Somalia: Seven States Of Disorder

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April 8, 2022: The long-delayed national elections were supposed to be completed March 15th but were not and the government has agreed to extend the deadline to March 31th. That deadline was also missed. The delays continue to be disagreements over who runs FEIT (the Federal Electoral Implementation Team), which decides who is eligible to run for office. The men most responsible for the FEIT feud are prime minister Hussein Roble and president Mohamed Farmajo. Veteran politician Roble was appointed prime minister by Farmajo in September 2020. The president soon regretted this as Roble was more intent on following the rules than taking orders from Farmajo.

These disputes have been going on since mid-2020 and turned violent in April 2021 when president Farmajo used Turkish trained-troops and loyal (to him) police to take control of Mogadishu. He continued blocking serious efforts to hold the long-delayed elections. Farjamo persuaded parliament to extend his current term, which expired in February 2021, two more years. That was something parliament did not have the power to do and Farmajo used his Turkish-trained troops to stage a coup against police and any other armed, or unarmed groups in Mogadishu that opposed him. Farmajo underestimated the resistance in Mogadishu and the rest of the country, so he agreed that the two-year term extension was illegal and made serious efforts to negotiate a settlement. Farmajo apparently believes that if elections are held, he will lose. So do many Somalis, both traditionalists and reformers, and now everyone is on the watch for Farmajo’s efforts to rig the vote.

The election crisis began in June 2020 when the National Independent Electoral Commission told parliament that it was impossible to hold elections for parliament and a new president as scheduled on November 27 2020. The delay was blamed on the usual suspects; political deadlocks, poor security (bandits and Islamic terrorists), bad weather (floods this time) and covid19. To assure a minimum level of legitimacy the six million eligible Somali voters must be registered biometrically, which requires special equipment that had not yet been obtained because the Electoral Commission lacked the money and needed at least $70 million to set up 5,000 polling stations and carry out the biometric registration. More time was also required but it was never going to be enough. Foreign aid donors are fed up and threaten to withdraw aid, which is still being stolen by corrupt politicians and officials. The government pleaded for foreign aid to deal with the many internal problems. Billions of dollars in aid over the last decade has been provided but little of it has reached the people in need. Even Moslem donors are threatening to halt their aid.

Farmajo and many other Somali politicians and leaders do not believe the foreign donors will completely abandon Somalia again, as they did in the 1990s for the same reasons. A majority of Somalis apparently agree with the aid donors but Somali culture still puts clan loyalty above anything else. National government has to distribute a lot of foreign aid to clan leaders to get any meaningful cooperation. Fair elections are seen as a threat to the traditions that create and sustain clan leaders, who are often warlords. That tradition leaves it to clan leaders to negotiate how much clout their clan should have, irrespective of how many eligible voters each clan has. That tradition is now seen by most Somalis as more of a problem than a solution. Fair voting is seen as a major threat to these traditions, which groups like al Shabaab depend on.

Foreign donors are ready to further cut economic and military aid if the feuding Somali politicians continue delaying elections. Foreign money as well as peacekeepers will withdraw. The UN has 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 puts Somalia at a disadvantage because much, if not most of its aid is stolen and never reaches those who need it.

The two principal politicians leading this dispute are current prime minister Hussain Roble and outgoing president Mohamed Farmajo. There continue to be disagreements over who is eligible to run for office and when voting takes place for the 54 members of the senate, then the 275 members of parliament. After that the combined senate and parliament will elect a new president. Like previous agreements, this one might not actually work. After more than a year of bickering and threats of civil war followed by the withdrawal of foreign aid, there has been one delay after another as election agreements fell apart after agreements were achieved. These elections were supposed to be held in December 2020 but were delayed over a year because of difficulty in agreeing on how and when.

Meanwhile the AU (African Union) agreed with the UN plan to reduce the Somalia peacekeeping forces. What changed the minds of the AU was the sudden Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. This fearful proposal may not succeed because UN peacekeeping specialists understand the Taliban are a special case and there has not been any impact on Somalia because of the Taliban victory. Al Shabaab power continues to decline in Somalia.

The UN and AU had agreed to greatly reduce or eliminate the current 19,400 strong peacekeeper force. This process was supposed to start by the end of 2021. In January 2021 the United States completed moving most of its 700 troops out of Somalia to other parts of East Africa. Two months later the AU announced plans to do the same or at least greatly reduce the number of peacekeepers in Somalia. Soldiers from five AU countries (Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti) comprise the current force that costs about $200 million a year. That money is provided by the UN via contributions by the U.S. and EU (European Union). The UN approves the size and duration of the peacekeeper force annually.

The peacekeepers have been in Somalia for fifteen years at a cost of over three billion dollars. So far nearly a thousand peacekeepers have been killed and at least 4,000 wounded or injured. About a quarter of those were so badly wounded that they received disability payments while families of the dead received a lump sum in death benefits. Somalia is the most dangerous peacekeeping duty in the world.

The first AU peacekeepers arrived in March 2007 and these 8,000 troops were supposed to be gone within six months. That force did not disappear by the end of 2007 but kept growing and quickly reached 22,000, most of them soldiers plus a few thousand police, trainers and administrators. The peacekeeper force made some difference, but in the face of massive corruption in the Somali government and various Somali communities that demanded help, the operation proved far more expensive and time-consuming than expected. Peacekeepers are due to leave because the best they can do is reduce the violence and disunity, while UN donors are not willing to waste money on that when there are other disaster zones that can make better use of the limited foreign aid.

Because of the threat of peacekeeper reductions or elimination, the Somali army, which is about the same size as the peacekeeper force, has been particularly active and effective in 2021 and 2022. If the peacekeepers go the army will have to face all the fighting alone and current assessments conclude that the army might not survive that for long, and instead fall apart because of casualties, desertions and a lack of new recruits. The Somalis have been saying this for nearly a decade but the AU and UN are fed up and the major donors needed to support the peacekeeper force have warned that they will reduce or eliminate contributions because of the continued corruption and ineffectiveness of the Somali government. The increased army effort against al Shabaab has apparently paid off with more surrenders of veteran al Shabaab members including prominent leaders. Somalia has been in a state of war for three decades and if the foreign aid and peacekeepers leave Somalia will again become a failed state.

Not all of Somalia is a failed state. Portions of northern Somalia have enjoyed a degree of peace and prosperity since the 1990s because Somaliland and Puntland declared themselves independent. However, all is not perfect up there. Puntland and Somaliland have been having internal problems but much less so than in Somalia. Northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990 to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in perpetual chaos since 1990 and the establishment of a lasting central government is on the verge of failing. This means Somaliland and Puntland become the second and third self-governing areas recognized as countries. The first to become both independent and a functioning state was mostly Somali neighboring Djibouti, which had been a French colony from 1883 until 1977 when the inhabitants voted to become independent. Two earlier votes in 1958 and 1967 rejected that. Currently there are about a million people in Djibouti and 60 percent are Somali while 35 percent are an ethnically similar group called the Afar. Population was 280,000 in 1977. Politics in Djibouti, Puntland and Somaliland is all clan-based and because there are only a few clans in each of these states, national unity and stable government is possible. Getting the many clans of Somalia to cooperate enough to form a stable government seems unlikely. This is not a unique problem. When modern Italy was finally formed in 1871, one of the leaders of the unification effort commented; “Italy has been made. Now it remains to make Italians.” Italy, like Somalia and so many other nations still have to deal with problems with factionalism. When those problems cannot be overcome you have a failed state.

April 7, 2022: Prime minister Roble ordered the AU (African Union) ambassador to leave Somalia within 48 hours. The reason was “interfering with Somali internal affairs”. This consisted of demanding an investigation of an incident where Somali soldiers killed some civilians. Roble is also unhappy with the AU going ahead with plans to withdraw the AU peacekeeping force. President Farmajo criticized Roble for this and disputed his authority to expel an ambassador. Farmajo criticizes just about everything Roble does, especially if it concerns the long-delayed elections that would put Farmajo out of a job.

April 5, 2022: Some of the five federal states ( Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Southwest State and Jubaland) criticized prime minister Roble for how he uses the FEIT (the Federal Electoral Implementation Team) to resolve disputes over who is eligible to run for office. This is all about clan disputes within the federal states. Puntland is the only federal state to have resolved most of its clan disputes, as has neighboring Somaliland, which refuses to officially join Somalia. If Somalia falls apart again, as now seems likely, Somaliland and Puntland still have functioning governments and will probably be officially recognized for that. The other four Somali federal states have displayed less capability to become peaceful and self-governing. Because of what has happened since the 1990s, Somalia adopted a federal form of government and all seven states have tried, with varying success, to make self-rule work.

April 1, 2022: The UN sponsored AU (African Union) peacekeeping operation in Somalia has now become the Transitional Force, whose main job is to withdraw all 20,000 peacekeepers from Somalia within two years. This process includes turning over all peacekeeping efforts to the Somali security forces.

March 27, 2022: In the north (Puntland) al Shabaab attacked an army base and were repulsed, losing twelve men. Three soldiers were killed

March 24, 2022: In Mogadishu two al Shabaab men wearing army uniforms attacked the airport compound, where presidential elections are to take place. The attack included a suicide bomber who killed eight people.

In central Somalia (Beledweyne, 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu) two al Shabaab suicide bombs were to attack an election center with a truck bomb killing 48 people and wounded over a hundred. Another individual suicide bomber killed a local member of parliament running for reelection.

March 23, 2022: Outside Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen attacked the entrance to the heavily guarded compound that contained headquarters for UN and AU headquarters plus a large number of peacekeepers. This compound is near the main airport.

March 11, 2022: In the south (Lamu County, across the border in Kenya) gunmen, believed to be al Shabaab, attacked the Lamu Port construction site near the Somali border and killed five people, including a Chinese citizen. Al Shabaab later claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Shabaab frequently carries out attacks in Lamu country while operating from camps in the nearby Boni Forest, which has long been a refuge for outlaws because of the thinly populated woodlands on both sides of the border. The Kenyan military is trying to improve its ability to find these camps before they provide a base for many attacks against local civilians and security forces.

March 1, 2022: Down south i n Mozambique the new Islamic terror groups contain a few foreign Islamic terrorists who, under the right conditions, are able to attract lots of local Moslem recruits desperate for a job and an opportunity to “defend Islam” by killing Christians and plundering their possessions. The core of these new Islamic terror groups are local Moslem gangsters who were already active in profitable activities like smuggling, especially drugs, and extortion. The foreigners, mainly from Somalia, brought with them knowledge of how to plan and carry out terror attacks and publicize them. The publicity is important because it causes local terror and international attention. This attracts cash donations from wealthy individuals or Islamic Charities that exist mainly to funnel donations to Islamic terror groups.

In Africa, there tend to be fewer Moslems the further south you go and eventually the majorities are Christian or ancient local religions. Mozambique, with 30 million people, is 20 percent Moslem and 60 percent Christian. To the north, Tanzania, with 56 million people, is 35 percent Moslem. You don’t encounter a Moslem majority nation until you reach Somalia, which is currently the source of most of the Islamic terrorist activity in East Africa. For that reason, it was Somali Islamic terrorists who were attracted to northern Mozambique and played a role in creating some of the local Islamic terrorist groups. Some of these new groups borrowed names from existing Somali groups like al Shabaab for the new Mozambique terror groups. The Somalis included local chapters of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). In Somalia the Islamic terrorists are almost all locals and are taking a beating from AU peacekeepers, the new Somali army and local militias. Over the last decade a growing number of veteran Somali Islamic terrorists have left Somali looking for a less lethal environment for themselves and their families. Some showed up in northern Mozambique and spoke or preached in favor of Islamic terrorism but did not try to organize new groups because these exiles would be quickly identified, arrested or killed and end up in prison or in some other nation. This has been a common pattern for three decades and what made it easy for Islamic terrorism to develop quickly in Mozambique once there was something valuable enough to steal in the name of defending Islam.

In Mozambique the new Islamic terror groups contain a few foreign Islamic terrorists who, under the right conditions, are able to attract lots of local Moslem recruits desperate for a job and an opportunity to “defend Islam” by killing Christians and plundering their possessions. The core of these new Islamic terror groups are local Moslem gangsters who were already active in profitable activities like smuggling, especially drugs, and extortion. The foreigners, mainly from Somalia, bring with them knowledge of how to plan and carry out terror attacks and publicize them. The publicity is important because it causes local terror and international attention. This attracts cash donations from wealthy individuals or Islamic Charities that exist mainly to funnel donations to Islamic terror groups.

Africa is currently home to six major ISIL factions. These are currently present in Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Nigeria. Mali, and Mozambique. There are smaller ISIL factions in other African countries, some so small that they regularly cease to exist because of heavy casualties and are sometimes revived with reinforcements from a larger ISIL faction in a nearby country. The Mozambique ISIL affiliation was not universally accepted by all members of the Mozambique Islamic terrorist coalition. That sort of response is not unusual and sometimes leads to the demise or reduction in the size of an ISIL faction and weakening of all Islamic terror groups in the area.

The Mozambique Islamic terrorists have a major disadvantage; its religious affiliation means it can only depend on about ten percent of the Mozambique population for support. Many Moslems do not support al Shabaab or local Islamic terrorists because the experience of the last few decades has made it clear that Islamic terror groups tend to kill more Moslems than non-Moslems. All that won’t eliminate the possibility of Mozambique Islamic terrorists damaging the natural gas facilities and limiting exports. That is also very unpopular nationwide because so many people see a chance to get a piece of the natural gas income. In other words, it’s not a war coming to Mozambique but rather another malignant side-effect of the culture of corruption that prevails in the country.

 

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