Somalia

Members of the Somali navy patrol near the port in Mogadishu this month. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP)

On Oct. 12, the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Somalia’s claim to a large contested maritime area in the Indian Ocean. Approximately the size of South Dakota, the waters serve as a critical transit route and fishing grounds — and the seabed likely contains lucrative oil and natural gas reserves.

The dispute between Kenya and Somalia began in the late 2000s when Kenya tried to impose a shared maritime border on Somalia that was similar to its own southern border with Tanzania. Somalia was at war, so could not prevent Kenya from doing so. Since then, Kenya has used the maritime area for its own benefit, but also has helped to monitor and secure the waters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kenyan coastal fishermen fly black flags on their fishing dhows with the message "Save Lamu Waters" as they take part in a demonstration demanding to be heard in a legal dispute between Kenya and her northern neighbour Somalia Tony KARUMBA / AFP

What is the outcome of the court ruling?

After seven years of bitter wrangling between Kenya and Somalia for control of contested Indian Ocean waters, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 12 October issued an eagerly awaited judgment demarcating the two countries’ maritime boundary, ruling mostly in Somalia’s favour. The main disagreement between the parties had centred on how the maritime border should be drawn. Kenya argued that it should run in a straight latitudinal line from the point on the coast where the countries’ land borders meet. Somalia contended that the sea border should run south east, perpendicular to the coast at the point where its land border with Kenya meets the sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers patrol by the wreckage of a car at the scene of suicide car bomb attack that targeted the city's police commissioner in Mogadishu, on July 10. AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban’s swift capture of power in Afghanistan took the world by surprise and triggered considerable introspection in the West about a 20- year conflict waged at immense human and material cost. More broadly, the outcome raises serious questions about the viability of internationally supported state-building projects, especially in the absence of an inclusive political settlement. This experience has ramifications well beyond Afghanistan, but perhaps nowhere are the parallels as striking as in Somalia.

Somalia bears many similarities to Afghanistan. In both countries, an Islamist governance project took root after a lengthy period of conflict, only to be dislodged by outside powers within the context of the global war on terrorism (the United States in Afghanistan and Ethiopia in Somalia).…  Seguir leyendo »

Somalia’s President (C), Prime Minister (R), and Speaker of the Somali parliament (L), attend the closing ceremony after reaching an agreement for the new elections at the National Consultative Council on Elections in Mogadishu , on 27 May 2021. Abdirahman Yusuf / AFP

After bubbling for weeks, tensions between Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” have burst into the open, nearly triggering another clash between rival branches of the federal forces, in scenes that echoed confrontations in Mogadishu several months ago. Following the unexplained murder of a national intelligence agent and Roble’s subsequent suspension of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) chief, both the prime minister and president moved to appoint a new agency leader. The ensuing tensions nearly sparked a firefight, with opposing units facing off at NISA headquarters on 8 September. Although the forces in Farmajo’s camp backed down, the underlying frictions could yet cause violence and threaten long-overdue indirect elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women take part in a demonstration against the Somali President Mohamed Abdulahi Farmajo in Mogadishu on December 15, 2020 accused of interferences in the electoral process. STRINGER / AFP

Somalia’s long-running political crisis has entered a new, dangerous phase. In a hastily convened session on 12 April, members of parliament overwhelmingly endorsed a bill that would delay elections by two years, in effect extending the term in office of President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo”. The move is an alarming escalation of a dispute that could well spiral into widespread violence unless Somalia’s political elites return to the negotiating table. The opposition is said to be considering forming a parallel government; cracks have deepened in a security apparatus long divided along clan lines; and the president’s opponents have vowed to resist extension of his rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

Map of Voting Locations in Somalia International Crisis Group

What’s new? The Al-Shabaab insurgency has threatened to disrupt Somalia’s high-stakes elections due by the end of February. The Islamic State’s local branch may also stage its own assaults. A larger number of polling stations than in previous elections means that militants will have a wider range of targets to choose from.

Why does it matter? Militant attacks and intimidation of delegates and candidates could reduce participation in the polls and undermine their legitimacy. A disrupted electoral contest would sharpen political discord in Somalia, which Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State can exploit, while undermining longer-term efforts at reconciliation.

What should be done? …  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier of Somalia's breakaway territory of Somaliland stands guard during an Independence day celebration parade in the capital, Hargeisa on 18 May 2016. MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB / AFP

Somalia and Somaliland, which have been locked in a decades-long standoff over Somaliland’s 1991 claim of independence and Mogadishu’s rejection of it, are talking again. Previous efforts at dialogue have repeatedly failed, with both sides fundamentally at odds over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty. This impasse, in turn, has bled into disputes over territory, the management of resources and security cooperation. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has worked to cajole Somalia’s President Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” and Somaliland President Muse Bihi to come back to the table, as have U.S. and EU officials. In a surprise move, the two leaders convened in the Djiboutian capital on 14 June.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier on the African Union Mission in Somalia standing guard on a street during a security operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. EPA/Tobin Jones

In an ever more urbanising world, peacekeepers will increasingly operate in cities. In a recent article, we analysed how attacks against the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) affected the peacekeepers’ ability to operate in Mogadishu.

Cities host key logistical and political assets and institutions. They are frequently the object of fierce contestation among warring parties. Cities may also remain divided and insecure long after formal peace agreements are signed, posing significant challenges to peaceful transitions.

Securing strategically important cities and protecting key institutions are thus crucial tasks for peace operations. However, operating in densely populated urban areas brings significant challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldiers sit at a watch post next to the runway inside Mogadishu airport’s secure perimeter, where international organizations such as the United Nations and European Union are based, in Mogadishu, Somalia. (Dai Kurokawa/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

On Oct. 13, al-Shabab sent mortar rounds into the United Nations base at the Mogadishu airport, one of the most fortified areas in Somalia. A July hotel attack and car bombing in a Somali port town left more than 26 dead. In May, al-Shabab detonated a car bomb near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing nine people.

Al-Shabab is an Islamist extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, seeking to oust the Western-backed federal government of Somalia and install an Islamic government instituting sharia law. Despite coalition efforts to counter this militant group, al-Shabab continues to demonstrate resiliency and the ability to launch attacks both domestically and cross-border into Kenya.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur attends a news conference in Mogadishu, Somalia on 15 August 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

On 19 December, local lawmakers in Somalia’s restive South West state elected Abdiasis Mohammed “Laftagareen” president in a controversial poll that is certain to sow new instability. Laftagareen, former MP and Minister, would not have won without the Federal Government of Somalia’s manipulations. Mogadishu tilted the balance in his favour by arresting his popular Salafi opponent, Mukhtar Robow “Abu Mansur”, a former leader in the Al-Shabaab insurgency, and deploying Ethiopian troops in key towns to suppress dissent at the outcome.

The risks of Mogadishu’s intervention are manifold. By detaining Robow and imposing Laftagareen, the Federal Government is alienating a huge clan constituency: both men belong to the Rahanweyn, one of Somalia’s four main clans, but Robow comes from the biggest and most influential sub-clan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents of Eastleigh, a Nairobi neighborhood known for its densely Somali population, on Jan. 18, 2010. (Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images)

Pirates. Terrorists. Refugees. There is a long history of negative portrayals of Somalis around the world.

Consider, for example, Kenyan Somalis. According to the most recent census, there are 2.4 million Somalis in Kenya (out of an overall population of 38.6 million in the country). Somalis have lived in Kenya since before colonial rule. By the early 20th century, Somali-speaking nomads established themselves in what is now northeastern Kenya. Still, when you read about Kenyan Somalis in major media outlets, they are portrayed as “others” or as strangers in stories about terrorism or refugees.

How can Somalis be both citizens and strangers in Kenya?…  Seguir leyendo »

Somali military officers attend a training programme by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at their military base in Mogadishu, Somalia November 1, 2017. Picture taken November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RC17EE7FC1C0

The Gulf crisis that began last year appears to be living by reverse Las Vegas rules: What happens in the Gulf doesn’t stay in (or even have much impact on) the Gulf. Last June, a Saudi-led coalition cut off relations with and imposed a blockade on Qatar, invoking various and shifting rationales—Qatar was, allegedly, supporting terrorist groups, interfering in Saudi internal affairs, and displaying excessive closeness to Iran. Little progress been made in resolving the dispute, and all parties seem ready to withstand it for the foreseeable future. Qatar of course would much prefer to see its foes lift their blockade.…  Seguir leyendo »

People carry the body of the journalist Abdisatar Dahir, who was killed in a double suicide attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2012.CreditMohamed Abdiwahab/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Somalia in the past decade. Nobody has ever been tried or convicted in these murders. Somalia has sat atop the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Global Impunity Index — a list of the worst countries for the unsolved murders of journalists — for the past three years.

The Somali media is a battleground where government officials try to control the daily narrative, powerful businessmen are out to protect their business and clan interests, and Shabab militants attempt to intimidate the country’s mostly young and badly paid journalists through death threats.

One afternoon in the winter of 2012, Hassan Ali Ismaan, a 27-year-old security and politics reporter for Dalsan Radio, a popular privately owned Somali radio station, joined his friends for a weekly soccer game in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu.…  Seguir leyendo »

A hairdressing shop in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, Somalia. A law criminalizing all forms of sexual violence was passed in the region a year ago, but rape cases appear to have spiked. Credit Michael Kamber for The New York Times

In late 2016, the semiautonomous Puntland region of northeastern Somalia passed a landmark sexual-offenses law to widespread international acclaim.

The law — the first of its kind in the region — criminalized all forms of sexual violence. It banned gang rape, sexual exploitation and harassment. The result of many years of hard work, it had support from Puntland’s Ministries of Women, Development and Family Affairs, Justice and Religious Affairs, as well as from parliamentarians and religious and community leaders. There were predictions that it might serve as a guide for the rest of the region. When it was enacted, women like me who’d fought so hard for its passage were filled with a new sense of hope.…  Seguir leyendo »

African Union soldiers march along the top of a hill overlooking the al-Shabab stronghold of Barawe in Somalia in October 2014 in this image provided by the African Union Mission to Somalia. (Tobin Jones/AMISOM/Associated Press)

After more than 10 years of operations, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has a new exit strategy to reduce the threat from al-Shabab, secure the political process and transfer security responsibilities to Somali forces. But political feuds between the national government and Somalia’s regional administrations, pervasive corruption and recent setbacks against al-Shabab threaten to derail AMISOM’s successful exit.

The London Security Pact of May 2017 and the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2372 on Aug. 30, 2017, determined that AMISOM and its partners will build “a capable, accountable, acceptable, and affordable Somali-led security sector” to enable the African Union mission to leave.…  Seguir leyendo »

The scene of a truck explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, this month that killed more than 400 people. Credit Mohamed Abdiwahab/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Oct. 14, a truck carrying about two tons of homemade explosives blew up near Zoobe Junction, one of the busiest streets in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. The blast sent shock waves for miles. More than 400 people were killed — nearly 150 of them burned beyond recognition — and hundreds wounded. Families wandered for hours searching for their loved ones in the rubble.

Hundreds of citizens lined up at hospitals for hours to donate blood. Doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers did all they could to rescue the wounded. Grieving and angry Somalis gathered on Zoobe Junction blamed Islamist Shabab militants for the atrocity.…  Seguir leyendo »

The aftermath of a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 14. Officials said the attack was carried out by the militant Islamic group Shabab. Feisal Omar/Reuters

One evening in August, I climbed onto a dusty old truck in the Dadaab refugee camp in the eastern Kenyan desert, about 50 miles from the border with Somalia. A tarpaulin in the truck bed covered the sacks of beans it was transporting to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The driver readily picked up some passengers: four women and eight men for $60 each.

The women sat in the front beside the driver. I sat with the men on the tarpaulin. Six truck tires were strapped onto the tarp. We had to hold onto the tires to keep from falling off the truck as it bumped along a dirt road through a forest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Armed Cameroonian men in the rapid intervention battalion patrol in Waza, Cameroon, in May 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations proclaimed Oct. 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence, a reminder that it is irrational to use violence to promote peaceful societies. It’s also a reminder of the importance of accurate data on where and why violence occurs in the world, and where the threats are on the rise.

Since April 2016, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has tracked the levels of attacks associated with all militant Islamist groups in Africa on a quarterly basis, using data compiled from the widely used Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) Project.

In a July 21 Monkey Cage post, Salem Solomon and Casey Frechette challenged the validity of an Africa Center analysis that noted that al-Shabab had surpassed Boko Haram as Africa’s most deadly militant Islamist group.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman at an internally displaced persons camp on the outskirts of Dinsor, Somalia. Giles Clarke/Getty Images

As I waited for my ride to collect me from the Mogadishu airport, an officer told me an apocryphal tale: A starving goat, blind from hunger, mistook a baby wrapped in a green cloth for grass and bit off a mouthful of emaciated flesh from the baby’s upper arm. The baby’s anguished cry brought the mother to her knees and she wept in prayer. The next day, a friend I met in Mogadishu repeated a variation of the same tale.

I saw the story as encapsulating much of what everyone needs to know about the goat-eats-baby severity of the current famine in the Somali Peninsula, with more than six million affected, crops wasting away, livestock dead or dying, water and foods scarce.…  Seguir leyendo »

Somali soldiers stand guard at the scene of a car bomb explosion near Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 12, 2017. Media outlets report that at least two people were killed when the car bomb went off at a checkpoint outside the Somali capital. (Said Yusuf Warsame/European Pressphoto Agency)

In May, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed and two other U.S. service members were wounded on Somali soil. It was the first U.S. combat death in the East African country since 1993 — and it came amid ramped-up efforts to fight the deadly extremist group al-Shabab.

For years, Boko Haram has carried the dubious distinction of being Africa’s deadliest terrorist group. But a multinational task force has weakened the group. It has been crippled so badly that al-Shabab has emerged as Africa’s deadliest extremist group.

That is according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies published in April.…  Seguir leyendo »