l-to-r: supporters of Mukhtar Robow protest in Baidoa; the new President of SW State visits Hudur town; the aftermath of an aS car-bombing in Mogadishu; and journalist Awil Dahir, who died in the attack
DECEMBER marked the conclusion of the tempestuous SW State Electoral Process with the election of a pro-FGS candidate, Abdicasiis Mohamed ‘Lafta Gareen’. The month began with the fourth delay of the vote, this time to December 19th, which sparked accusations of exploitation of the Festive Season exodus of international community for nefarious ends. The popular former aS commander, Mukhtar Robow was then arrested by Ethiopian forces, sparking days of rioting that saw at least ten people killed including a member of the SW State parliament.
The election went ahead in spite of protests from both local and international commentators. An international NGO, Sahan, was banned from operating in Somalia, possibly because of scathing comments made in the international media by a senior figure in the group and former head of the UN SEMG, Matt Bryden. But it seemed that the FGS and the new administration had managed to white-knuckle it out – until the UN SRSG sought answers to questions around Robow’s detention and the subsequent violence in SW State in a letter to the Minister of Internal Security (that was duly leaked to the news media).
The Puntland Electoral Process, due in mid-January 2019, seemed to progressing more smoothly. The Puntland Authorities declared that the FGS were excluded from engaging in any way and the Puntland Parliament, which would vote in the President, was appointed, although sadly only one of the 66 MPs was female.
A group of MPs moved to impeach the President but the motion failed to garner the necessary level of support to proceed to a vote. The possibility of a return to the old ways of high-level spats loomed, although this time with the President and the Prime Minister against the Speaker (in the past it was usually the President against his Prime Minister), More members of the judiciary were replaced, prompting accusations of stacking those institutions with supporters. Anti-Corruption legislation was passed into law but Transparency International, an INGO that produces a yearly ‘Corruption Perception Index’ (and has governments at the bottom of the index spitting tacks), once again declared Somalia the most corrupt country in the world (in perceptions at least). The 2019 budget was approved on New Years Eve.
The African Union met to discuss the transition of AMISOM forces in 2020 and there were accusations of sexual exploitation around MIA. Turkey and Qatar met to discuss their future engagement in the security of Somalia. Kenyan Airways continued to ponder a route to Mogadishu while Qatar Airways announced its intention to begin flights in July.
aS continued its campaign of assassinations in and around Mogadishu, a notable success being the killing of two senior officers in the security forces, mixed with the occasional ‘spectacular’ (complex attacks based around car-bombs). An example of the latter resulted in the deaths of at least two dozen people near Villa Somalia including a film crew from Universal TV – this marked the culmination of a bad month in a bad year for journalists in Somalia.
In the hinterland, Gofgadud in SW State once again flip-flopped back and forth between aS and government control. But aS also continued to suffer from Somali Special Forces strikes (supported by US ‘advisors’), even in Jilib, its hub in Middle Jubba. A home-grown, clan-based group called the Macawiisleey (named after the Somali kilt) sprang up to resist taxation and press-ganging, although the group eschewed openly allying itself with the FGS.
aS battled with the ever-strengthening Da’esh element in Puntland (where the faction sprang up) but also in the south of the country. The FGS discouraged the population from using aS’s alternative justice system and continued to capture and execute high profile members of aS, prompting expressions of concern from the international community – but in a country where justice is still perceived as something that can be circumvented, even by convicted terrorists, capital punishment remains one of the clearest indicators for an insecurity-weary population that something like justice still exists (albeit in a form that is deeply unpalatable to western sensibilities).