News / Africa

Results Unclear as Somali Offensive Continues

African Union peacekeepers patrol in a tank as they assist Somalia government forces during clashes with insurgents in southern Mogadishu, March 9, 2011
African Union peacekeepers patrol in a tank as they assist Somalia government forces during clashes with insurgents in southern Mogadishu, March 9, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Michael Onyiego

The Somali government is claiming victory in a month-long offensive to retake pieces of southern Somalia from the insurgent group al-Shabab. But as fighting continues and the death toll rises, the impact of the recent clashes remains unclear.

There has been relative calm in Somalia’s border regions over the past week as fighting between government forces and al Qaida-linked insurgent group al-Shabab slows and stabilizes. In late February and early March, fighting erupted as the government forces and the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeepers, AMISOM, launched an offensive to retake territory throughout southern Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu.

For nearly two weeks, fighting spilled over the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders near Mandera, raising international alarm and criticism of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government. The rebel forces have since been pushed back into Somalia and the TFG troops are exercising some measure of control over the area, using it as a base to launch attacks into the Gedo region – a stronghold of al-Shabab.

But according to International Crisis Group Analyst Rashid Abdi, the outcome of the recent violence is not so clear.

“Definitely both sides are claiming victory,” Abdi said. “Towns have changed hands; they are now controlled by the pro-government forces. The government has managed to consolidate its control over two or three, four towns along the border. Now this is a very modest gain and it is by no way an indication that we are beginning to see a roll-back of al Shabab in these territories.”

While fighting does not appear to be finished in Somalia, members of the African Union are praising the operation as a success. Just last week, an AU representative to the U.N. Security Council claimed the government now controlled as much as 60 percent of Mogadishu, with about 80 percent of the population under the aegis of the TFG and AMISOM forces.

But the operation came at a heavy cost: Over 50 AMISOM soldiers were killed in less than a month of fighting. AMISOM’s troops come from Uganda and Burundi, and there is worry that continued losses on the battlefield could affect each nation’s commitment to the Somali mission.

But as ICG’s Abdi points out, there are also serious questions being raised about the long-term strategy underlying the recent violence.

“There is a clear absence of a political strategy,” he added. “This is an exclusive military strategy in the hope that, at some point, there will be positive dynamics from the military offensive which will produce some kind of a political miracle.”

The Somali military is heavily dependent on the 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops fighting for AMISOM in Mogadishu. The force has, over the past year, requested funding for more troops to help take full control of the capital. But many observers question whether the TFG or its military is capable of administering and controlling those areas without AMISOM support. Speaking with VOA in Nairobi on Wednesday, Somali Parliamentarian Hassan Ibrahim put it more bluntly:

“The Shabab are much more organized than the government because they have vision, they have morale, they are motivated for their cause. But the government: not. The trooper who is fighting today for the Somali government – who hasn’t been paid in more than a year – his belly is empty. Do you think he can last one hour? No, he can’t.”

Such doubts are part of a growing chorus of discontent aimed at the Transitional Federal Government as it approaches the end of its original mandate in August. Seven years earlier, the TFG was tasked with delivering a new constitution and national elections by 2011. With neither of those goals within reach, the Somali parliament voted to unilaterally extend the government’s mandate by another three years, prompting condemnation from major Somali backers such as the United Nations and United States.

Ibrahim says the current military offensive in Somalia has more to do with validating the TFG extension than actually eliminating al-Shabab and stabilizing the region.

“We’ve wasted seven precious years,” Ibrahim added. “You couldn’t do – all of these seven years – nothing and suddenly in three months or six months of your period you can do something. This is just propaganda and personal gain.”

The shifting lines in Somalia’s turmoil are more complicated than ever but, for now, the international community seems to be taking notice. In recent Security Council discussions, China has urged other nations to recognize Somalia’s instability an underlying cause of piracy, and a threat to international security. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also warned the United Nations not to lose focus calling the AMISOM gains “fragile” as “violence continues to rage.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid