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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More