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Analysts Say Somali Government Needs to Protect Gains in War Against al-Shabab

FILE - Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud leads a demonstration at Banadir stadium, Mogadishu, Jan. 12, 2023.
FILE - Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud leads a demonstration at Banadir stadium, Mogadishu, Jan. 12, 2023.

Somalis are hailing the capture of the port town of Haradhere as a major victory in the fight against the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. The port, once a base for Somali pirates, was a key revenue source for the militants. But analysts say holding onto Harahere and other territories seized from the militants while winning over locals will be a challenge.

The capture of Harardhere is perhaps the single biggest trophy for the Somali army and clan militia who have been waging a ground offensive against al-Shabab since July.

At the height of piracy in Somalia in 2011, Harardhere was the main operating port for pirates hijacking ships at seas for ransom. But it was seized by al-Shabab, which has used it since then to generate revenue by taxing imported goods.

Somalia’s Defense Minister Abdulkadir Nur lauded the capture of Harardhere which adds to a growing list of towns and villages falling into government hands.

He said, we want to thank all the armed forces, particularly the Somali army which made it possible to dislodge the enemy from the two districts which are Gal'ad and Harardhere districts.

Shoki Hayir, a lecturer at SIMAD University and a conflict researcher, told VOA the capture of Harardhere was a significant step for the military campaign which has been running for close to eight months.

He said it is a historic victory achieved by Somali and the local forces. It is a victory that boosts the morale of the troops and a significant achievement registered by the government led by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and this will speed up operations to liberate the country.

Despite this series of victories by the Somali army, Hayir says government will need to build the confidence of the local communities and quickly establish a presence to ensure these newly liberated areas do not fall back into al-Shabab hands.

He said it is good for the top government leaders to visit the liberated areas urgently to boost the morale of the locals and engage with them as the areas were under al-Shabaab control for a long time. He said, it is also important for the armed forces and the local militias to establish bases in the liberated areas to avoid the loss of those areas once again.

Ahmed Hadi, the director of Somali Civic House, a policy and governance think tank in Mogadishu, says the capture of Harardhere is not only a victory for the military but for the locals.

He said, the recapture of Harardhere is an important move as it is part of a plan to decentralize the administration. The town is also crucial for the movement of people and goods because those areas had been locked off from the rest of the country for a long time.

Hadi also said the government will need to be ready for possible local conflicts over resources.

Last year, President Mohamud declared an “all-out war” against al-Shabab, which has been fighting Somali governments for the past 15 years.

The government says it is also waging financial warfare against the group. President Mohamud told a gathering in Mogadishu last week that the government has closed 250 bank accounts and 7 mobile money accounts suspected to be linked to al-Shabab.

This move, he said, is denying the militant group money to fund its operations.