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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid