News / Africa

As Al Shabab Looms, Somali Government Running Out of Time

AMISOM commander, Major General Natham Mugisha (R) shakes hands with a commander from the Transitional Federal Government army a day after heavy fighting against the Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, 15 Dec 2010
AMISOM commander, Major General Natham Mugisha (R) shakes hands with a commander from the Transitional Federal Government army a day after heavy fighting against the Al Shabaab insurgents in the Sigaale District of Mogadishu, 15 Dec 2010
Michael Onyiego

It has been another violent year in Somalia with al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants establishing itself as a terrorist group that can strike beyond Somali borders.  The U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government, mired in its own internal problems, is still relying on African Union peacekeepers to keep insurgents from toppling the government and showing little sign that it will be able to establish a functioning administration before its mandate ends next August.

History in the world's most dangerous city seems to have ground to a halt. Since 1991, violence and warfare have become a fact of daily life on the Mogadishu streets, with one conflict blending into the next since the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre.

But since 2007, a new and more radical threat has confronted Somalia's fragile transitional government, threatening to overhaul southern Somalia and establish a harsh theocracy on the Horn of Africa.

Al Shabab (also known as "The Youth") entered the war-torn Somali scene in 2007 shortly after the Ethiopian Invasion. A successor to the Islamic Court's Union, the al Qaida-linked group has been battling the government to impose Sharia law in the country.

Somalia has never been short of armed insurgents, but 2010 saw Shabab develop into something more ominous. Over the course of the year, al Shabab seized most of southern and central Somalia. Despite the presence of the joint African Union and U.N. peacekeeping force AMISOM, the transitional government struggled to maintain its grip over the capital.

Al Shabab then seized world attention in July when it carried out twin suicide attacks in Kampala, Uganda killing 76 while they watched the final match of the World Cup. The blasts were carried out in retaliation for Ugandan troop presence in the AMISOM mission.

International Crisis Group analyst Rashid Abdi warns that al Shabab, once viewed merely as a regional threat, has become an international player.

"We are talking of an organization that has come of age," said Abdi.  "It is no longer an appendage of al-Qaida, it is now a clone probably which is much more serious and has the ambition to globalize the jihad and has the footsoldiers to do it."

Emboldened by their actions in Kampala, al Shabab launched its Ramadan Offensive, vowing to oust the fractured Somali government from Mogadishu by early September.

One month of bloody fighting ensued, leaving hundreds dead. But miraculously, being pushed back, the AMISOM and Government troops were able to repel the rebel advances and pick up territory of their own.

The gains were highly-touted as a step towards the end of al Shabab, but the celebration was short-lived. Violence has again picked up in Mogadishu, and a string of battles over the past few weeks have left more than 100 dead.

The commitment of the International Community has never wavered in the face of growing violence. In fact, the resolve to defeat Shabab has strengthened since Kampala. On December 22 the United Nation's approved an AMISOM troop increase from 8,000 to 12,000 and Uganda has in recent months promised to bring the number to 20,000 with international funding.

But Crisis Group's Rashid Abdi warns that a military victory in Somalia would be fleeting. Underlying the problem of al Shabab is the weak, U.N.-backed government facing it.

"There is no doubt that there isn't a military solution to this problem," added Abdi.  "A temporary victory over al Shabab is feasible. But that creates a problem by itself because - at the moment - the government has no capacity to hold the territory which AMISOM will help it gain."

A large part of the problem in Somalia is the Transitional Federal Government's inability to eliminate al Shabab and impose order. Established in 2004, the government has been wracked by near constant infighting and corruption.

But a glimmer of hope has recently emerged. In October, President Sharif appointed American citizen Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as Prime Minister. Unknown to Somalia at the time, the appointment was criticized by local leaders.

But Mohamed's insistence on experience rather than clan affiliation and his appointment of a lean, technocrat heavy cabinet has garnered praise and raised some expectations.   Despite the hopes, the new Prime Minister has only months to do what some believe impossible: oust al Shabab, deliver a constitution and hold national elections before the TFG mandate expires in August.

"The unanswered question is: are they really serious - the donors - about having a permanent government come August and how in the world are they going to do it," said U.S.-based Somalia Observer at Purdue University, Michael Weinstein.  "How does this new government fit into that? You would have to have an extended mandate for this government to be able to actually see if it can accomplish anything."

Only time will tell if the current Somali government gets another chance to bring peace to Somalia, but one thing is clear: al Shabab will be waiting for whichever government turns up in 2011.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs