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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs