That Was The Month That Was… JANUARY 2018

JANUARY began with continuing tensions in and around Mogadishu, ostensibly over security forces assaults on the residences of Hawiye/Habar Gadir politicians. However, at a deeper level, the forcible eviction of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from camps on the fringes of the city highlighted the more primal concerns at the heart of the resurgent clan friction: access to and control of resource, notably land. Thabit, the Governor of Banadir and Mayor of Mogadishu (and one of the few government figures to come out well from the aftermath of the October 14th bombing) sought to resolve the situation by relocating the IDPs but was then summarily sacked: he was replaced by the Minister of Information, Engineer Yarisow, a Hawiye/Abgal (with the sub-clan for sub-clan exchange seeming to work).

In a cabinet reshuffle the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, the Interior and Trade were all replaced, with the substitution of one of the few female Ministers by a man being the subject of much ire. The elections for seats left vacant in 2017 proceeded, albeit slowly. There was a spate of attacks on the staff and infrastructure of Hormuud, the powerful cellphone provider, although it was unclear whether this was coincidence or deliberate action.

The President attended the AU Summit in Addis Ababa while the Prime Minister attended the World Economic Forum in Davos: while there the President declared his intention to end corruption in 2018. More significantly, the President also toured the regions of Somalia, receiving a rapturous welcome as he went. However, one of the regions he did not visit, secessionist Somaliland, clashed with its neighbour, Puntland, over disputed territory, and in Jubbaland political dissent was repressed and seemed likely to result in yet more internecine communal violence. At the same time, Kenya and Somalia clashed over the disputed border area around El-Wak, a city that lies in both countries, just one more element of the continuing territorial dispute between the two countries.

aS, on the other hand, had no such problems with lines on the map and continued to operate with relative freedom in northern Kenya (although the Kenyan media continued to tell a very different and clearly coordinated story about the declining fortunes of the terror group). Al-Shabaab did genuinely struggle with the nagging presence of the high level dissident, Robow, right on the edge of its territory and in control of an increasingly powerful military force. Attrition to defections and strikes also continued apace and the publication of research by Human Rights Watch into aS’s use of child soldiers was similarly detrimental to the group’s reputation. One strike even resulted in the rescue of a group of child soldiers, an intertwining of aS’s woes. But the oft-promised collapse of aS still seemed far off, with the group even managing to threaten copyright litigation against the FGS for unauthorised use of its imagery while maintaining its campaign of low level assassinations and bombings.