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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.