News / Africa

Victory in al-Shabab Somalia Stronghold Creates New Problems

A man climbs onto a Somali university building to take down an Al-Shabab flag in the center of Baidoa, a day after the town was seized by Ethiopian troops and allied Somali government forces on February 23, 2012.
A man climbs onto a Somali university building to take down an Al-Shabab flag in the center of Baidoa, a day after the town was seized by Ethiopian troops and allied Somali government forces on February 23, 2012.

Ethiopian and Somali soldiers seized control of the town of Baidoa in central Somalia this week, driving al-Shabab militants from one of their major strongholds.  But analysts say the strategic victory carries significant risks.

Ethiopian forces working alongside troops from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, TFG, met very little resistance on the road to Baidoa.

Empty town

TFG field commander Adan Ahmed Omar told VOA his forces fought a series of small battles on the way to Baidoa, killing 12 al-Shabab fighters and capturing five.  He says the town was empty by the time they got there.

Omar said his forces have now liberated the Bay and Bakool regions of central Somalia, with the exception of a few districts.

The victory in Baidoa also opens up a pathway to the biggest al-Shabab stronghold, Kismayo -- a port city in the southeast controlled by the militants, and a major transit point for guns and money.

Baidoa, too, was an important strategic operating base for the militants.

"Major victory"

Once the seat of the former transitional federal government, and a major trading center, al-Shabab took control of Baidoa in early 2009.  The city also hosts an international airport big enough to land cargo planes that could be used to bring in weapons, supplies and soldiers.

Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, says capturing Baidoa is a "major victory," but that the work is not finished.

"The fact that it has now reverted back to TFG control I think is hugely significant, but the problem, again, is how to really create a legitimate credible administration in Baidoa which will be acceptable to the people.  I think that will be more important than the military victory itself.”

Mistrust

Somalis are also sensitive about Ethiopia's role, fighting alongside the TFG, because of the country's history.

In 2006, Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in a successful drive to overthrow an Islamist government that briefly controlled Mogadishu.

But the invasion increased popular support for al-Shabab, and its campaign to defend the sovereignty of Somalia against foreign forces.  A little more than two years later, Ethiopia withdrew.

Rashid Abdi says it is essential for Ethiopia to leave quickly, but he is unsure that the TFG or the African Union's force in Somalia, AMISOM, have the capability to provide security on their own.

"So if that is the case, it will mean that Ethiopians will have to stay for some time.  And the longer they stay in Somalia, the greater the risk of a public backlash and I think the Ethiopians are very much aware of that problem," he said.

Challenges along with victory

The transitional government has struggled to establish government in towns and villages reclaimed from al-Shabab.

In the southern towns recently seized by Kenyan Defense Forces, the TFG has empowered local, allied militias to keep the peace and administer some sort of law and order.

But infighting and inter-clan rivalries that have stymied all attempts at peace in Somalia for the past 20 years, continue to a pose a threat to these fragile political alliances.







You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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