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Somalia’s Al-Shabaab Down but Far from Out

You....Stop. Enough, we need these people

“You….Stop. Enough, we need these people” erected in-front of the Somali parliament building. Courtesy AMISOM Public Information/Flickr

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on 27 June 2016.

Somalia’s militant group, Al-Shabaab, has often defied its adversaries’ claims that it is in decline. In recent months, however, the movement has suffered setbacks, including territorial losses, high-ranking commanders killed and defections. The Somali Federal Government (SFG) and its internal, regional and international allies need to be clear-sighted about the reasons for these, and what they can do to stop another Al-Shabaab recovery.

Al-Shabaab’s set-backs – and fewer attacks by the movement during the Ramadan holy Muslim month of fasting than in previous years – are the result of three distinct and unrelated factors. First, an enhanced and largely externally directed and funded campaign including drone strikes has eliminated high-profile leaders and diminished its military capacity. Second, some of Somalia’s new federal units are demonstrating greater military effectiveness, even if they and the government still rely primarily on clan-based militias. Third, the Islamic State (IS) has challenged Al-Shabaab’s greatest internal vulnerability – its ideological cohesion.

Whether the Somali government and its allies can advance their cause will largely depend on greater agreement on priorities and coordination of action – no easy task, given the wide and diverse range of external and internal actors.

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THINK AGAIN: Who Profits from Kenya’s War in Somalia?

Flag of the Kenya Defence Forces.

Flag of the Kenya Defence Forces. Image: Fry1989/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 7 December, 2015.

It has been more than four years since the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) crossed the border into Somalia, and Kenyans are entitled to ask what exactly their troops are still doing there.

The official rationale is no longer entirely convincing. The original purpose of the military intervention was to insulate the country from the conflict in Somalia.

‘Kenya has been and remains an island of peace, and we shall not allow criminals from Somalia, which has been fighting for over two decades, to destabilise our peace,’ said George Saitoti, the internal security minister at the time.

It is debatable whether that aim has been achieved. Although Operation Linda Nchi (‘Protect the Nation’) curtailed the operations of al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for dozens of incidents on Kenyan soil in recent years. This includes the high-profile attacks on Westgate Mall and Garissa University. » More

Reigniting Somalia’s Political Transition: Q&A with Ken Menkhaus

President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Image: AMISOM Public Information Photo Stream/Flickr

This interview was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 25 November, 2015.

Recent pushback against Al-Shabaab extremists and a partial easing of tensions between central and state governments have increased hopes for a stable democratic future in Somalia, as it continues to recover from the civil war of the 1990s and 2000s.

Nonetheless, Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College—an expert on the country’s ongoing political transition—said much work was required to recapture momentum from the 2012 establishment of a new federal government, which brought in new political and security expertise, international support, and financial investment. “Finishing a lot of transitional tasks left from the pre-2012 era is essential if the country is to move forward: to have a constitution; to have full elections,” he told International Peace Institute (IPI) Senior Adviser John Hirsch, at a recent IPI forum on 21st century peacebuilding. “Since then, a number of things have not gone terribly well. We’ve seen a prolonged period of political paralysis in the government, with a lot of in-house fighting,” Dr. Menkhaus said. He said the international community was deeply involved in Somalia, providing development and military aid, as well as applying pressure on the country’s leaders to continue their transitional tasks. This includes pushing for an election on a new head of state and a referendum on a new constitution, which had been expected next year. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. » More

Illegal Fishing in the Shadow of Piracy

A Somali fisherman carries fish from a car in Hamar Weyn distrct’s fish market. Mogadishu, Somalia. Image: AMISOM Public Information/Flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Blog on 6 October, 2015.

Extensive illegal fishing by foreign vessels in Somali waters threatens economic development in the Horn of Africa. Somali fishermen are unable to compete because the foreign fishers are better equipped and better skilled. Some Somalis believe that the only way to protect their resources and make a living is by committing piracy.

Piracy slowly grew from unorganized vigilante “coast guards” in the 1990s to transnational organized crime networks, wreaking havoc on the global shipping industry, in the early to mid-2000s. It reached its peak in 2011, when more than 28 vessels were hijacked in the waters off the Horn of Africa. Maritime crime has declined intensively over the past few years, as international naval patrols and armed guards on ships have increased. However, a recent report by Secure Fisheries, warns that those advances could be reversed if illegal fishing is not stopped. » More

Al-Shabaab’s Kenyan Ambitions

The flag of the terrorist group ‘Al-Shabaab’. Image: Ingoman/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the International Crisis Group on its ‘In Pursuit of Peace’- Blog on 15 April 2015.

Why is Al-Shabaab increasingly targeting Kenya?

In its statement following the attack, Al-Shabaab claimed it acted to avenge atrocities it alleges have been committed by the Kenyan military deployed in Somalia (now part of the African Union peace-support operation AMISOM). This puts pressure on the Kenyan commitment to that mission. Al-Shabaab also claimed that its fight is to liberate “all Muslim lands under Kenyan occupation”, including “north-astern province and the coast”. Despite being anachronistic given Kenya’s recent divisions into county based government, this language chimes with pan-Somali nationalist and irredentist slogans of the 1960s and 70s. » More

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