Somali Political Turmoil Widens Door For Al-Shabaab, Weakens Fight Against Terrorism

(New York, N.Y.) — Last week, in the latest spasm of political turmoil in war-torn Somalia, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed suspended Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble over corruption accusations. Mohamed alleged that the ousted prime minister had been looting public land belonging to the Somali National Army (SNA) and interfering with a corruption investigation. In response, Roble released his own statement accusing Mohamed of “a deliberate attempt to overthrow the government, the constitution and the laws of the land.”

U.S. officials have warned Somalia’s political instability will interfere with the work of the Somali security forces fighting against U.S.-designated terrorist organization al-Shabaab, enabling the al-Qaeda affiliate’s violent activities to gain momentum. In December, political feuds interfered with the fight against extremists when the U.S.-trained Puntland Security Force (PSF) abandoned its mission in protest of a new commander imposed by the Puntland government, resulting in a standoff with Puntland military forces. Al-Shabaab and local militants pledged to ISIS have since taken advantage of the lack of security, increasing attacks on both government and civilian targets.

With international help, Somalia has succeeded in restoring some rule of law in the past decade. In January 2007, the U.N. Security Council established the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), an African Union peacekeeping mission. In 2012, Somalia held its first presidential election in 45 years, resulting in the creation of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

AMISOM and the FGS have had some success in ousting al-Shabaab from the country’s major cities, and the FGS now maintains control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. However, al-Shabaab still maintains an operational capability in the city and seek refuge in rural areas and along the Kenya-Ethiopia border. In addition to al-Shabaab, other clan militias and Islamic militant groups continue to dominate in large areas in the rest of the country. These groups continue to clash with each other as well as with government forces.

Accordingly, the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections—initially scheduled for February 8 but delayed indefinitely due to disagreements on how to conduct the voting—have encouraged insurgent groups to continue carrying out attacks. According to security analysts, the power vacuum resulting from the divisions between political leaders has provided a boost to al-Shabaab militants.

To read Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Somalia, please click here.

To read CEP’s resource Al-Shabaab, please click here.

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