l-r: the President and the UN SRSG at the Mogadishu Security Conference; policewomen parade at the Police Academy, a number of whom died in an aS suicide attack on the base; Robow meets Ahmed Madobe; and Abdishakur is released from custody after a storm of protests
DECEMBER began with the announcement that a second investigation was to be launched into events in Barire, which were being portrayed on one hand as US Special Forces on the rampage and as a cynical, compensation-driven misrepresentation of a bit of inter-clan scrapping on the other. But the US nonetheless continued its high tempo of strikes, disrupting aS’s pattern of life.
The US also suspended military aid to the SNA, citing endemic corruption: the FGS stated that it agreed with the move. The reality of the state of the Somali security forces – weak and sometimes dishonest leadership, lacking in numbers, equipment and capability, nowhere near ready to assume responsibility for security and all while AMISOM begins its drawdown – became painfully apparent.
A major security conference for international partners was hosted by the FGS in Mogadishu and the 2018 budget was approved, although with the obligatory procedural protests from the Upper House. Political parties were introduced in anticipation of the 2020 elections and Somalia regained control of its airspace.
The President travelled to Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt and Turkey: in Istanbul he attended a meeting of the OIC and added Somalia’s voice to the protests against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A US diplomat to Somalia resigned, her furious resignation letter splashed across the news media.
Other international partners – Turkey & Qatar on one side, Saudi Arabia, the UAE & Egypt on the other – seemed to be vying for influence through soft power (development aid and direct donations) while at the same time conducting intrigue in support of their national or bloc objectives. Kenya refused to accept the ICJ’s decision on the maritime border with Somalia and also appeared to seize a section of the land border.
Robow returned to Southwest State and began to fight aS: aS fought back, killing one of Robow’s numerous sons, and conducted a series of executions of ‘spies’ in the areas near where Robow was operating. A suicide bomber dressed as a police officer struck the rehearsal for the 74th Anniversary of the Somali Police Force: many of the victims were female SPF officers. aS’s campaign of low level assassinations continued.
While the international community cats were away for Christmas, the Somali mice decided to play. The game was an old one: clan power disputes over control of resources and positions of influence. Clan militias in security forces uniforms clashed over land rights. The home of a former Presidential candidate, Abdishakur, was stormed on the pretext of charges of treason and six of his staff killed: he was released following a storm of protests everywhere from social media to the rural hinterland (where security forces from his clan allegedly abandoned their posts). Astonishingly, another Hawiye/Habar Gadir politician, Qeybdiid, was also raided: this time the FGS claimed to have no idea of who ordered the operation and blame was steered towards UAE (who had trained the unit involved).
As 2017 ended it was hard to remember the numerous positives of the year – a successful electoral process and the genuine feeling of hope at the election of President Farmaajo, aS on the back foot, an increasingly secure capital – while the country teetered on the brink of a descent back into clan-driven conflict.