Long-overdue elections that returned President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to power in 2022 have raised hopes that Somalia can close a highly divisive chapter in its recent history. But the challenges it faces remain daunting. Relations between the federal government and member states are still uneasy, talks over Somaliland’s status have made little progress and vital state-building tasks, like finalising the provisional constitution, are lagging behind. Meanwhile, a historic drought is undermining local livelihoods while also foreshadowing the long-term challenges posed by climate change. Further, even as Mohamud has declared “total war” on the Islamist insurgency Al-Shabaab, which remains a defiant actor, a security transition premised on the withdrawal of African Union troops by the end of 2024 is fast approaching. Crisis Group’s work in Somalia aims to foster and maintain political unity, address the root causes of insecurity, including climate change’s impact, and consider means to wind down the long war with Al-Shabaab.

CrisisWatch Somalia

Deteriorated Situation

Political tensions rose as Puntland suspended recognition of Mogadishu-based central govt over contentious constitutional review; Al-Shabaab made territorial gains.

Puntland withdrew recognition of federal govt over constitutional review process. After parliament 30 March passed first four chapters of draft constitution, Puntland state govt 31 March revoked “recognition and confidence in” federal govt institutions; in sign of rising political temperature, Puntland cabinet said it would have power of “independent state” until dispute resolved and new federal system approved through referendum. Earlier, tensions mounted as President Mohamud promoted updated constitution despite lead opposition figures accusing him of seeking to boost his chances at 2026 election; notably, former federal Presidents Sheikh Sharif and Farmajo and current Puntland President Said Deni 22-23 March met in Puntland capital Garowe to discuss opposing proposed changes.

Al-Shabaab took over towns in centre, political dispute turned deadly in Hirshabelle. In Mudug region (centre), group 9-14 March gained control of Amara, Bacadweyne, Caad, Shabellow and Xinlabi towns with no fighting; military abandoned positions after clan militias withdrew from area amid dispute with federal govt, highlighting ongoing challenge of organising anti-militant operations. Militants 14-15 March also launched attack on hotel in downtown Mogadishu, leading to ten-hour siege with three soldiers and five insurgents reportedly killed. Meanwhile, clashes between Hirshabelle state govt forces and those calling for separate Hiraan state (one of two regions that make up Hirshabelle) 13 March killed at least six in Beledweyne city; violence came after Hirshabelle-appointed governor of Hiraan region tried to enter city.

Tensions with Ethiopia appeared to publicly ease. Although no major breakthrough reached, Mogadishu and Addis Ababa pursued dialogue to address tensions over Jan-announced Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal. After Kenyan President William Ruto late Feb separately hosted both President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his Ethiopian counterpart PM Abiy Ahmed, technical teams from Mogadishu and Addis Ababa early March travelled to Kenya’s capital Nairobi for shuttle discussions.

In other important developments. Govt 4 March officially joined East African Community (EAC) regional body. Increase in piracy incidents off Somali coast in Indian Ocean raised concerns of resurgence in attacks on vessels in region.

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In The News

25 Gsh 2023
If military pressure is designed to push toward the complete elimination of Shabaab, then I think we'll miss opportunities to resolve this conflict. Reuters

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
5 Pri 2023
Al-Shabaab continues to mount resistance in parts of central Somalia and fighting al-Shabaab in its southern strongholds will probably be a tougher slog. Financial Times

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
1 Nën 2022
Things [in Somalia] are likely to get worse before they get better as both the government and al Shabaab are locked into war mode right now. Irish Times

Omar Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa
4 Sht 2022
Despite President Biden’s campaign promise to end the forever wars, Somalia remains one of the most active areas in the world for U.S. counterterrorism operations. The Intrecept

Sarah Harrison

Senior Analyst, U.S. Program
5 Gsh 2022
I think the reason why [Mukhtar Robow, ex-Al-Shabab leader] was brought from house arrest to the cabinet minister is to create a counter-narrative to that of al-Shabab. Al Jazeera
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Zakaria Yusuf

Analyst, Somalia

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Zakaria Yusuf

Zakaria Yusuf

Analyst, Somalia

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