Arab and African Media
Arab news outlets have reported on the two-decades-long conflict within the failed state of Somalia and the contagion it has caused in east Africa. Al-Shabab confirmed many media reports stating after the Westgate shopping mall attack was in retaliation for Kenyan support of AMISOM’s mission in Somalia, and demanded that Kenya pull out. The group’s first reprisal mission for Godane’s death in Uganda was ultimately foiled by Ugandan security forces. A few years earlier, the group claimed responsibility for killing 76 people in Kampala, citing Uganda’s participation in AMISOM as a motive as well.“Uganda foils ‘terrorist’ attack,” Al Jazeera English, September 13, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/09/uganda-foils-terrorist-attack-201491312302715418.html.
Militant profiles have emerged in African news media. Al-Shabab defectors are shown as traumatized and pressured victims. One former member told how, at 13 years of age, he joined the group after they took control of his town. Shukri Mohamed, “Dozens of al-Shabaab members taking advantage of amnesty ‘every day,’” Sabahi, September 17, 2014, http://sabahionline.com/en_GB/articles/hoa/articles/features/2014/09/17/feature-01.
In light of Godane’s death, several news sources question the viability of Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah as a leader and the stability of the organization, and how it would bode for security in the region.
Both Arabic and African news outlets show concern for what a splintered group could mean for the movement and the region. The East African notes that the group will most likely tap into its cells across East Africa and make a push for recruitment.Gaaki Kigambo, “Why splintered al-Shabaab worries security experts,” East African, September 13, 2014, http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/-/2558/2451684/-/5jmdxez/-/index.html. Though the group’s strategic and tactical directions are uncertain, analysts maintain the group will try to position itself as more global in nature. Such positioning could include strengthening ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and ISIS.Paul Crompton, “Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab at risk of splintering,” Al Arabiya News, September 9, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2014/09/09/Somalia-s-Islamist-al-Shabaab-at-risk-of-splintering.html. This direction could be indicated by al-Shabab’s recommitment to al-Qaeda shortly after Abu Ubaidah’s appointment as the new leader. The group could also potentially splinter and morph into a different structure, especially if internal power struggles recur.Paul Crompton, “Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab at risk of splintering,” Al Arabiya News, September 9, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2014/09/09/Somalia-s-Islamist-al-Shabaab-at-risk-of-splintering.html.
To a lesser but significant degree, news outlets have highlighted the 45-day amnesty that the Somali government has extended to al-Shabab fighters who renounce the group. “Mohamud extends al-Shabaab amnesty offer for 60 days,” Sabahi, October 28, 2014, http://sabahionline.com/en_GB/articles/hoa/articles/newsbriefs/2014/10/28/newsbrief-01. Horn of Africa news website Sabahi, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, highlighted President Mohamud’s 60-day extension of the amnesty on October 27, 2014, claiming that after the initial edict, approximately 30 militants surrendered daily. The national amnesty offered, in lieu of punishment, a nine-month rehabilitation program and a subsequent return to normal life. Shukri Mohamed, “Dozens of al-Shabaab members taking advantage of amnesty ‘every day,’” Sabahi, September 17, 2014, http://sabahionline.com/en_GB/articles/hoa/articles/features/2014/09/17/feature-01.
In contrast, Western media coverage put less emphasis on the amnesty program, preferring to focus on al-Shabab’s ties to al-Qaeda and now potentially to ISIS. Godane, for example, is believed to have established ties with ISIS militias during their expansion into Syria and Iraq and offered al-Shabab fighters in support. “SOMALIA: Deceased Al Shabab chief had ties with ISIS, sources,” RBC Radio Raxanreeb.com, 30 October 2014, http://www.raxanreeb.com/2014/10/somalia-deceased-al-shabab-chief-had-ties-with-isis-sources/.