Violence in the southern port of Kismayo has killed over 70 people in the last month (and left over 300 wounded), mostly in late June. It’s all about money. Whoever controls the port obtains over $30 million dollars a year from fees and bribes to allow legal and illegal trade via the port. Last month the
Ras Kamboni militia claimed victory over the Iftin Hassan Basto militia, after three days of fighting left over a hundred dead and wounded. The leader of Ras Kamboni (Ahmed Madobe) had proclaimed himself the president of Jubaland, as had his opponent. Kenya backed Ras Kamboni, as it always had. The loser did not concede defeat and Iftin Hassan Basto’s men soon began fighting again. If either of these guys can maintain control of Kismayo they will grow rich from fees charged businesses to use the port and market places. That will not go unchallenged because there’s too much money involved.
The Somali government and Kenyan peacekeepers are being offered illegal payments by both Kismayo militias, and the UN is openly complaining that this is going on. The UN has also accused the Kenyan troops of illegally lifting last year’s ban on charcoal exports via Kismayo. This is a major industry in southern Somalia and the UN ordered the embargo over a year ago to cut off the money (at least $2 million a month) al Shabaab received when they controlled the port. But after Kenyan forces seized Kismayo last September, the charcoal producers and traders demanded that exports be allowed once more and threatened to attack the peacekeepers if this reasonable request was not granted. The UN says the Kenyans agreed, even though the UN refused to allow it. The Kenyans insist they did not take payoffs to allow exports to resume. The exports did start again in late 2012, and the UN believes some of the clans producing charcoal are still passing on some of their revenue to the remaining al Shabaab factions in the area.
The Somali government is threatening to move in and settle the matter of who runs Kismayo and shut down the efforts by local clans to establish an independent statelet of Jubaland down there.
This all began two years ago when Kenya told local clan leaders that, in return for their cooperation in chasing al Shabaab out of the area, Kenya would support the formation of Jubaland. Kenyan troops subsequently joined the UN recognized Somali peacekeeping force and are now technically in opposition to any independence for Jubaland. But the local clan leaders went ahead with it anyway, and Kenyan troops are refusing to halt the subsequent clan warfare over who would have it all. Many Somalis also suspect that Kenya has plans to annex the area Jubaland is supposed to include because Kenya has long had a claim on this part of southern Somalia. Kenya just wants peace on the border and these clan wars do not help. Somalia is asking for non-Kenyan peacekeepers to replace the Kenyans, but so far the peacekeepers are sticking with their alti-al Shabaab operations in northern and central Somalia.
For the moment the
Ras Kamboni militia is in control of Kismayo and has launched patrols and sweeps to find and arrest any remaining al Shabaab men. Some weapons have been seized and men arrested. Kenyan peacekeepers are still looking for remaining al Shabaab men in the south.
Some surviving al Shabaab factions are now negotiating amnesty deals with the government. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the most senior al Shabaab leaders, came over to the government last month. It’s unclear if he was captured or surrendered, but he is currently living comfortably in a Mogadishu compound and does not appear to be imprisoned. Awesys is a respected clan elder who was prominent in the formation of the Islamic Courts a decade ago. This organization sought to restore order in Somalia, and after achieving that goal in 2006 it split into factions. One of those factions became the current government coalition, a more radical one became al Shabaab. Aweys took control of al Shabaab in 2008, and was officially declared a terrorist two years ago. Aweys was always cagey about where he stood ideologically. Like many successful Somali leaders he can best be described as practical and flexible. Aweys is currently at odds with al Shabaab military commander Ahmed Abdi Godane, who killed two other senior al Shabaab commanders last month (one of them, Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, with a $5 million price on his head). Godane also went hunting for Aweys, which is apparently why Aweys accepted government hospitality. Aweys is in his late 70s and was always more of a political than military leader (despite rising to the rank of general in the old Somali Army and widely hailed as a war hero for fighting Ethiopian troops in the 1970s). Godane is apparently purging al Shabaab of any moderates and turning the surviving membership into really hard core Islamic terrorists. Many of these men are foreigners, which was something else Aweys and the two recently killed commanders were also unhappy with.
The al Shabaab opposition to polio vaccinations has led to another outbreak of the disease. The first case was detected in Kenya two months ago when a Somali child in a refugee camp came down with it. Five years ago the UN announced that a ten year effort to eradicate polio (by vaccinating nearly every child under five) had succeeded and that Somalia was free of the paralyzing (and often fatal) disease (which can only survive in humans). But to make that eradication permanent follow-up vaccinations had to be given, and al Shabaab interfered with that. So in the last two months at least 25 kids in Somalia and six in Kenyan refugee camps have come down with the disease. Polio should have been eliminated world-wide by now, but there has been resistance from Islamic clergy in some countries, who insist the vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilize Moslem children. This has enabled polio to survive in some Moslem countries (especially Nigeria and Pakistan). The disease also survives in some very poor nations, like Kenya, because of the difficulty in getting vaccine to remote areas and tracking down nomad groups. In response to this latest outbreak, Kenya will carry out more vaccinations in Kenya and help do the same in dangerous parts of Somalia.
July 12, 2013: In Mogadishu a roadside bomb was used against a peacekeeper convoy, killing three people and wounding several more. Elsewhere in the city someone threw a grenade into the lobby of a hotel, killing two people. Most of the victims were civilians.
July 9, 2013: In Mogadishu a bomb was thrown at a police vehicle, wounding five policemen. Elsewhere in the city a terrorist bomb in a market place killed one civilian.
July 5, 2013: In central Somalia (the Bakool region) government forces fought with al Shabaab, leaving seven dead. The surviving Islamic terrorists fled. For the last year the local al Shabaab forces have been taking a beating, and now different factions are fighting each other.
The government has demanded that Kenyan troops withdraw from Kismayo. This is believed to have more to do with greed than statecraft. The government wants control of Kismayo and the millions in port fees and taxes the place generates each month. Currently that cash flow is controlled by a local, pro-Kenyan, warlord.
July 1, 2013: The UN revealed that its audits of the cash foreign aid given to Somalia in the last three years found that most (as in 80 percent) was being withdrawn as cash payments for loyalty or simply being stolen by senior officials.
June 29, 2013: Al Shabaab leaders
heikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was “arrested” when he arrived in Mogadishu for peace talks with the government. Aweys flew 600 kilometers from northern Somalia (Adado), where he had fled (on June 26th) after top al Shebaab commander Ahmed Abdi Godane tried to capture or kill him. The government says Aweys is their guest. Aweys isn’t saying much, which is how he operates. Godane is more radical and Aweys has always been uncomfortable with the al Qaeda connection. The U.S. is offering a $7 million reward for the capture of Godane, dead or alive. Aweys has no bounty on him.
June 27, 2013: In Kismayo a roadside bomb hit a Kenyan convoy killing several soldiers.