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.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
Federal govt expelled UN envoy to Somalia and Al-Shabaab continued attacks on Somali and international forces. Govt 2 Jan expelled UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Haysom accusing him of undermining Somalia’s sovereignty; Haysom had publicly questioned legal basis for arrest of South West state’s presidential candidate and former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow in Dec. UN said it would replace Haysom. Al-Shabaab 15 Jan attacked Ethiopian forces in African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) near Bur Hakaba in Bay region of South West state; casualties undisclosed. Al-Shaabab 19 Jan overran Somali army base in Sanjuni village, near port city Kismayo in south east, later claiming it killed 40 Somali forces; in response U.S. same day carried out airstrike on Al-Shabaab militants, killing 52. U.S. 23 Jan carried out two more airstrikes near Jilib, Middle Juba region in south east, casualties undisclosed. Suspected Al-Shabaab car bombing near petroleum ministry in capital Mogadishu 29 Jan killed at least two. U.S. airstrike near Shebeeley, Hiraan region 30 Jan killed 24 militants. Al-Shabaab militants 15 Jan launched terror attack in Kenyan capital Nairobi (see Kenya). Former federal planning minister Said Abdullahi Deni elected president of semi-autonomous Puntland 8 Jan.
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.
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.
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 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 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’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.
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