Girls dressed in the colours of the Somali flag participate in a demonstration supporting Somalia’s government following the port deal signed between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland. January 3, 2024. ABDISHUKRI HAYBE / AFP

The Somali government has a crucial year ahead in 2024. Its offensive against Al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgency besetting the country since 2007, has sputtered since making important gains in the second half of 2022. The government promises to “eliminate” the group by year’s end, but the goal seems beyond reach. For one thing, Mogadishu will likely soon have less help: the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) that augments its campaign is to wind down in December, and discussions about a multilateral follow-on force are just getting started. The prospect of state-level elections has already reignited political and clan tensions. Additionally, as part of its plan to complete a provisional constitution, the government seeks wide-ranging changes to the electoral code ahead of national elections slated for 2026.…  Seguir leyendo »

A grocer counts her money at her stall at the El-Jale camp for the Internally Displaced Persons in Beletweyne, Somalia. Photograph: Alamy

Debt relief is just the beginning of real change for Somalia. The country has been suffocating under the huge weight of unsustainable debt for more than three decades. Between 2012 to February 2017, when I led the first internationally recognised government since the collapse of the state in 1991, we realised quickly that we had to re-engage with all the international financial institutions and our bilateral and multilateral creditors to address this crippling impediment to our economic development.

Somalia owed more than $5bn (£3.9bn). And the interest and charges on these debts kept mounting. As a new government in a post-conflict state, fighting international terrorism, but with the ambition to rebuild Somalia, we had to act.…  Seguir leyendo »

Government security forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, January 2023. Feisal Omar / Reuters

Since he took office in 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden has wound down the United States’ involvement in some post-9/11 conflicts. But Somalia is a glaring exception. For more than 16 years the U.S. military has helped to wage a war against al Shabab, a Somali extremist insurgency that emerged in 2006. Under Biden’s direction, U.S. forces are still carrying out, on average, a dozen airstrikes every year and spending millions of dollars to train and equip the Somali special forces unit known as the Danab.

In one sense, Somalia has long been a footnote in the United States’ war on terror.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kafiya Abdi, 1, and Rahma Abdi, 5, two of the three children of Muna Khadar, 22, play in front of the family's kitchen hut in an IDP camp in Oodweyne district of Somaliland, Somalia, on March 1. (Daniel Etter)

In March, I traveled to drought-stricken Somalia. At one point during my visit to a camp for displaced people, I was surrounded by a raucous crowd of children who were laughing and licking bright red popsicles. A local community leader had somehow managed to obtain a few dozen frozen sweets that he donated to the camp’s residents. Some of the older people were lucky enough to get one, too. Among them was a woman in a green headscarf, whose name, as I later learned, was Ruun Geedi Ali. I turned my camera toward her. She stopped and posed for a portrait, the popsicle poised at her lips.…  Seguir leyendo »

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at the presidential palace in Mogadishu on 28 May. Photograph: Feisal Omar/Reuters

Development is complex, but in complexity there is an opportunity for innovation if the right partnerships are formed.

In Somalia, where the needs are extreme, multiple and urgent, there is no shortage of development projects, but more often than not, this dominates the global view of Somalia. However, this is not the full story.

Last week, Somalia held its first International Investment Conference. The day before I opened this historic gathering, there was a cowardly terrorist attack on a hotel near the presidential offices, which sadly claimed innocent lives and injured many more. I could hear the fighting from my offices and residencethroughout the night and the attack continued as the conference opened, coming to an end towards the early afternoon, thanks to the efforts of Somalia’s brave security forces.…  Seguir leyendo »

Investing in Climate Adaptation and Resilience as a Bulwark Against Conflict

Across the Horn of Africa, drought and flooding are displacing people and sharpening competition for land and water, risking conflict. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to increase funding for climate adaptation.

Investing in Climate Adaptation and Resilience as a Bulwark Against Conflict

Climate change is increasing the risk of conflict across the Horn of Africa. Intensified droughts and floods render land unusable, force people from their homes and compel them to compete for resources. They also raise the stakes in transboundary water disputes. The climate-conflict link is evident in Kenya, where four consecutive years of failed rains appear to be exacerbating ethnic tensions between farmers and herders jostling for access to scarce land and water.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the front line of climate change, Somalia needs help

For more than three billion people in developing countries, the visceral impacts of a changing climate are part of everyday life, and climate projections suggest worse is to come.

Yet what emerged from COP26 and the Glasgow Climate Pact left vulnerable communities without the support needed to rebuild and respond to unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The repercussions of these impacts may be far-reaching in the next decade, and it is in the interests of wealthier nations to finance adaptation in the most at-risk regions to help them become more resilient.

Somalia is no stranger to climate extremes

Malyun Muhumad, a 35-year-old mother of five with the eldest currently just eight years old, was forced to leave her village in the Hirshabelle state in Somalia in 2016 due to a devastating combination of repeated flooding and the impacts of a swirling conflict which has plagued the country for the past three decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

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. Credit Mohamed 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 »