September 2017: That Was The Month That Was

TWTMTW

l-r: weapons seized from gun-runners off the coast of Puntland; the unburied bodies of the casualties of the Barire incident; Prime Minister Khayre addresses UN GA; an AMISOM armoured vehicle shunts a civilian car in Mogadishu; and President Farmaajo heads to Saudi Arabia

SEPTEMBER started as it would end, focussed on the town of Barire in Lower Shabelle. A number of locals, armed and moving at night with an unidentifiable but presumably nefarious purpose, stumbled upon a Somali special forces unit who promptly engaged them, killing 8. The government agreed to compensate the dollar-hungry families of the unburied and decomposing casualties.

The business of government went on, with counter-terrorism legislation heading to parliament along with various other bills. The Media Law followed close behind, trailed by the ubiquitous chuntering. The PM headed to New York for the UN General Assembly where Somalia was deprived of its voting rights because of unpaid dues but the PM nonetheless managed to meet a selection of his influential counter-parts.

International relations interfaced dangerously with relations between the government and the Federal Member States. HirShabelle democratically removed its State President early in the month and quickly replaced him. But this was insignificant in comparison to the sudden alignment of Puntland, then Southwest, then Galmudug with Saudi Arabia & UAE against Qatar, in opposition to the government’s neutral stance. The President himself returned to Saudi Arabia for the third time since taking office, but the month ended with the situation apparently unresolved.

At a regional level, relations with Ethiopia caused problems. The extradition of an Ogaden National Liberation Front leader sparked an outburst of nationalistic fervour that mixers happily exploited: the President’s popularity plummeted. The fragility and disenfranchisement that came with a major clan/not-so major sub-clan President and Prime Minister appeared to spill over into violence, albeit concealed in a variety of Somali National Security Forces uniforms, when the Stabilisation Force attempted to disarm another unit (from a different clan block): 9 died.

There were some positives: football matches and civilian flights into Mogadishu Aden Abdulle Airport took place at night for the first time in nearly three decades. The Mogadishu Book Festival was a success, rivalling its elder cousin in Hargeisa.

Kenyan forces serving as part of AMISOM withdrew from Bardhere and Tarako: aS immediately occupied the towns. In Mogadishu, video of a road traffic accident, where an AMISOM armoured vehicle shunted a civilian car along one of the main arteries of the city, went viral on social media: AMISOM quickly apologised and offered compensation.

The security slugging match continued in the hinterland. aS continued to suffer from air, drone and special forces strikes, the Shadow Governor of Banadir being a notable victim. aS tried to use disinformation to counter the strikes, re-imagining them as civilian casualty incidents.

In reply, aS launched assaults on government positions across the country, from Af-Urur in Puntland to Bulo-Gaduud, Beled-Hawo, Kalabyr and El-Wak in south-central. In the city of Mogadishu aS kept up its campaign of assassinations of government officers, members of the security forces and NGO workers (although whether aS actually was responsible for every single killing remains unclear): the Deputy Commander of SNA Logistics was a notable victim. aS’s other urban trademark, the car-bomb, was less prevalent than in previous months, but some attacks succeeded in spite of the best efforts of the Stabilisation Force to secure the city.

The month ended where it began, in Barire. aS stormed the SNA garrison in the town, inflicting heavy casualties and seizing a number of vehicles including armed ‘technicals’. aS’s narrative predominated and steered attention away from its concurrent and grimly symbollic car-bombing of the Mogadishu Peace Garden.


 

Gallery: Our Man on the Horn

All images are available as framed prints or on canvas and can be delivered in Mogadishu, Nairobi or anywhere by post the UK. Contact ourmanonthehorn@gmail.com for details.

Bajaja – Green
Bajaja – Blue

Bajaja – Red


Bajaja – Yellow

Bajaja – White

The BTR’s Graveyard

Junction, Hamarweyne, Mogadishu

The Old Lighthouse, VIlla Somalia, Mogadishu

Elder, Mogadishu

al-Shabaab fighter lies dead on a slip-road, Villa Somalia, Mogadishu

The Gates of Villa Somalia, Mogadishu

Caaqil Shop, near Police Academy, Mogadishu

Haji Hassan’s Bakery, Via Roma, Mogadishu

Bar Kamal Diin, Via Moscow, Mogadishu

Aweys: Super Tailer, Via Roma, Mogadishu

Mosque, Via Roma, Mogadishu

Doorway, Via Roma, Mogadishu


Doorway, Via Moscow, Mogadishu

Dead Man Hopping: Injured al-Shabaab Fighter in the AMISOM Hospital, Mogadishu 2009


Also available as t-shirts (on white cloth or monochrome on yellow, red, blue or green):

al-Shabaab Spokesman Ali Dheere Speaks – and the Somali People Respond

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In January 2017, the al-Shabaab spokesman, Ali Dheere, spoke to AJE’s Hamza Mohamed (although the interview itself was released through a Somali Diaspora online news channel called Dalsoor). The first part is here and the second here.

About a month later, two cheap-and-cheery locally produced products appeared, challenging Ali Dheere’s comments on the bombings of hotels (here) and the bombings of public places such as markets (here). The products experienced a surge in views this week in the aftermath of the bombing of the Wehliye Hotel on Mogadishu’s Makka ul Mukarama Road.

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The products are slightly clumsy and the English subtitles, which mimic the English subtitling of the original interview, might ring alarm bells for some, but it is nonetheless interesting to see the Somali people feeling confident enough to speak out openly against al-Shabaab.


Continuity and Change: The Evolution and Resilience of al-Shabab’s Media Insurgency 2006-2016 by Chris Anzalone


Quality analysis of al-Shabaab’s communications by Chris Anzalone of the International Security Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University:

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There is also an associated podcast, also featuring Dr. Stig Jarle Hansen and moderated by Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council.

 

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 6

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Bar Kamal Diin

Via Moscow, Hamarweyne district, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.

 

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 5

  


Caaqil Shop

Police Academy, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 4

  

Allaa Waldilee Bar Restaurant

Via Roma, Hamarweyne district, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.

 

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 3

  

 Ala Aamin’s Barber Shop

Via Roma, Hamarweyne district, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 2

  

Haji Hassan’s Bakery

Via Roma, Hamaeweyne district, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.

The Shop-fronts of Mogadishu – 1

  
Aweys – Super Tailor

Via Roma, Hamarweyne district, Mogadishu

Back in the day when literacy levels were low, Mogadishu shopkeepers would engage a local artist to depict their offerings on the exterior wall. Sadly these are disappearing and being replaced by blast walls and HESCO bastions or, worse still, the tatty plastic faux-glitz signs you see in every African and Middle Eastern city.