Has the world woken up to the risk coming from Somalia? The simultaneous bombing on Sunday in the Ugandan capital Kampala may be the start of a wave of violent terrorism in the Horn of Africa and beyond, waged from Somalia. The radical Somali group al-Shabab had already made public threats against Uganda and Burundi, the two African countries that have contributed troops to African peace mission in Somalia. Today its commander admitted responsibility for the bombs.
The threat of terrorism emanating from Somalia is real, and equal to that from Afghanistan. As in Afghanistan, few days go by without an act of terrorism targeting civilians. Similar too is the magnitude in which they cause carnage to their people. Somalia today is a much more dangerous place for Somalis, for the region and for the rest of the world than it has ever been.
What are not similar, however, are the world's responses. Somalia is left to 5000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers supporting a very weak government living in a citadel inside Mogadishu. What is at their disposal is a "shoot back when attacked" policy and an attempt to hold the fort until the rest of the world comes to help. Four years after they arrived, they still holding fort with no sign of the world coming to their aid. African troops lack resources for basic things such as payment of their soldiers, training of their Somali counterparts and of course any resources for winning the hearts and minds of the Somali people.
One can only speculate why extremist groups do what they do. But what al-Shabab want from yesterday's bombing is very clear to many who observe Somalia. They want a heavy-handed response from the neighbouring countries that sucks them into Somalia. Al-Shabab are looking for a new rallying slogan to continue their war. They know that they are losing the hearts and minds game in Somalia. As many as 1.5 million Somali civilians left areas under the control of al-Shabab and are now living as displaced citizens in the rest of the country.
Somalis need a functioning and capable government more than anything else. They have been incapable of establishing one in the last 20 years. They need a lot of sustained support, as do their African friends who are there to help Somalia. Functioning, legitimate and capable government is the greatest weapon against terrorism in Somalia and in the region. I hope this is what will emerge from yesterday's tragedy.
Nuradin Dirie, an independent analyst specialising in the Horn of Africa with particular interest in Somalia.