That Was The Month That Was – November 2018

l-to-r: HE the Pres addresses the Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi and receives the credentials of the the new US Ambassador; Elmi Yare, the controversial cleric killed by aS; and the headquarters of Hormuud Telecoms

NOVEMBER saw the continuation of the Southwest State Presidential Election process, although all did not go to plan: the first of a number of delays was prompted by the resignation of the Electoral Commission in protest at alleged FGS interference; then another delay pushed the election into December, allegedly because of attempts to exclude some candidates; and, at the end of the month, a further delay, with the justification this time being the need to train up the new Electoral Commission. A number of candidates withdrew, again citing interference, and pledged their support to the former aS leader, Robow. The incumbent SW State President even withdrew from the process and resigned from his post, once again seeming to transfer his support to Robow. It seemed unlikely that the remainder of the process would run smoothly and there was a general consensus that whoever eventually won would have to deal with a process that deeply compromised.

The President spent much of the month travelling to South Sudan (where Somalia announced that it would soon be deploying a small contingent of peacekeepers), Turkey (where good relations seemed to have resumed), Italy (where he may or may not have met the Emir of Qatar), Uganda and finally Kenya (where the President spoke strongly about illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping, and where Somalia might have signed a regional intelligence sharing deal, or it might not). Both Ethiopia and Kenya’s national carriers announced their intention to join Turkish Airlines operating international routes into Somalia, although Kenya Airways paused its plans when the Somali government applied additional insurance conditions. The new US Ambassador arrived and Somali reiterated its call for international NGOs to relocate to Somalia or lose their operating licenses.

A running theme of corruption and general jiggery-pokery ran throughout the month. A number of government and security forces personnel where convicted as part of a government anti-corruption drive. The UN SEMG published its annual report, notable highlights being allegations of UAE interference, aS attackers bribing their way through Kenyan border checks in the run-up to a foiled attack on Nairobi and claims that the FGS was struggling to track weapons effectively (two FGS-issued weapons being found in the possession of the interdicted aS terrorist cell in Kenya). The Parliamentary Finance Committee published a report accusing both the Ministry of Finance and Banadir Regional Authority of financial mismanagement: the claims were vigorously refuted by both institutions and the committee disbanded amidst claims that the report was politically motivated.

aS was subjected to nigh-on daily strikes up and down the Jubba River Valley but predominantly in coastal Mudug, where commanders seem to have dodged the lesson on How to Counter Enemy Airpower through tactics such as dispersal and emission control: AFRICOM claimed to have killed over 30 fighters in a single attack. But aS, like all terrorist organisations, is built to be flexible, scalable and survivable, proven by a continuation of car bombings and assassinations in the city of Mogadishu including notable attacks on the Sahafi Hotel (again) and a miraa market that was regularly frequented by members of the security forces (again). aS also found time to slaughter a controversial Sufi cleric along with his family and guards in Galkayo and to execute some foreign fighters.

Someone also seemed to havetheir sights set on employees of the telecoms giant, Hormuud: there was much speculation that it could be aS or the Da’esh faction conducting extortion operations but it was also possible that the attacks were the work of other nefarious actors or just random killings. The attacks were indicative of the depth and duration of the violence that has afflicted Somalia, and it was no surprise that there was renewed interest in trying to address the effects of trauma at the individual and collective levels; a colossal but also vital task if stability is ever to take hold in Somalia.

That Was The Month That Was – October 2018

l-to-r: the aftermath of an SVBIED attack on an EUTM convoy; Robow on the campaign trail; the October 14th bombing memorial; and the UN SRSG and AMISOM SRCC on tour around the FMSs

OCTOBER saw continuing non-cooperation between the FMSs and the FGS, barring HirShabelle, whose President had his own problems in the form of a no confidence vote (although a complete split into two factions within Galmudug State, complete with an alternative capital, did not have the same effect). In the middle of the month the CIC met and exacerbated the situation yet further by declaring their intention to set up their own national level security forces outwith the central FGS structure. (How this would be funded was unclear.) The Minister of Finance invited applications for bids for central funds from the annual budget but inadvertently reminded everyone of one of the roots of the current spat, a demand that FMSs account for funds received from the centre. Attempts at mediation failed until the new UN SRSG and the AMISON SRCC toured the FMSs with the aim of bringing everyone to the negotiating table: the FMS leaders agreed to talks in November.

In the FMSs, the SW State election moved along at a gentle pace with the Election Committee finally forming. There were accusations of meddling by the FGS that gained impetus when the former DG NISA arrived in Baidoa with an armoured vehicle and armed guards, presumably in anticipation of declaring his candidacy. The disbarring of the former aS commander, Robow, on the grounds that he had not completed the defection process, was dismissed by the popular candidate, who continued to campaign.

A joint Ethiopian/Eritrean delegation visited and flights from Ethiopia resumed. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation conference was held in Mogadishu but Turkey was notably absent, perhaps in response to Somalia’s declaration of support for Saudi Arabia’s stance on the killing of a journalist in its consulate in Istanbul (the declaration coming, coincidentally, just after the PM visited Riyadh). Somalia was not invited to the opening of Istanbul’s new airport and it seemed that Turkey was sending a message to its beneficiary.

Crime spiralled, insecurity rose: a Deputy Minister was arrested in connection with a dollar counterfeiting operation; two teachers were killed when they tried to prevent thieves stealing their school’s equipment; there were vicious clan clashes in Lower Shabelle and Lower Jubba; and more districts of Mogadishu reportedly fell under aS sway, not just at night but during the day as well.

That said, an aS car bomb attack on an EUTM convoy (which might have been the target or might just have been passing by) marked the beginning of a lull in attacks in Mogadishu. Outside the city, however, aS shrugged off the continuing campaign of strikes (including the loss of a reported 60 fighters in a single attack in Mudug), briefly seizing two villages, Gofgadud and Doynunay, in SW State. (There was some speculation that aS was exploiting frictions between FMS and FGS elements of the security forces that paralleled the political frictions between the two). aS also launched concurrent suicide attacks against a hotel and a restaurant in Baidoa which it portrayed as targeting the security forces but which might well have been linked to the SW State elections or perhaps even directly targeting Robow. But aS also showed its softer side with a distribution of zakawat just outside Mogadishu and a critique of the FGS education system in comparison the aS alternative.

The first anniversary of aS’s greatest atrocity, the October 14th bombing in Mogadishu, was marked with the unveiling of a monument at the scene. It was ironic that the heroes of the day, Aamin Ambulance Service, now faces a critical shortage of funding: it was also telling that aS could signal its continuing ability to operate with the Baidoa bombing on the anniversary without challenge since the FGS and FMSs were too busy quarrelling.

That Was The Month That Was – September 2018

l-to-r: the President meets a member of the Communist Party of China in Beijing; the new UN SRSG, Nicholas Haysom; the PM visits an injured MP; and 9 year old Deqa Dahir, shot dead by security forces

SEPTEMBER began with the President in Beijing for a major international conference on cooperation where he met, amongst others, his Egyptian counterpart. Later in the month the World Bank resumed grant aids to Somalia and the EU and others announced major funding commitments.

But corruption remained, with a Ministry of Finance project halted and the Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Petroleum suspended. Germany also suspended its support to a road-building project in Puntland, citing not just corruption but also incompetence, or its more polite cousin, non-delivery. The response was less polite.

Elsewhere in the international community, the UN SRSG, Michael Keating, was replaced by a South African, Nicholas Haysom. In the absence of the President or the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs represented Somalia at the UN General Assembly and called for an end to sanctions.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the FMSs, the Speaker of Galmudug was ejected and a by-election resulted in a fraternal handover to the former Minister of Immigration and DG NISA, Gafoow. In Mogadishu the former Deputy DG NISA was stripped of all his rights after expressing some forthright views in a local radio interview. Robow returned to SW State but did not yet declare his candidacy for the Presidential election in NOV18.

The major event of the month was the meeting of the Council for Inter-state Cooperation (CIC), which ended with a call for non-cooperation with the FGS. FMS Presidents refused to attend the National Security Council and many MPs boycotted the re-opening of parliament. That said, the posture of the FMSs was not consistent at either the Presidential level or elsewhere, with SW State President giving contradictory statements, HirShabelle apparently relenting and other members of the State Authorities (and citizens) disagreeing with the move. Delegations were dispatched to the FMSs in attempt to divide and conquer the non-cooperationists.

aS continued to be the subject of strikes, be they by drone, air or Special Operations Forces, but seemed to get the hang of countering these operations, claiming that one strike against an aS commander in Saakow in Middle Jubba damaged a school and a hospital. aS launched its own operations, of course, targeting government buildings in Mogadishu with apparent ease and encroaching slowly on the capital’s environs. aS also continued its campaign of assassinations, including car-bomb attacks on an MP and a well-known academic – many interpreted these attacks as aS being used to do other’s dirty work. Kenya sought to fill a gap by offering an amnesty to Kenyan nationals fighting with aS (a group that includes Somali and non-ethnic Somali Kenyan citizens, as well as a number of female camp-followers).

Somalia’s shame, FGM, continued to grab the international headlines, with two sisters dying during the botched vandalism of their genitals, followed by another young girl a few days later. Being female in Somalia continued to be a broadly negative experience: two women died as a result of domestic violence and then a 9 year old girl was shot dead and many of her classmates injured when off-the-lead members of the security forces hosed a school bus with small arms fire under the guise of ‘traffic control’.

As a result of the incident the question of impunity arose, and then grew legs when members of a major clan burned a member of the oft-persecuted minority Bantu alive because his nephew had married one of the major clan’s womenfolk: while outrage was forthcoming, justice did not seem to be, nor did societal progression.

Off to Somalia? Here’s Yet More Preparatory Reading

2018 has been a good year for both Somalia-focussed fiction and non-fiction. Here’s what you should be spending your Amazon vouchers on:


‘Inside al-Shabaab’

VoA’s Harun Maruf, along with Dan Jospeh, provide a deep and insightful analysis of aS: where it came from, where it is now and where it might go next.


Michael Taarnby’s very readable account of his involvement with the Serendi Defector Rehabilitation Centre – and also a very good insight into the broader challenges facing anyone working in Somalia (including Diaspora returners)/.

‘War and Peace in Somalia: National Grievances, Local Conflict and Al-Shabaab’

Former UN SRSG’s wide-ranging collection of essays on Somalia.


‘North of Dawn’

The latest novel from Somalia’s greatest living novelist, Nuruddin Farah.

Missed the original prep list? Here’s the link: