Somalia: Fighting To The Last Dumb, Broke Teenager

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August 3, 2012: Al Shabaab continues to fade. The terror attacks are sloppier and less effective. Most al Shabaab gunmen have retreated to the southwest (Gedo) and the southeastern port of Kismayo. Attempts to keep peacekeepers and pro-government gunmen out of Gedo have failed, with lots of al Shabaab casualties. Terror attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere have failed. Al Shabaab is running out of money, recruits, technical experts, and much else. But the Islamic radical group is still popular with many Somalis, especially very poor young men who are uneducated and have few prospects. These inexperienced teenage gunmen comprise most of the al Shabaab dead these days.

The UN and Western donor nations are trying to get more Moslem nations involved running aid programs in Somalia. This is critical as most foreign aid donors refuse to send anything to Somalia because most of it gets stolen. Western aid workers have stayed away for many years because of the risk of kidnapping or worse. Moslem aid workers, however, are better able to personally supervise distribution of aid because they share the same religion as Somalia (who consider themselves Arabs). At least that's been the Turkish experience. Some Gulf Arab states have also been able to work on the ground but even Moslem aid workers are at risk of attack in Somalia. The Turks are protected by their reputation for toughness and retribution but other Moslem foreigners have to be more careful.

The long-term solution is establishing more law and order and shutting down terrorists and armed groups of all sorts. That will be difficult because it has never been done. Banditry and warlords were suppressed (but not eliminated) during the European colonial period (late-19th to mid-20th century). The private armies proliferated again once independence was achieved in 1961. Three decades later the country fell apart and reverted to its natural state of fighting factions and general anarchy. It's uncertain if an elected parliament and 20,000 foreign peacekeepers will reduce the violence to tolerable levels.

There is also the problem with corruption. UN audits of over $300 million in aid delivered to Somalia in the last 11 years revealed that at least two thirds of it was stolen by Somali officials and aid officials. The theft was often blatant and Somalis simply deny guilt when presented with evidence of their crimes. Attempts to impose fiscal controls resulted in all manner of deceptions and even death threats against the foreign auditors and administrators.

August 1, 2012: The National Constituent Assembly voted (96 percent) in favor of a new constitution. Now this gathering of 645 clan elders has to select 275 members of the new parliament. Members of the existing TNG (Transitional National Government) are already offering bribes to get seats in the new parliament. That's because elected officials have the best opportunities to steal foreign aid or any other finds the government has. The appointed parliament would form a new government which would conduct elections to select a regular parliament that would regularly stand for election.

Two al Shabaab suicide bombers attempted to enter the assembly before the vote. Both were detected and shot by police. One bomb went off, wounding several people, while the other bomber died before he could detonate his explosives.

July 30, 2012: In Mogadishu a popular comedian and radio host (Abdi Jeylani Malaq) was shot to death by two al Qaeda gunmen. Malaq had received threats about his al Shabaab jokes on his radio show but he ignored the warnings as this was pretty common for anyone speaking freely on the radio in Somalia.

July 28, 2012: In the southwestern Gedo region (along the Ethiopian and Kenyan border) Kenyan troops and pro-government militias fought a large group of al Shabaab gunmen for several hours and killed nearly 30 of them. Al Shabaab had attacked a Kenyan base and several checkpoints and was repulsed. The Kenyans used some of their artillery as well, which caused heavy casualties. About ten Kenyans and pro-government fighters were killed.

In the south (Ufurow in the Bay region) two gunmen killed an al Shabaab leader as he left a mosque. This appears to be retaliation by some clan leader or warlord for an earlier al Shabaab attack or killing.

In Mogadishu al Shabaab carried out two attacks, one involving a grenade and the other a roadside bomb. The two attacks left two dead and dozens wounded. Security forces searched over the next 24 hours for al Shabaab in the area but came up empty.

July 27, 2012: In the southwest (Bakol, east of Gedo) al Shabaab gunmen attacked a Somali army base and were repulsed.

In the south (Baidoa in the Bay region) a roadside bomb killed four soldiers.

 

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