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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora