By Osman Abdi Mohamed

In recent months Al-Shabab has been suffering successive losses at the hands of Somali government forces fighting alongside the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It has lost strategic cities and towns in central and southern Somalia with little or no resistance at all. While these losses might not be complete game-changers, they are a clear indication that the group is in bad shape, at least at the moment. A greater and more devastating loss for Al-Shabab, even more so than the loss of ground, is the loss of all credibility with the larger Somali public.

Unlike the Lebanese crisis, or that of Kosovo, the Somali crisis is characterised by ongoing self-igniting and self-sustaining violence. The opposing forces renew, multiply, and feed the conflict in a way that makes it difficult to reach any solution. Usually, exhausted antagonistic forces tend to enter into truces and seek solutions, and, when that happens, external allies find it possible to pressurise these forces. In the Somali conflict, however, this trend will soon be hampered by the emergence of new opposition forces working to remove the previous ones and control the latter's positions. Often, these new and rising forces are not willing to find solutions, and do not seek negotiated settlements. By the time they become exhausted and seek a solution, another force dominates and removes them, as they did to their predecessors. Thus, the cycle of violence and counter-violence continues; some forces fade away and others emerge. This equation of the strengths and weaknesses of Somalia is called 'Somaliazation'.

By Afro-Middle East Centre

On the 22 July 2010, an African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda, resolved to increase the number of troops that make up the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), in an effort militarily to defeat the Islamist Al-Shabab movement. The AU decision followed a twin bombing in Uganda's capital city on the 11 July 2010, during the final match of the Football World Cup, resulting in the deaths of scores of people. A day after the bombings, Al-Shabab had claimed responsibility. Just a few days earlier, the movement's leaders had threatened attacks in Uganda and Burundi, the two countries whose troops make up the AMISOM force.

The AU decision and the bomb blasts which precipitated it once again cast the Somali crisis forcefully into the global spotlight. It is clear that both events combine to create a Somali conjuncture that poses serious policy challenges to South Africa, the African Union and the African continent as a whole.

This paper will outline some of these challenges, propose a plan that effectively can deal with the Somali situation and begin the process towards building a new Somali state and Somali democracy.

Somalia's Divided Islamists

  • 25 May, 2010
  • Published in Somalia

By International Crisis Group

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must engage dissidents among the country's insurgent groups in order to strengthen its authority and combat al-Qaeda inspired extremists.

'Somalia's Divided Islamists', the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, reviews the religious, ideological and clan rifts that have developed between the country's main Islamist factions since the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as leader of the TFG. It concludes that the government must reach out to elements of Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (the Mujahideen Youth Movement) that are disenchanted with the influence of foreign jihadis in the group and the al-Qaeda sympathies among its leadership. It also suggests that many in the Somali nationalist Hizb al-Islam (Islamic Party) could be more receptive to TFG overtures.

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