Somalia: Somalia Simmers and Shambles Along


February 20, 2024: Recent Al Shabab violence in Somalia has targeted UAE (United Arab Emirates) military training activities in Mogadishu. Several foreign military trainers have been killed. Al Shabab continues to carry out terror attacks in and around the capital Mogadishu. Al Shabab has been trying, without much success, to reverse progress over the last few years to bring peace and prosperity to Somalia. For example, in 2022 Somalia finally got a new government after several years of efforts to overcome clan and warlord objections to democracy in general. The elections were held, and results certified. This made possible the formation of a parliament and new president. The parliament met and approved the president’s selection of a new prime minister. The prime minister then formed a government by filling dozens of key jobs with candidates that did not cause disputes in parliament over who got what. Somalia is still dominated by the power of the clans and the blind loyalty to clan even when it harms national unity. Overcoming this factionalism in a democracy is often very difficult. So far it appears that a majority of Somali leaders are willing to give a clean government a chance to work in Somalia. The key test is forming the new government successfully.

Major suppliers of foreign aid restored suspended aid programs. The United States ordered several hundred special operations and other troops to return to Somalia. In late 2020 the previous U.S. government ordered all U.S. troops out of Somalia. This was completed by January 2021 as 700 U.S. troops left Somalia, most for reassignment elsewhere in Africa.

The departing American troops missed the most were Special Forces and SEAL operators training and advising their Somali counterparts. The American troops in Somalia also handled intelligence collection and monitoring things in general. This was supposed to continue from a major American special operations base in neighboring Djibouti as well as the use of American UAVs, also based in Djibouti, to search for Islamic terrorists and carry out airstrikes when the opportunity presents itself. After a year or so of indecision by the Americans, the U.S. resumed regular air strikes against Al Shabab and other groups interfering with aid shipments or the new Somali government. This led to over 200 UAV airstrikes that killed nearly a thousand al Shabaab and other Islamic terrorist group members.

All this positive activity by the new government has foreign donors willing to continue and increase economic and military aid. Foreign money as well as peacekeepers were already being withdrawn before the new government was established. The UN had already started the process of pulling out the 20,000 peacekeepers. Foreign aid donors have adopted a send the aid to where it will do the most good approach. That policy put Somalia at a disadvantage because much, if not most, of its aid was stolen and never reached those who needed it. If the new government can demonstrate an ability to change the wicked ways of its predecessors, the aid will resume and increase. Somalia and other nations in the region need this because the region is suffering from one of its periodic droughts, and a major one at that. In the past these major droughts would cause visible declines in the population. After World War II (1939-45) foreign aid by a growing number of countries and NGOs (Non-government Organizations) made it possible to prevent these starvation deaths, at least in countries that could distribute the aid effectively. Somali was one of the nations that had trouble doing that, mainly because Somalia was still a deeply divided region because of the persistence of many powerful clans that looked after their own even if it meant other Somalis suffered. The clan loyalties are still a problem and a major factor in delaying fair election of a national parliament.

The new government has also restored good relations with Kenya. This includes cooperation with Kenya in dealing with al Shabaab activity in northeast Kenya, where Mandera county has long suffered from Somali violence. This includes al Shabaab roadblocks to check vehicles for non-Moslems, who are often kidnapped or killed. Counter-terror efforts have largely kept al Shabaab terrorists out of the capital (Nairobi), which is a thousand kilometers from Mandera, and that is what national politicians focus on. There have been two al Shabaab attacks in Nairobi since 2013. The latest one was in 2019. Politicians have priorities and problems get more attention the closer they are.

Al Shabaab has long sought to drive all non-Moslems out of northeastern Kenya because a lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live there. Over 80 percent of Kenyans are Christian and only twelve percent Moslem, most of them ethnic Somalis. There are also tribal problems in Mandera. One area along the Somali border has long been the scene of fighting between the Kenyan Murule ethnic Somali Moslems and the Marhan from across the border in Somalia. In 2015 about a hundred Marhan warriors crossed the border and raided Murule territory. Despite Kenya sending more soldiers and police to Mandera the violence continues. The Marhan have long been accused of supporting al Shabaab while the Murule oppose Islamic terrorism and al Shabaab efforts to chase Christians from the Mandera region.

Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyans living in Kenya near the Somali border have been a major source of al Shabaab recruits for raiding and terrorism in Somalia as well as Kenya. Somali violence, both from al Shabaab and clan disputes, is less frequent throughout Somalia but persists on both sides of the Kenya border. On the Somali side is the autonomous Somali region of Jubaland. Across the border are the Kenyan counties (provinces) of Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo, Wajir and Marsabit. Occasionally the violence extends to cities elsewhere in Kenya. What is keeping al Shabaab active here and not elsewhere in Somalia are lucrative smuggling operations the Islamic terrorists dominate along the border.

In addition to bordering Somalia, there are several other reasons for all the Somali violence in this part of Kenya. First there is the usual pervasive corruption in Kenya and Africa in general. In addition, Somalia is recognized as the most corrupt nation in the world. Al Shabaab takes advantage of police corruption in Kenya, where the largely Christian police are particularly brutal towards ethnic Somali Kenyans. Similar attitudes are directed at the Somali refugees. That brutality and discrimination makes Kenyan Somalis reluctant to cooperate with police in finding al Shabaab terrorists or smugglers. About 76 percent of the four million Kenyan Moslems are ethnic Somalis who are citizens. Kenya’s Moslem minority has been known to harbor Islamic terrorists. Most Kenyan Moslems live in coastal cities like Mombasa, where about a third of the 1.1 million population is Moslem. A lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live in northeastern Kenya and that is a problem when most of the soldiers and police are Christians and non-Somali. Al Shabaab exploits this friction to continue recruiting in Kenya and enjoying some local support in the Kenyan border areas.




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