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

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs