That Was The Month That Was – August 2018

l-to-r: participants at the Mogadishu International Book Fair and a discussion of security and AMISOM hosted by Hiraal on the back of the event; aS’s Eid al-Adha celebrations in Jilib; and Mohamed Sheikh, the Diaspora entrepreneur killed by unknown assassins

AUGUST began with Somalia caught up in two major regional issues: the change of regime in the ethnically Somali region of Ethiopia (the reverberations of which always offer a potential threat to the stability of the homeland); and Somalia’s intervention in relations between Eritrea and Djibouti, which caused the Djiboutian authorities to spit tacks. To the south, Kenya was the primary subject of aS’s activities as fighters crossed the porous border to launch attacks against the Kenyan security forces while the Kenyan forces attacked cellphone towers and harassed the population (according to the Gedo authorities).

A newswire article on the poor state of the Somali security forces that happily blended fact with rumour stated what pretty much everyone knew already but also managed to libel Hormuud (claiming the cellphone provider colluded with aS) and prompted justifiable outrage over a comment attributed to an AMISOM officer comparing Somalis to ‘dirty pigs’. There was some (unrelated) discussion of extending the AMISOM mandate.

The new US ambassador stated his commitment to holding the Somali government accountable and the UK announced a succession of supportive efforts including a programme to counter female suicide bombers while concurrently raising gender awareness and commitments to more funding for stabilisation activities (made by the UK Defence Secretary during a visit to Mogadishu and then the UK PM herself during a visit to neighbouring Kenya).

There were a succession of reshuffles across the FGS and the security forces, notable being the promotion of the first female officer to the rank of general in the SPF and the movement of the controversial Office of the President Chief of Staff, Fahad Yassin, to NISA. Changes in the judiciary (which some labelled a purge and others a power grab) continued, as did a campaign against corruption, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs being a notable target. The FGS once again expressed its intention to target foreign organisations and foreign workers for taxation, which was unlikely to encourage more engagement by international actors.

In the FMSs Jubbaland rejected the FGS appointee to head NISA in the state and there were protests against alleged heavy-handed governance in some of the regions in the state. Southwest State continued its preparations for elections amidst the obligatory claims of electoral jiggery-pokery.

The 4th Mogadishu International Book Festival was a notable success and Eid al-Adha went off without incident. Even aS showed its softer side through a series of jolly media releases to mark the occasion.

The pace of aS attacks remained steady and low: ominously, the ISIS/Da’esh Faction increased its claimed attacks. The US continued to pepper south-central Somalia with strikes. The popular Diaspora founder of Start-Up Grind Somalia and owner of the Mogadishu’s only florist shop and dry cleaners was killed, prompting consternation (especially amongst his Diaspora chums) which manifested itself in protests and the hashtag, #wearenotsafe. The apparent lull in attacks, along with the month of August, ended with a major attack in Afgoye in Lower Shabelle.

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