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.

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