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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora