News / Africa

Has Somalia's Famine Weakened al-Shabab?

Islamist fighters loyal to Somalia's al-Qaida inspired al-Shabab group perform military drills at a village in Lower Shabelle region, some 25 kilometers outside Mogadishu (February 2011 file photo)
Islamist fighters loyal to Somalia's al-Qaida inspired al-Shabab group perform military drills at a village in Lower Shabelle region, some 25 kilometers outside Mogadishu (February 2011 file photo)

One of the biggest obstacles to providing aid to Somalia has been the heavy hand of the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab, which has so far dictated which aid groups are allowed in and which are banned.  But some analysts say the crisis has actually weakened the militant group. 

On July 6, al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage announced to the world that the militant group would lift a ban on foreign aid to Somalia to help victims of the worst drought in a generation.

Two weeks later, they reversed the decision.  This time, Rage said the ban would remain, but the group would allow those humanitarian groups who had previously worked in Somalia.

Rift within al-Shabab

Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdi Samed, a Somali political analyst with Southlink Consultants in Nairobi, says the mixed messages were the result of a disagreement between the two main factions within al-Shabab.

“You know there are two groups, although this division has always existed, it remained hidden:  those for the al-Qaida notion of what you call global jihadists, and those who normally are the localists - the local fighters who are close to the people,” he said.

The leading jihadists in al-Shabab come from Somaliland in the north, and trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan.  They are the ones trying to keep aid out.

Has Somalia's Famine Weakened al-Shabab?
Has Somalia's Famine Weakened al-Shabab?

But there is another sub-group that includes leaders from the Bay and Bakool regions at the heart of the drought who have been more open to foreign assistance.

Samed says this silent rift within al-Shabab has become more pronounced since the start of the food crisis that has now turned into famine in two regions of Somalia.

He says internal weakening, and a loss of faith in al-Shabab by the Somali people is tearing the group apart. “I'll tell you the truth, our inside story," said Samed. "The day's of al-Shabab are numbered.  My biggest worry is only one thing - if the international community is allowed to provide food and water and basic necessities to the al-Shabab controlled areas, they will receive a logistical support so that they are now prolonging the fighting.”

Al-Shabab militants are notorious for their hostility toward western aid agencies and have been known to kidnap and even kill aid workers, while pilfering humanitarian supplies for their own use.

Their violent history has made many western governments and humanitarian organizations hesitant to send aid into Somalia, for fear that it will end up in the wrong hands.

Loss support

Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group says al-Shabab has also lost a lot of support from clan leaders and local communities, who blame the group for the current crisis.

He says as a result, he does not expect al-Shabab to relaunch attacks against humanitarian groups.

“I think because the situation has become so dire and so grave, I don't think al-Shabab will at this early stage do that.  Because, again, they want to show themselves as responsible," said Abdi. "They want to be seen as credible interlocutors in this crisis.”

Internally displaced Somali women queue to receive food-aid rations at a distribution center in a displaced persons camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 26, 2011
Internally displaced Somali women queue to receive food-aid rations at a distribution center in a displaced persons camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 26, 2011

The drought and food crisis have hit especially hard in south-central Somalia, which is the heart of al-Shabab territory.

The crisis has forced many to flee, either for neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, or for areas of Somalia controlled by the government, where they know they can get food aid.

The Transitional Federal Government, or TFG, says this movement of people shows more faith in the government by groups of people in Somalia and support for the TFG position in the ongoing war against al-Shabab.

Government gaining control


Just Thursday the TFG announced a successful operation with African Union forces against al-Shabab in Mogadishu, and the TFG now claims to control more of the capital city than ever.

Somali government spokesperson Omar Osman says the point of the operation was to protect displaced people living in refugee camps.

“One of the reasons that the operation was a necessity was to ensure that humanitarian aid agencies get some kind of an environment where its safe and secure for them to operate," he said. "As you are aware, an al-Shabab mortar could easily land in one of those camps.”

But Osman also warns that al-Shabab has taken advantage of the crisis, and has recently recruited more than 1,000 young soldiers who see few other opportunities - a clear sign that al-Shabab's war is far from over.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs