Somalia

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Somali soldiers at the scene of a suicide car-bomb attack on a police station in Mogadishu last month. The explosion killed five people and wounded 10. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The United States is getting more involved in Somalia, the nation in the Horn of Africa that has been wrestling with violent conflict and political instability for nearly three decades. Since June, the United States has conducted multiple military operations against al-Shabab militants in the country, pledged $126 million in humanitarian assistance, and announced plans to reestablish  permanent diplomatic representation in the capital in hopes of helping to stabilize the government.

Somalia’s central government’s failure has continued for years — despite hosting a large African Union peacekeeping force and many international military advisers, and receiving a significant amount of development aid.…  Seguir leyendo »

Students in Nairobi protest an attack by gunmen at the Garissa University College in April 2015. Al-Shabab asserted responsibility for the attack. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

On June 14, the terrorist group al-Shabab — an al-Qaeda affiliate — attacked a pizza restaurant in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, by detonating a car bomb and sending in assailants. More than 30 people were killed. Earlier in June, al-Shabab overran a military base in the semiautonomous area of Puntland, killing dozens. The group recently surpassed Boko Haram as the deadliest terrorist organization in Africa.

But it’s not the violence that’s attracting followers. My recent field research in Kenya and Somalia, the two East African countries where al-Shabab is most active, suggests that al-Shabab is thriving because it’s still offering a comparatively attractive alternative to the Somali government.…  Seguir leyendo »

A firefighter trying to extinguish a fire after an attack by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia, last year. Credit Feisal Omar/Reuters

The Trump administration has made it clear that the United States will take a more aggressive approach to battling al-Shabaab extremists in Somalia.

In March, President Trump granted the military expanded authorities to operate in Somalia, paving the way for an accelerated military campaign.

By declaring parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” Mr. Trump gave the Department of Defense authority to approve strikes without going through an Obama-era vetting process, which potentially lowers the bar for tolerance of civilian casualties. And the head of American forces in Africa, who advocated the change, said this would “allow us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Men unload boxes of nutritional supplements from a helicopter prior to a humanitarian food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme in Thonyor, Leer county, South Sudan, on 25 February 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola.

The last time the UN declared a famine was in 2011, in Somalia. The last time it faced more than one major famine simultaneously was more than three decades ago. Today we are on the brink of four – in Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.

The spectre of famine is primarily the result of war, not natural disaster. According to the UN, more than twenty million people, millions of them children, are at risk of starvation. This is happening in man-made crises and under the Security Council’s watch. In some places, the denial of food and other aid is a weapon of war as much as its consequence.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Philippine Coast Guard boat, left, approaches a sinking Filipino fishing boat near Zamboanga City, southern Philippines. Government officials reported several Filipino fishermen on the boat were killed by a group of suspected pirates. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)

There were fewer than 200 maritime pirate attacks in 2016, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Total global incidents declined nearly 22 percent from 2015 — and nearly 60 percent from 2010, when Somali piracy captured the world’s attention.

But violent pirate attacks increased in two places: the Celebes and Sulu Seas between the Philippines and East Malaysia, and the Gulf of Guinea off the Nigerian coast. In both places the number of pirate attacks more than doubled last year and were closely linked to rebel movement.

Some piracy hot spots — Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and Vietnam — all experienced significantly less piracy in 2016 compared to 2015.…  Seguir leyendo »

Civilians ride on a Somali police car as they celebrate the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in the streets of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Feb. 9. (Feisal Omar/Reuters)

After a lengthy electoral process, Somalia got a new president last month, former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat in the Feb. 8 election when he failed to get the plurality of votes needed to win the second round of voting.

This was only the second smooth transfer of power since Somalia’s first direct elections in 1960: Incumbent President Aden Abdulle Osman graciously ceded the 1967 election to Abdirashid Ali Shermarke.

Somalia’s democratic trailblazing in Africa came to a halt in 1969, however, when Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a coup. Siad Barre ruled the country until his ouster in 1991, when a civil war ensued.…  Seguir leyendo »