REGIONAL REPORT

Terror attacks spike amidst Somalia's political standoff

Al Shabaab continues to attack, claiming the lives of civilians and Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.

In Summary

• On March 9, the insurgent group claimed responsibility for another mortar attack at the heavily fortified Halane camp in Mogadishu.

•  The camp was to host a meeting between regional leaders and Somalia government for electoral talks. At least six mortar shells hit the camp.

Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo chairs the National Consultative Forum meeting in Mogadishu where The Baidoa Technical Committee makes its presentations on elections recommendations on March 23
Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo chairs the National Consultative Forum meeting in Mogadishu where The Baidoa Technical Committee makes its presentations on elections recommendations on March 23
Image: VILLA SOMALIA

The government of Somalia is engaged in protracted negotiations with the opposition over elections and militants are using the impasse to intensify attacks. 

President Mohamed Farmaajo’s focus is on securing his second term under the onslaught of the opposition, leaving al Shabaab to launch attacks in Somalia and Kenya. 

The development has attracted the attention of Turkey, a key Somalia ally and development partner.

“ We strongly condemn these heinous terrorist attacks and offer our sincere condolences to the friendly and brotherly government and people of Somalia… Turkey will continue with determination to stand by the government and people of Somalia in their fight against terrorism,” Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on April 3.

Army commander Brigadier General Mohamed Tahaliil told government-affiliated media that 76 terrorists were killed and 10 captured following an attack on Somali military bases in the Lower Shabelle region.

A day earlier, Somalia army chief Brigadier Gen Odawaa Yusuf Rageh told VoA News that 14 soldiers and 100 militants were killed in Saturday’s attacks.

This is a continuation of increased attacks since January, many of them targeting security forces.

On March 9, the insurgents claimed responsibility for another mortar attack at the heavily fortified Halane camp in Mogadishu, which was to host a meeting between regional leaders and the Somali government for electoral talks. At least six mortar shells hit the camp.

Major General (Rtd) Charles Mwanzia attributes the spike in attacks to the US withdrawal of its presence there, which left a void that may not be filled by any other state.

The US in January said its troop withdrawal was complete and was one of the last actions of President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Mwanzia also opines that al Shabaab should have been allowed to start a political party.

“This would have eased the tension and brought a semblance of security back to Somalia,” he told the Star.

In a June 2020 article, Mwanzia argued that inclusivity was necessary for Somalia's stability.

“I call on all stakeholders in Somalia, including the international community, to consider inviting al Shabaab to form a political party and participate in the coming elections.”

“This will not only solve the vital security concerns but will give an opportunity to all Somali citizens to be part of the electoral process,” Mwanzia said.

A commentator on Somali politics who did not want to be named said the Somali government maintains "an undisclosed link with al Shabaab".

“The next thing could be the postponement of elections citing insecurity. This will not be surprising,” he said.

Somalia had planned to hold its first direct election in more than 30 years in February but delays in preparations and insecurity — largely due to terror attacks — meant they could only manage an indirect vote.

Yet, there is no substantive deal, despite pressure by the UN and the international community. This has stretched to the point of President Mohamed Farmajo's constitutional mandate expiring on February 8.

Puntland and Jubbaland regional presidents are opposed to holding the election over among other issues control of the Gedo region. They also accuse Farmaajo of planning to rig by cramming the election boards with his allies.

As the stalemate continues, al Shabaab continues to attack, claiming the lives of civilians and Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.

Kenya should be concerned.

On January 12, Mandera Governor Ali Roba said the terror group was in control of 50 per cent of Northeastern after occupying strategic locations.

While the Interior ministry denied the claims, al Shabaab on February 8 claimed they attacked a Kenyan police station at Jabi, Mandera county on February 7 and killed two officers and seized weapons.

On January 12, Shabaab claimed to have attacked a KDF army convoy in Hosingow town, Lower Jubba region.

A day later, Mandera residents reported seeing militants holding three Kenyans believed to have been abducted after their vehicle was ambushed in the Banisa subcounty.

Police officers escorting the vehicle exchanged fire with militants, but could not prevent the abduction.