prices surge. UN children’s agency 13 Sept reported over 500,000 Somali children under five expected to risk death from famine this year, number unseen in any country this century.
Al-Shabaab killed over 20 in first major assault in capital Mogadishu since President Mohamud returned to power; emerging political dispute in South West and Jubaland states could provide early test for Mohamud to prevent discord with federal member states. Al-Shabaab militants 19 Aug launched complex attack on Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 21 during 30-hour siege; Mohamud in following hours declared “all-out war” against group. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab’s late July incursion into Ethiopia brought about swift reaction to stymie movement. Ethiopian airstrikes 29 July-7 Aug targeted multiple locations in Somalia for first time in years, and Ethiopian troops early Aug reportedly deployed around Doolow town in Gedo region to prevent militants from crossing over into Ethiopia. Ethiopian military officials around 2 Aug also visited Beledweyne and Baidoa cities for security discussions with Somali actors. Govt forces operation targeting Al-Shabaab in Mataban and Mahas districts of Hiraan region also picked up in Aug, supported by U.S. airstrikes that killed at least 17 militants 9 and 14 Aug. Govt forces 15 Aug said they captured group’s stronghold outside Mahas town in Hiraan. On political front, PM Hamza Barre 2 Aug unveiled 75-member cabinet, with most members belonging to Mohamud’s Union for Peace and Development Party. In line with Mohamud’s determination to combat Al-Shabaab beyond military means, former top Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow was appointed religion minister. Parliament 7 Aug approved cabinet as Al-Shabaab fired mortar shells near govt complex in Mogadishu. State-level term extensions likely to form early challenge for Mohamud’s govt. In South West state, President Abdiaziz Lafta-Gareen, who argues state parliament extended his term by one year until Dec 2023 in order to align with its own elections, faced growing opposition; several prominent politicians in July formed new grouping, South West Salvation Council, to oppose term extension and demand elections in Dec 2022. Jubaland’s parliament 21 Aug also extended its administration by one year, pushing prospective elections back from Aug 2023 to Aug 2024. Mohamud 25-29 Aug travelled to Puntland state’s capital Garowe for discussions with Puntland leadership about its relations with federal govt.
President Mohamud went on regional tour to reset foreign policy; deadly firefight erupted between Puntland state security units; Al-Shabaab targeted Ethiopian police units near and across border with Ethiopia. Mohamud in July travelled to Turkey, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania and Egypt in search of external support ahead of implementing ambitious internal agenda, including on security. During 9-12 July visit to Eritrea, Mohamud notably visited Somali troops undergoing military training in Eritrea since 2019, amid long-running controversy around program participants’ alleged deployment in Ethiopia’s Tigray region; later renewed pledge to bring soldiers home. In Kenya, Mohamud 15 July signed 11-point agreement aimed at improving ties with neighbour, including resuming trade of khat stimulant and flights by Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways to Mogadishu. Security incident highlighted ongoing fault lines in Puntland state following Puntland leader Said Deni’s failed bid to become president in May, along with Puntland’s uneasiness with federal govt. Puntland Security Force (PSF) 11 July clashed with Puntland Maritime Police Force at Bosasso airport (Bari region) during landing clearance dispute for aircraft carrying federal parliament’s Lower House deputy speaker and then-acting Somali president, Sadia Samatar, leaving about 20 people dead. Meanwhile in South West state, Al-Shabaab launched most significant attack along Ethiopian border in years before making rare incursions into Ethiopia (see Ethiopia): up to hundreds of Al-Shabaab militants 20 July clashed with Ethiopian police units in Yeed and Aato villages, Bakool region; security officials claimed 17 Ethiopian police officers and 63 Al-Shabaab killed. Renewed clashes reported 29 July in Aato. Also in South West state, explosive attacks in Marka and Afgoye towns (Lower Shabelle region) 27 July killed at least 16, including Marka’s district commissioner. Elsewhere, Al-Shabaab 17 July detonated vehicle packed with explosives at hotel in Jowhar city (Middle Shabelle region), where Hirshabelle state officials were meeting, leaving up to seven dead and others injured. U.S. military killed two Al-Shabaab fighters in 17 July airstrike in Jubaland state.
Newly elected president took steps to mend ties with regional member states and appointed new PM; Al-Shabaab suffered major defeat in Galmudug state; risk of famine persisted. In effort to reset relations between federal govt and member states, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud late May-early June travelled to South West and Galmudug states, whose leaders had been aligned with former President Farmajo. First meeting of National Consultative Council, consisting of president and member state leaders, 11-12 June took place in capital Mogadishu; participants agreed on seven-point agenda for new administration, including finalising constitution, pursuing security reforms, deepening federalism and focusing on reconciliation. Mohamud 15 June appointed experienced politician and MP representing Jubaland state, Hamza Abdi Barre, as PM; parliament 25 June approved Barre’s appointment. Some Farmajo supporters appeared inclined to challenge Mohamud’s tenure. Notably, former intelligence chief Fahad Yasin mid-June released series of interviews taking aim at govt officials, including his replacement, whom he accused of plotting political assassinations. Meanwhile, suspected Al-Shabaab combatants overnight 8-9 June launched nine mortars on airport compound in Mogadishu, which hours later hosted Mohamud’s inauguration ceremony. Galmudug state said armed residents and local security forces 17 June repulsed Al-Shabaab raid on Bahdo town, killing up to 70 militants. Army mid-June started operations against Al-Shabaab in Mataban district of Hiraan region (Hirshabelle state) following militant group’s recent gains in area. U.S. 3 June conducted first drone strike under Mohamud’s presidency near Beer Xaani village in Lower Juba region (Jubaland state), reportedly killing five Al-Shabaab. In departure from previous public statements, senior Al-Shabaab member Mahad Karate told British TV broadcaster Channel 4 in video released 15 June that group could consider negotiations with govt when time is right. Mohamud in interview with The Economist published 2 June said he intends to launch big offensive to contain and push back Al-Shabaab, then engage in talks. UN agencies 6 June said over 200,000 Somalis at risk of starvation and 7.1mn or nearly half the population faced with acute levels of food insecurity as drought worsens and global food prices hover near record highs.
Prolonged electoral cycle concluded with presidential election and peaceful transfer of power; Al-Shabaab launched largest attack on African Union mission since 2019. Presidential vote, 15 months overdue, unfolded smoothly after contentious run-up. Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud 15 May won presidential contest after defeating incumbent President Farmajo in third round of vote held in capital Mogadishu. Farmajo next day conceded defeat and congratulated Mohamud, urging support for incoming administration. Handover ceremony from Farmajo to Mohamud held 23 May in Mogadishu; UN Sec-Gen’s Special Representative for Somalia James Swan same day hailed peaceful transfer of power. In run-up to vote, unrest within member states pointed to high levels of discontent emerging from electoral cycle. After parallel elections in Gedo region in April resulted in two sets of MPs – one elected in Ceel Waaq city and politically aligned with Jubaland administration, and another elected in Garbaharey city and aligned with Farmajo administration – new Lower House Speaker Adan Madobe 7 May certified those from Ceel Waaq. Meanwhile, Puntland VP Ahmed Karash late April-early May replaced state officials and ministers close to Puntland President Said Deni, who had travelled to Mogadishu to run for president. In Galmudug state, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia fighters 13 May entered state capital Dhusamareb, clashing with state forces; ASWJ subsequently retreated, with local reports claiming up to 12 killed on both sides. Al-Shabaab 3 May launched large-scale offensive against AU Transition Mission (ATMIS) base in Ceel Baraf village, Middle Shabelle region, killing at least 30 Burundian peacekeepers; militants remained in control of outpost until 17 May. Al-Shabaab 15 May launched mortar attack on presidential election venue in Mogadishu, leaving no casualties. Meanwhile, U.S. administration 16 May announced it will return approximately 450 troops to Somalia, reversing his predecessor Donald Trump’s 2020 decision.
Election process made significant progress as both houses of parliament selected speakers, paving way for presidential vote; Al-Shabaab attacks continued; and UN agencies warned of risk of famine. In major step forward for electoral cycle, approximately 290 out of 329 members of parliament sworn in 14 April, meeting PM Mohamed Hussein Roble’s deadline. Swearing in took place after Roble 5 April removed two federal electoral body officials who opposed his actions, and 13 April found last-minute agreement on some disputed seats with South West state President Abdiaziz Laftagareen. Dispute over selection of Lower House seats representing Jubaland’s Gedo region led to parallel elections around 22-23 April: 16 lawmakers selected in Ceel Waaq city with support from Roble; another set of 16 MPs selected in Garbaharey city with support from President Farmajo. Selection of parliament leadership went ahead despite concerns over security and location of vote: Senator Abdi Hashi Abdullahi re-elected 26 April as Upper House Speaker, while Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur (Madobe) 28 April became Lower House Speaker. AU Transition Mission (ATMIS) got off to bumpy start: after mission 1 April officially began operations, taking over from AMISOM, Roble 6 April declared mission’s head Francisco Madeira persona non grata, accusing him of “engaging in acts that are incompatible with his status”; Farmajo immediately challenged move. Al-Shabaab conducted several attacks in capital Mogadishu, notably firing mortar shells at complex hosting parliament during 14 April swearing-in ceremony; group 18 April again targeted complex during parliamentary meeting; suicide attack at popular restaurant 22 April killed at least six. In Hirshabelle state in centre, Al-Shabaab continued to demonstrate its presence in Hiraan region, temporarily seizing town of Mataban on 18 and 23 April; at least ten soldiers killed 30 April in roadside explosion in Middle Shabelle region. In Bay region (South West state in south), Al-Shabaab around 12 April clashed with Ethiopian contingent of ATMIS and govt forces in Tugaar-Hoosle area; at least ten al-Shabaab reportedly killed. Amid worsening drought, several UN agencies 12 April said nearly 6mn people, roughly 40% of country’s population, face extreme levels of food insecurity with “pockets of famine conditions” likely in six areas.
Al-Shabaab launched deadliest attack to date on election venues leaving almost 50 killed, while Lower House elections inched forward. Al-Shabaab 23 March launched twin suicide attacks near election venue in Hirshabelle state’s Beledweyne city, killing at least 48 including current MP Amina Mohamed Abdi. Al-Shabaab same day raided Mogadishu’s Halane airport compound, breaching airport perimeter for first time since 2014 and killing at least six, including five foreign nationals. Al-Shabaab militants 7 and 15 March also shot dead two electoral delegates in Lower Shabelle region (South West state) and capital Mogadishu respectively. Mortar shelling between Al-Shabaab militants and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers on outskirts of Janaale town in Lower Shabelle 8 March left at least five civilians dead. Meanwhile, South West and Galmudug states concluded Lower House elections by 15 March deadline. Puntland state later in month also concluded elections after state President Said Abdullahi Deni 4 March agreed to reinstate Gen Mohamud Abdullahi as head of Puntland Security Force, allowing selection of all 16 seats in Bosasso city next day. Twenty-six seats remained unfulfilled in Jubaland and Hirshabelle states by month’s end. Power struggle between Hirshabelle President Ali Guudlawe and VP Yusuf Dabageed complicated selection of seats in Beledweyne city. Amid wider dispute between Jubaland and federal govts over Gedo region, Garbaharey city’s 16 seats remained problematic: in response to Jubaland administration seeking to shift voting location to Ceel Waaq city in Gedo, federally-appointed governor of Gedo Ahmed Buulle Gareed 16 March said all of Jubaland’s 43 seats should be moved to Garbaharey, implying non-recognition of seats already filled in Kismayo city. Meanwhile, federal election body 15 March set 14 April for swearing-in of elected MPs, but South West and Galmudug states immediately said National Consultative Council (comprising federal and state leaders) should set date instead. U.S. 16 March expanded number of Somalis subject to visa restrictions for “undermining the democratic process”. UN Security Council 31 March endorsed African Union (AU)’s new transitional mission in Somalia, replacing AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), authorised it to take action against al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups.
Authorities extended Lower House elections deadline amid ongoing manipulation and interference; Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks in bid to disrupt electoral process. As federal and member state leaders focused on installing loyalists as future MPs, including active intelligence and security officials, dispute emerged over selection of former intelligence agency (NISA) chief Fahad Yasin as new MP in Hiraan region’s capital Beledweyne: federal electoral commission mid-Feb suspended voting for seat citing allegations of interference, but state commission went ahead resulting in Yasin’s selection 20 Feb; federal commission next day declared vote null and void. Voting in Feb shifted from state capitals to secondary locations, with first vote outside state capitals held 9-10 Feb in South West state’s Barawe city; Jubaland govt officials and MPs 13 Feb said elections cannot take place under current conditions in Gedo region’s Garbaharey city, citing challenges including alleged presence of NISA agents there. Meanwhile, tensions persisted in Beledweyne after federal security forces late Jan deployed to city to facilitate Hirshabelle President Ali Guudlaawe’s visit and initiation of polls: clash between federal Police Special Operations Battalion (Haramcad) and local police forces 17 Feb left local police commander dead. As authorities failed to complete Lower House elections by 25 Feb deadline, National Consultative Council (which comprises federal and state govt leaders) 24 Feb extended electoral deadline to 15 March. In response, U.S. 25 Feb imposed visa restrictions on individuals accused of undermining elections “to promote accountability for their obstructionist actions”. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab stepped up violence targeting electoral participants and election venues. Notably, mortars 9 Feb temporarily disrupted voting in Barawe city. In capital Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bomber 10 Feb targeted convoy of Somaliland election delegates near presidential palace, killing eight people; Al-Shabaab 16 Feb launched series of attacks – its most coordinated in capital in at least a year – targeting police stations, security checkpoints and govt officials, killing dozen people. Suicide blast 19 Feb killed at least 13 people including Lower House election candidates in Beledweyne. U.S. 22 Feb conducted first drone strike against Al-Shabaab in Somalia since Aug, in Duduble area, north west of Mogadishu.
As long-delayed electoral process inched forward, tensions ran high in Puntland and Hirshabelle states, and deadly Al-Shabaab attacks continued. PM Roble 9 Jan struck deal with state leaders to complete long-delayed Lower House elections by 25 Feb; further slippage likely, however, as only a quarter of seats selected by late Jan. Leaders same day also re-committed to addressing political interference in elections, signalling little meaningful effort to counter ongoing manipulation. PM Roble pursued efforts to gain upper hand in power struggle with President Farmajo: Internal Security Minister and Roble ally Abdullahi Mohamed Nur 1 Jan ordered intelligence agency acting head and Farmajo ally Yasin Abdullahi Farey to withdraw officers from Mogadishu Airport; Roble 23 Jan reversed controversial Farmajo decision to designate Ogaden National Liberation Front (nationalist movement seeking self-determination for ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia) as terrorist organisation. Amid standoff between Puntland state President Deni and former Puntland Security Forces Commander Mohamoud Osman Diyano, violence continued in Puntland’s Bosasso city: two grenades 16 Jan exploded, killing one, and bomb blast 26 Jan killed one and injured another two. In Hirshabelle state, fighting 30 Dec-2 Jan erupted in Hiraan region’s capital Beledweyne between forces loyal to Hiraan Governor Ali Jeyte and Hirshabelle President Guudlaawe on one hand, and local militia on the other, reportedly leaving eight killed. Federal security forces 26 Jan deployed to city following fruitless efforts to reach accommodation; Roble stated he did not authorise operation, raising doubts over military discipline. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab continued to extend territorial reach. Group early Jan advanced on Balcad-Jowhar road in Middle Shabelle region (Hirshabelle state) and temporarily took over Baxdo and Cada Kibir villages in Galguduud region, signalling continued expansion of operating radius within Galmudug state. Al-Shabaab also launched series of attacks in capital Mogadishu. Notably, car bomb 12 Jan killed at least eight people outside airport compound; suicide bombing 16 Jan seriously injured govt spokesperson Mohamed Moalimmu on Maka al-Mukarama road; and suspected militants 22 Jan shot and killed former Hiraan Governor Abdirahman Ibrahim Ma’ow, who was running for Hirshabelle MP, in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district.
President Farmajo suspended PM Roble, escalating months-long crisis over delays in ongoing elections and raising risk of renewed violence in capital Mogadishu. Farmajo and Roble’s offices 26 Dec traded accusations of holding up ongoing legislative elections: Farmajo’s office said Roble was “posing a serious threat to the electoral process and overstepping his mandate”; Roble’s office hit back saying president had spent “so much time, energy and finances in frustrating” elections. Farmajo overnight 26-27 Dec suspended Roble’s powers citing allegations of corruption and misappropriation of public funds. Roble 27 Dec accused Farmajo of attempting to “militarily take over” PM’s office and vowed to continue his duties. Assistant Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Omar Adala same day labelled president’s decision “indirect coup”. U.S. embassy same day urged both leaders “to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions” and “avoid violence”. Earlier in month, fighting 21-22 Dec erupted in Puntland state’s port town of Bosasso between special unit Puntland Security Forces (PSF) and region’s regular security forces, leaving at least 14 killed and 63 injured; Puntland’s govt 22 Dec announced ceasefire; clashes followed Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni’s late Nov dismissal of PSF commander Mohamoud Osman Diyano in likely attempt to assert greater control ahead of Lower House elections in Bosasso. Lower House election process continued to be marred by high level of manipulation, notably by federal member state leaders, including denying candidates right to register, bypassing clan elders and substituting clan delegates, all in order to ensure pre-determined candidates emerge victorious. Political opposition late Nov-early Dec threatened not to recognise results without changes. Only 24 of 275 representatives elected by 24 Dec deadline for completing process. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to present significant security threat. Group advanced along Beledweyne-Dhusamareb route, briefly taking control of Mataban town 13 Dec and Ceel Dheere town 15 Dec. Mortar attack directed against AU mission AMISOM base in Beledweyne town (Hiran region) 1 Dec killed three children. In Middle Shabelle region, IED 11 Dec targeted MPs and killed elder in regional capital Jowhar, and twin blasts targeting AMISOM same day reportedly killed four in Buurane and Mahadey areas.
In new setback, tensions rose as opposition denounced manipulation of Lower House election process; calm returned to Galmudug state, and Al-Shabaab maintained attacks notably in capital Mogadishu. Upper House 13 Nov filled last two remaining seats, completing 3.5-month-long election process. More complex Lower House elections 1 Nov kicked off slowly. Federal election committee 11 Nov announced new timeline for completion of Lower House process between 16 Nov and 24 Dec, which PM Roble endorsed same day. Opposition later in month voiced concerns regarding legitimacy of process amid reports of significant manipulation and interference in approximately two dozen seats filled by month’s end, raising risk of new electoral impasse. Following truce agreed in Oct between President Farmajo and Roble, Farmajo’s pick for intelligence chief remained in place, while Roble’s choice for minister of internal security also kept his position; accommodation allows Farmajo to retain influence over National Intelligence and Security Agency and possibly use it to support his re-election campaign. Calm returned to Galmudug state following heavy fighting between Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia and Galmudug forces, backed by federal forces, in and around Guricel town in Oct; wider mediation to reach agreement between Galmudug administration and ASWJ over latter’s status however stalled by mid-Nov, raising possibility of further clashes. Attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group continued. In capital Mogadishu, suicide attacks 11 Nov killed three including two civilians in Wadajir district, and 25 Nov killed eight and left 17 injured including schoolchildren in Hodan district. Also in Mogadishu, unidentified assailants 17 Nov killed traditional elder at his house in Yaqshid district, raising concern over protection of elders and delegates during electoral cycle. Elsewhere, bomb blast 19 Nov killed at least seven civilians in Bardale town, Bay region in South West state. Al-Shabaab late-Nov also launched two attacks in South West state’s capital Baidoa in alleged attempt to disrupt Lower House elections there: attack on military base and airport 30 Nov reportedly killed at least one soldier and one civilian. Mogadishu 4 Nov ordered AU Envoy Simon Mulongo to leave country, citing activities incompatible with AU mission’s mandate.
Electoral process inched forward while leadership tussle quietened, ASWJ militia re-emerged in centre, and Al-Shabaab attacks continued notably in capital Mogadishu. Following weeks-long tussle between President Farmajo and PM Roble, leaders 21 Oct agreed to move on and focus on accelerating long-delayed electoral cycle. Upper House elections progressed with Somaliland, Hirshabelle and Jubaland states completing process. By month’s end, only two seats for Galmudug state remained open. More complex Lower House process remained behind schedule due to technical, logistical and political issues, but expected to kick off 1 Nov. Meanwhile, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia re-emerged in Galmudug state. ASWJ early Oct captured Galguduud region’s Guricel and Ceel Dheer cities along main road to Galmudug state capital Dhusamareb, and Mataban town in Hirshabelle state’s Hiraan region. Galmudug Security Minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi 7 Oct resigned, claiming Galmudug President Ahmed “Qoor Qoor” had chosen conflict rather than dialogue. ASWJ mid-Oct withdrew from Ceel Dheer and Mataban to concentrate forces around Guricel, leading to fierce fighting with Galmudug and federal forces; senior ASWJ official said 120 people killed in Guricel district 23-25 Oct, while Galmudug state said 16 soldiers killed in three days of fighting; UN 26 Oct recorded at least 100,000 displaced. Al-Shabaab attacks continued in Mogadishu. Notably, suicide vest attack at restaurant in Yaqshid district 12 Oct left at least three people dead. IED explosion same day targeted security forces convoy in Daynile district, leaving intelligence officer and two bodyguards killed. In Hirshabelle state capital Jowhar, IED likely planted by Al-Shabaab 5 Oct targeted members of state parliament returning from celebration of Hirshabelle’s five-year anniversary, reportedly injuring two; attack demonstrates group’s persistent determination to undermine even symbolic govt achievements. Al-Shabaab 30 Oct reportedly killed two soldiers in Bari region. AU Mission in Somalia 25 Oct said it had regained control of Basra area from Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle region jointly with govt forces 16-22 Oct. Roble 5 Oct condemned “inhuman and irregular” evictions of Somali nationals from contested areas by Somaliland authorities (see Somaliland). International Court of Justice 12 Oct issued ruling over Kenya-Somalia’s maritime border, sparking Nairobi’s ire (see Kenya).
Power struggle between President Farmajo and PM Roble escalated, putting at risk electoral progress; dispute could spark violence in capital Mogadishu. After weeks of mounting tensions between Farmajo and Roble, who has been in charge of election preparations since May, Roble 6 Sept suspended Fahad Yasin, head of National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and Farmajo’s close ally, and appointed replacement, citing NISA’s failure to investigate case of missing intelligence officer. Farmajo next day moved Fahad to post of national security adviser and designated Fahad’s confidant Yasin Abdullahi Farey as interim NISA head. Farey 8 Sept moved to take control of NISA headquarters in Mogadishu, immediately prompting face-off between rival NISA units; outnumbered pro-Farmajo forces eventually backed down. Roble later same day replaced security minister – who oversees NISA – signalling further jockeying for control of institution; 12 Sept suspended withdrawal of funds from govt accounts without PM’s consent. Farmajo 16 Sept suspended Roble’s executive powers, accusing him of violating constitution; Roble immediately rejected order. UN Security Council 18 Sept urged feuding leaders to settle dispute and give top priority to holding elections this year. Electoral cycle remained behind schedule with Upper House elections still ongoing by month’s end. Authorities 6 Sept delayed selection of Lower House representatives to Nov without specifying new date for presidential election, which had been scheduled for 10 Oct. Following progress in resolving dispute over Somaliland’s election process between Upper House Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi and Deputy PM Mahdi Guled, delegates from Somaliland 29-30 Sept elected 11 senators to serve in next federal parliament. Deadly attacks by Al-Shabaab continued. In Mogadishu, suicide attack near Halane airport compound 14 Sept killed at least ten, and suicide car bomb near president’s residence 25 Sept killed at least another ten. Group demonstrated its capacity to undertake mortar attacks throughout country, with incidents recorded in Middle Shabelle, Gedo and Bari regions in Sept; also continued to impose blockade on urban centres in Bakool region, notably Huddur and Wajid, causing food shortages. Meanwhile, clashes 30 Sept broke out between Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a (ASWJ) militia and Galmudug state forces in Bohol area (Galgaduud region).
Electoral cycle remained behind schedule while Al-Shabaab attacks and counter-offensives continued. South West, Puntland and Galmudug states early to mid-Aug held delayed Senate elections, after electoral cycle kicked off in Jubaland 29 July; elections in Hirshabelle and Somaliland yet to start; only 29 out of 54 senators chosen by month’s end. Electoral process continued to face several hurdles; notably, pro and anti-federal govt supporters continued to spar for control of Somaliland process; bloc of 15 presidential candidates 23 Aug rejected new election procedures agreed by federal govt and member states previous day, arguing process gives state leaders too much power in selecting electoral delegates tasked with appointing lower house MPs; candidates and state leaders 24 Aug formed technical committee to resolve disagreement. Relations between President Farmajo and PM Roble soured; notably, in apparent bid to undermine Roble’s 10 Aug visit to neighbouring Kenya, Farmajo 6 Aug issued decree barring govt from entering new economic, political and security agreements with foreign countries during electoral period, which Roble 8 Aug dismissed. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, in capital Mogadishu, suicide bombing 19 Aug killed at least two; in Lower Shabelle region, security forces 20 Aug reportedly repelled two attacks on Sabiid and Anole districts, killing 60 militants. Militants launched offensives in Galmudug state’s Mudug region, killing eight civilians near Baladweyne town 10 Aug and at least two civilians and four soldiers in Amara town 24 Aug; latter attack reportedly prompted same day U.S. airstrike in Galmudug which allegedly killed at least 90 militants; Galmudug authorities 28 Aug denied Al-Shabaab took over several areas, including Amara and Bacadweyne towns, after govt forces withdrew. Armed forces 16 Aug claimed to have killed over 250 militants across country in previous weeks. AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) 21 Aug said it was investigating reports that its troops were responsible for death of seven civilians in Lower Shabelle region 10 Aug; PM Roble same day ordered probe into killings. In Bari region, suspected Islamic State - Somalia militants 18 Aug reportedly temporarily seized Balidhidin town, killing mayor and several civilians.
As long-awaited elections faced new delays, Al-Shabaab attacks and counter-offensives continued, leaving scores dead. Most federal member states failed to form local selection committees and submit candidates’ lists in time for Senate election to take place 25-28 July as planned. Earlier in month, federal electoral commission 4 July elected Mohamed Hassan Irro as chair, finalising its composition. Electoral process continued to face several hurdles, however; notably, Senate speaker Abdi Hashi and Deputy PM Mahdi Guled throughout month continued to spar for control of local selection committee for Somaliland; opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates 18 July expressed concern that electoral preparations remained incomplete and federal govt had not done enough to guarantee free and fair polls. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab 20 July threatened to target electoral authorities and continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, in capital Mogadishu, suicide bombings killed at least ten people 2 July and at least another nine 10 July; latter attack reportedly targeted Mogadishu police chief Farhan Qarole, who survived unharmed. In Jubaland state, suspected Al-Shabaab explosive device 30 July killed at least five civilians in Kismayo city. Clashes between suspected Al-Shaabab militants on one side and security forces and AU mission troops on the other 13 July reportedly left 11 militants and seven security forces dead in Kuday village, Lower Juba region. Security forces 4-29 July reportedly killed dozens of Al-Shabaab combatants in centre and south, including 15 in Galguduud region 4 July, 35 in Mudug region 19 July, and another 30 in Hiraan region 26-29 July. Following six-month hiatus, U.S. airstrikes 20 and 23 July killed unknown number of Al-Shabaab militants in Galmudug state. Violence erupted in Hirshabelle state where forces reportedly aligned with renegade Gen. Abukar Huud 3 July clashed with Hirshabelle state forces and federal troops in state’s largest city Beledweyne; at least two killed. Clashes between rival federal govt forces over control of checkpoint 24 July reportedly killed four civilians in Mogadishu. Federal govt 17 July rejected conclusions of AU report proposing four options for future of AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including transition to hybrid UN-AU mission.
Federal govt and member states agreed on new schedule for long-delayed elections; Al-Shabaab attacks continued despite fresh assaults by army, and govt took steps to mend ties with Kenya amid ongoing tensions. Following late May agreement to hold parliamentary elections within 60 days, federal govt and member states 29 June adjusted timelines and scheduled elections for upper house for 25 July and for lower house between 10 Aug-10 Sept; both houses then due to convene 10 Oct to elect president. PM Roble 19 June finalised composition of state and federal election committees tasked with overseeing parliamentary poll. Some opposition presidential candidates continued to insist on removal of all 67 members that opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates had flagged as biased late May, after Roble 5 June only dismissed 34. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombings killed at least two 5 June, and at least 15 army recruits 15 June. In Galmudug state (centre), Al-Shabaab 27 June launched car bomb attack on army base in Wisil town, reportedly leaving at least 17 soldiers and 13 civilians dead; 41 militants also killed. Army throughout June launched offensives against Al-Shabaab militants in centre and south, claiming to have killed hundreds by month’s end; notably, army reportedly killed 70 militants in Middle Shabelle region 3 June and another 50 in separate operations in Hiiran, Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions 11-13 June. In Bay region, army 9 June reportedly repelled Al-Shabaab attack on its positions in Deynunay village, killing 19 militants. In Lower Shabelle, blast at makeshift Al-Shabaab bomb factory 7 June reportedly killed over 60 militants in Alfoto village. Federal govt 4 June accused Kenyan forces of killing civilians in two “indiscriminate airstrikes” previous day in Gedo region, Jubaland state; govt same day said it would raise issue with AU Peace and Security Council and initiate procedures for establishing claims commission with AU. Kenya 10 June lifted ban on flights to and from Somalia it had imposed in May, said it hoped “goodwill measure” would lead to “full normalisation of bilateral relations”; Somalia 12 June offered to resume full diplomatic relations, which Kenya 14 June accepted.
Election-related tensions subsided, Al-Shabaab attacks continued, and federal govt resumed relations with Kenya. Parliament’s lower house 1 May unanimously voted to repeal controversial resolution it passed in April to extend President Farmajo’s term by two years amid election deadlock, after move prompted deadly clashes between pro-opposition and pro-Farmajo factions of security forces in capital Mogadishu. Farmajo same day entrusted PM Roble with election preparations. Roble and pro-opposition troops 5 May reached agreement for latter to return to their barracks within 48 hours, in exchange of which they would not be penalised. Federal govt and member states 22 May resumed national consultative council (NCC) talks on electoral framework, 27 May agreed to hold parliamentary elections within 60 days. AU Commission 7 May appointed former Ghanaian President John Mahama as High Representative to Somalia to mediate electoral crisis; Mahama 20 May however stepped down after Mogadishu expressed reservations over his perceived ties with Kenya. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, suicide attack 9 May killed six police officers and one civilian at Waberi police station in Mogadishu, and suspected Al-Shabaab explosive device 21 May killed three people on outskirts of capital. In Hiraan region in centre, security forces reportedly killed at least seven suspected Al-Shabaab militants near Mahas district 9 May and another six in Buloburte district 22 May. In Middle Shabelle region (also centre), security forces 29 May reportedly killed 37 suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Galka-Harare area, and regained control of several villages. Local Macawisley militia 19 May clashed with Hirshabelle state police in state capital Jowhar; ten people killed. After Qatari mediation, Somalia 6 May said it had restored diplomatic relations with Kenya, which had been severed since Dec 2020. However, Mogadishu in following days rejected Kenya’s attempts to resume khat stimulant exports to Somalia, prompting Nairobi to suspend all non-medical and humanitarian flights to and from Somalia for three months.
Amid stalled electoral process, extension of president’s term triggered deadly clashes in capital Mogadishu, and violence could escalate in May; Al-Shabaab attacks continued. Following constitutional expiration of President Farmajo’s mandate in Feb, new round of national consultative council (NCC) talks on electoral framework between federal govt and member states collapsed 7 April. Parliament’s lower house 12 April passed controversial resolution to extend Farmajo’s term by two years. Speaker of Parliament’s upper house immediately said vote was unconstitutional, called on international community to intervene “before it gets out of hand”. Farmajo next day signed measure into law, drawing widespread criticism. Notably, in joint statement, UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), AU and others 14 April expressed “deep concern” over term extension and rising tensions, and UN Security Council 23 April urged all parties “to reject violence and resume dialogue”. Pro-opposition soldiers 25 April mutinied and entered Mogadishu, clashed with forces loyal to Farmajo, leaving at least two dozen dead; 60,000 to 100,000 people reportedly displaced. UNSOM and international partners 27 April “strongly condemned outbreak of violence”, said army’s fragmentation along clan lines could distract it from combating Al-Shabaab. After key allies came out against term extension, Farmajo 28 April announced he would ask Parliament to reverse it and pledged to renew dialogue with member states over elections; Puntland state immediately said it would not attend new talks unless invited by international community. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab attacks continued mainly in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba and Bay regions, and Mogadishu. Notably, Al-Shabaab 3 April claimed it had killed 67 govt troops in same day twin attacks on Awdhigle and Bariire army bases, Lower Shabelle; army said attacks left 76 militants and nine soldiers dead. In Middle Shabelle, army 13 April said it had killed 25 militants in Gamboole village. In Mogadishu, suspected Al-Shabaab suicide bombings killed five civilians 3 April and at least seven 28 April; mortar attack targeting presidential palace 21 April reportedly killed another three. Minibus 14 April triggered suspected Al-Shabaab landmine on Mogadishu-Balcad axis, leaving at least 14 civilians dead.
Electoral process remained stalled, and Al-Shabaab launched deadly attacks in capital Mogadishu, demonstrating potential to disrupt electoral proceedings. Following constitutional expiration of President Farmajo’s mandate and deadly clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in Feb, third round of talks between PM Roble and opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates on organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections broke down 4 March, after bloc insisted on being part of national consultative council (NCC) talks on elections. NCC talks involving federal govt and member states 22-23 March concluded without meaningful progress as presidents of Puntland and Jubaland states did not attend, reportedly over security concerns. Govt faced mounting international pressure to hold election. Notably, UN Security Council 12 March unanimously urged govt to organise elections “without delay”, 31 March reiterated call; U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 19 March expressed “deep concern” at electoral impasse and called on political leadership to “immediately” organise elections. Parliament Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman 27 March called off same day parliamentary session after opposition MPs reportedly disrupted session over allegations that Abdirahman and pro-govt MPs were planning to pass term extension for Farmajo. Former Jubaland state Security Minister Abdirashid Janan, who escaped in 2020 from jail in Mogadishu, 24 March surrendered to federal govt. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab launched deadly attacks in Mogadishu. Notably, Al-Shabaab suicide bombing 5 March killed over 20 and roadside bomb targeting local govt official 29 March killed at least five civilians; first mortar attacks in Mogadishu since mid-2020 9 and 25 March targeted airport compound that houses African Union mission (AMISOM) base in Mogadishu, killing at least two civilians. In Puntland state in north, Al-Shabaab 5 March raided Bosaso central prison, breaking out hundreds of prisoners; at least seven soldiers reportedly killed. In Lower Shabelle region in south, army 27 March killed 11 Al-Shabaab militants, including senior commander known as Ismail Jiis, in Bula Haji village. UN Security Council 12 March renewed AMISOM mandate until 31 Dec. International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings on maritime border row between Somalia and Kenya 15 March started without Kenya after latter 11 March pulled out citing ICJ’s “bias” and refusal to delay hearing.
Deadly clashes erupted between security forces and opposition supporters after President Farmajo’s mandate expired; deadlocked electoral process could spark more violence in March. Farmajo and heads of federal member states 3-5 Feb met in Galmudug state capital Dhusamareb but failed to break deadlock over organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections; conditions for holding polls in Gedo region, Jubaland state, among main stumbling blocks. Opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates 8 Feb said it no longer recognised Farmajo as president after his term expired that day, called for formation of Transitional National Council to lead country to elections; federal govt however maintained by month’s end – on basis of Sept legislation – that govt can stay in power until elections are held. After opposition bloc 14 Feb called for protests, federal govt 17 Feb banned public gatherings, citing rise in COVID-19 cases. Security forces and opposition supporters 19 Feb clashed in capital Mogadishu, leaving at least eight dead. Subsequently, Jubaland and Puntland state presidents pulled out of 21 Feb election talks between Farmajo and heads of federal member states. PM Roble and opposition bloc 25 Feb met in Mogadishu, agreed to launch investigation into 19 Feb clashes, delay protest planned for 26 Feb and continue discussion over political situation. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab attacks 1-21 Feb left at least 26 security personnel and civilians dead in Mudug, Galguduud, Hiraan, Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombing 13 Feb killed at least one civilian; suspected Al-Shabaab militants next day shot and killed three civilians; two separate Al-Shabaab bombings 28 Feb left at least two security personnel and a civilian dead. Counter-insurgency operations also continued. Security forces 2-28 Feb reportedly killed several dozen Al-Shabaab combatants in Galguduud, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Bay regions. In Hirshabelle state, security forces and clan militia opposed to Nov 2020 state presidential election outcome 4 Feb clashed in Hiraan regional capital Beledweyne, death toll unknown. At border with Kenya, Somali soldiers 1 Feb shot and killed one Kenyan security personnel and injured two others.
Deadly clashes erupted between federal and Jubaland state forces in Gedo region; amid deadlocked electoral preparations, violence could erupt when President Farmajo’s mandate expires on 8 Feb. In Jubaland state’s Gedo region, fighting overnight 24-25 Jan erupted between federal govt forces and Jubaland state forces in Bula Hawa town near Kenyan border, reportedly killing 21 and displacing at least 30,000; Mogadishu 25 Jan accused “illegal militias armed by the government of Kenya” of launching attack in Bula Hawa; Nairobi same day denied involvement. Meanwhile, PM Roble 9 Jan announced legislative elections would proceed despite federal member states Jubaland and Puntland continuing to boycott electoral process. Opposition bloc of 14 presidential candidates 11 Jan denounced move, warning that partial elections would endanger “the unity and stability of Somalia”. Jubaland and Puntland states 27 Jan appointed regional electoral commissions and called for emergency meeting between federal govt and member states to resolve disputes over electoral process; President Farmajo 30 Jan announced he would meet with heads of federal member states 1-3 Feb. Failure to organise parliamentary and presidential elections as planned by 8 Feb – the day Farmajo’s mandate ends – could trigger violent outbreaks. In south and centre, Al-Shabaab attacks 2-27 Jan left at least 44 security personnel, civilians and officials dead in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba, Gedo and Hiraan regions. In capital Mogadishu, string of Al-Shabaab roadside bombings 5-23 Jan killed at least 15 security personnel, civilians and officials; Al-Shabaab attack 31 Jan reportedly left at least 11 dead. Meanwhile, counter-insurgency operations continued. Security forces 7-29 Jan killed several dozen Al-Shabaab militants in Bay, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Gedo, Lower Juba and Mudug regions. U.S. airstrikes 1-19 Jan killed a dozen Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Juba, Middle Juba, Bay and Bakool regions. U.S. mid-Jan said it had completed “repositioning” of most U.S. troops based in Somalia to neighbouring countries.
Electoral disputes delayed Dec legislative polls and threatened to derail Feb presidential election; tensions rose with Kenya. Federal electoral commission – whose members opposition considers to be loyalists of President Farmajo – 5 Dec appointed chairperson, prompting opposition bloc of 14 presidential candidates to appoint parallel electoral body. Opposition protests 15 Dec resulted in clashes with security forces, reportedly leaving several injured in capital Mogadishu. After missing 10 Dec deadline for conclusion of federal parliament’s upper house election – due to Jubaland and Puntland’s refusal to appoint regional electoral commissions – federal electoral commission 23 Dec postponed upper house poll to late Dec-early Jan and said selection of delegates tasked with electing lower house would begin 7 Jan; opposition bloc of presidential candidates same day rejected new timetable; federal electoral commission 29 Dec again postponed upper house poll early to mid-Jan. Mandate of federal parliament expired 27 Dec. Somalia 15 Dec cut diplomatic ties with Kenya for “constantly interfering” in its internal affairs; move coincided with Somaliland President Bihi’s visit to Kenya during which he and Kenyan President Kenyatta announced that Kenya would open consulate in Somaliland’s capital and that Somaliland would upgrade its liaison office in Kenya by March. In subsequent days, both Somalia and Kenya reportedly deployed troops to their shared border. Mogadishu 19 Dec accused Kenya of hosting and arming Somali militia to launch cross-border attacks and said it would take “all necessary steps” to protect its “territorial integrity”. Farmajo and Kenyatta 20 Dec met during summit of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); Mogadishu reportedly asked IGAD to establish commission to look into its complaints, including arming of Somali militia. Djibouti 25 Dec deployed fact-finding mission to assess situation at Somalia-Kenya border. In Hirshabelle state, clan militia opposed to last month’s state presidential election outcome 4 Dec clashed with federal govt forces in Hiraan regional capital Beledweyne, leaving at least two injured. Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, Al-Shabaab suicide bombing 18 Dec killed 21, mostly civilians, in Mudug region’s capital Galkayo. U.S. 4 Dec announced it would “reposition” most of its troops in Somalia to neighbouring countries by early 2021.
Appointment of electoral commissions, in charge of overseeing upcoming indirect elections, sparked major dispute; tensions rose with Kenya; and Al-Shabaab continued deadly attacks. Ahead of Dec parliamentary elections and Feb 2021 presidential vote, federal govt early Nov appointed federal electoral commission, dispute resolution commission and regional electoral commission for breakaway Somaliland, sparking strong opposition. Coalition of six opposition parties, Forum for National Parties, 7 Nov rejected federal electoral and dispute resolution commissions, condemning inclusion of intelligence service agents and civil servants; coalition said federal govt has no legal authority to appoint Somaliland representatives and that Somaliland’s commission should be appointed by speaker of federal parliament’s upper house, Abdi Hashi. Hashi 21 Nov appointed parallel electoral body for Somaliland. Fourteen presidential candidates 26 Nov demanded dissolution of all commissions, accusing President Farmajo of stacking electoral bodies with loyalists; candidates threatened to undertake further actions if demands are not met. Jubaland state President Madobe 28 Nov reiterated that parliamentary polls would not take place in disputed Gedo region as long as federal troops remain deployed there; Mogadishu next day expelled Kenya’s ambassador and recalled its own, accusing Nairobi of interfering in its internal affairs by prompting Madobe to renege on “election agreement” reached in Sept; Kenya next day denied allegations. In Hirshabelle state, candidate backed by federal govt, Ali Gudlawe, 11 Nov won Hirshabelle’s presidential election; following polls, clan militia mobilised outside Hiraan regional capital Beledweyne against election results, and late Nov reportedly clashed with federal forces. In south and centre, Al-Shabaab killed at least 40 civilians and security personnel throughout month in Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba, Bakool, Mudug and Galguduud regions. In capital Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab attacks left at least 15 dead throughout month. After conflict broke out in Ethiopia between federal govt and Tigray regional state (see Ethiopia), Addis Ababa early Nov reportedly began withdrawal of about 3,000 soldiers unaffiliated with African Union mission (AMISOM) from Gedo region in south; Ethiopia 18 Nov said it had disarmed ethnic Tigrayan officers within its AMISOM contingent.
Federal govt and member states reached agreement on electoral timetable but Jubaland state objected to holding polls in contested Gedo region; Al-Shabaab attacks continued. Federal govt and member states 1 Oct agreed to hold indirect legislative and presidential elections in Dec 2020 and Feb 2021 respectively; also decided on location of polls and allocation of parliamentary seats, and resolved to form federal and regional electoral commissions and dispute resolution committee. Jubaland President Madobe 6 Oct however said parliamentary elections could not take place in disputed Gedo region as long as Mogadishu’s forces remain present there; following alleged targeting of civilians by Kenyan forces and brief skirmish between Somali and Kenyan forces in Gedo late Sept-early Oct, Mogadishu, Kenya and reportedly also Jubaland early-to-mid-Oct deployed additional troops to Gedo. In south and centre, Al-Shabaab attacks and counter-insurgency operations 2-12 Oct left at least six soldiers and 32 militants dead in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Gedo, Lower Juba, Bay and Hiraan regions. Clashes between Al-Shabaab and security forces 14-15 Oct reportedly left at least 18 soldiers and 61 militants dead in Lower Shabelle region. Roadside bombings 15-18 Oct killed at least four soldiers and two civilians in Middle Shabelle region. Security forces 16-25 Oct reportedly killed several dozen militants in Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Bay and Hiraan regions. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombing 1 Oct killed senior intelligence official; Al-Shabaab roadside bomb targeting govt official 20 Oct left at least two civilians dead; suspected Al-Shabaab militants 27 Oct shot and killed two aid workers and detonated car bomb, leaving at least three more dead. President Farmajo and Eritrean President Afwerki early Oct met in Eritrea, agreed to upgrade July 2018 agreement that restored diplomatic relations and to accelerate regional integration efforts on basis of Sept 2018 tripartite agreement between Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Federal govt and all member states reached long-awaited agreement on electoral framework; Al-Shabaab attacks continued in south, centre and capital Mogadishu. President Farmajo early Sept met with presidents of Puntland and Jubaland federal member states after they distanced themselves from Aug deal between Farmajo and leaders of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West states regarding electoral modalities for Nov 2020 parliamentary and Feb 2021 presidential elections; Farmajo made several major concessions to Puntland and Jubaland; Farmajo and heads of all five federal member states met 13-17 Sept, agreed to indirect electoral framework for 2020-2021 polls. Shortly after reaching deal, Farmajo appointed Mohamed Hussein Roble as new PM following July ouster of former PM Khayre. Parliament approved PM Roble 23 Sept and indirect electoral model 26 Sept. In south and centre, Al-Shabaab 4 Sept abducted some 50 herders in Hiraan region; early Sept withstood army offensives to retake strategic Janay Abdalle town in Lower Juba region and throughout month reportedly killed at least 39 soldiers, civilians and state officials in Mudug, Middle Juba, Lower Juba, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Bakool, Hiraan and Galguduud regions. Counter-insurgency operations throughout month reportedly left over 100 Al-Shabaab militants dead in Galguduud, Mudug, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Bay, Gedo, Middle Juba and Lower Juba regions. Security forces 25 Sept rescued 40 children from Al-Shabaab training camp in Lower Shabelle region. In Mogadishu, suspected Al-Shabaab bombing targeting convoy of African Union mission (AMISOM) 6 Sept left one dead; AMISOM soldiers same day shot and wounded at least seven civilians. Al-Shabaab suicide bombing at restaurant 9 Sept killed at least three. In Middle Shabelle region, suspected inter-clan revenge killing 3 Sept left at least five dead. In Gedo region in south, hundreds late Sept took to streets across region after Kenyan forces reportedly operating under AMISOM 23-24 Sept allegedly killed at least one civilian and abducted several others; Kenyan security forces 26 Sept opened fire to deter demonstrators from approaching border prompting Somali forces to return fire which sparked brief firefight.
Al-Shabaab launched deadly attacks in capital Mogadishu and rural areas, while frictions heightened between federal govt and member states Jubaland and Puntland over organisation of elections. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombings 3 Aug killed at least three including two security guards and 8 Aug killed eight soldiers. Inside Mogadishu’s central prison, Al-Shabaab inmates 10 Aug attempted to break free using smuggled weapons; shoot-out between inmates and prison guards backed up by security forces killed 15 inmates and four prison guards; one Al-Shabaab inmate reportedly managed to escape and killed two civilians outside prison. Al-Shabaab attack on Mogadishu hotel 16 Aug left at least 16 dead, mostly civilians. In south and centre, suspected Al-Shabaab attacks 2-23 Aug killed at least 42 security personnel, officials and civilians in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Bay, Gedo, Hiraan and Mudug regions. Security forces 2-29 Aug reported over 80 suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed in Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Gedo and Bay regions. Security forces 14 Aug rescued 33 children from Al-Shabaab camp in Lower Shabelle region. U.S. Africa Command said three U.S. airstrikes 20-25 Aug killed eight Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba regions. In Puntland in north, security operation 20-21 Aug left at least ten Al-Shabaab militants and two soldiers dead in Bari region. President Farmajo and heads of federal member states Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West mid-Aug signed agreement reiterating July commitment to hold Nov 2020 parliamentary and Feb 2021 presidential elections on time and settling on indirect electoral model instead of “one person, one vote” polls; presidents of Puntland and Jubaland states boycotted meeting, accusing Farmajo of failing to deliver on previous commitments on elections, and 21 Aug jointly distanced themselves from agreement; 27 Aug however said they would soon attend meeting with Farmajo in Mogadishu to discuss 2020-2021 polls.
Al-Shabaab kept up insurgency; federal govt and member states agreed to hold elections as previously scheduled; and parliament ousted PM Khayre. In south, Al-Shabaab 4 July detonated bomb killing at least five civilians and security personnel in Bay region; next day kidnapped and killed regional lawmaker in Middle Shabelle region; 6-13 July launched attacks on security forces reportedly leaving at least seventeen dead in Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions. Counter-insurgency operations 6-19 July reportedly killed at least 29 Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Bay regions. U.S. airstrikes 9 and 29 July reportedly killed two Al-Shabaab insurgents in Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba region; reports of civilian casualties also emerged. In Pu