The government revealed that security and political problems will prevent holding national elections in 2016, as the current interim government earlier agreed to do. Some foreign donors believe this is a ploy so the interim government can stay in power longer and steal more aid money. But UN and peacekeeper officials agree that security throughout the nation will not achieved by the end of 2016. Part of the problem is political with many of the clans (tribes) maintaining armed militias and refusing to abide by a “one man, one vote” system. That is, some clans demand more (foreign aid and other resources) than their numbers justify. Meanwhile the IMF and other international economic agencies agree that the Somali economy is growing steadily. Most widely accepted numbers are 2.7 percent GDP growth in 2015, 3.4 percent in 2016 and 4.3 percent in 2017. But it all depends on maintaining security (controlling al Shabaab and other warlords) and reducing corruption. In Somalia keep the peace for long periods is unusual.
Meanwhile the security forces and peacekeepers are continuing an operation begun on the 17th to clear al Shabaab out of rural areas in the far south (Jubba). This was a major operation, involving mostly Kenyan and Ethiopian peacekeepers. These operations have become larger, longer and more frequent. This one has, so far driven al Shabaab out of 22 towns and villages and killed nearly 80 of the Islamic terrorists. Ten were captured and several wounded al Shabaab were carried away by their comrades. Peacekeepers and security forces suffered about twenty dead and several dozen wounded. Most of these casualties came from roadside bombs and mines used by al Shabaab to slow down the advancing soldiers and police. Sometimes these devices were used in conjunction with an ambush force of al Shabaab gunmen.
Over fifty civilians were believed killed as well. These people were caught in the crossfire or used as human shields by al Shabaab. Some villagers complain that peacekeepers and security forces deliberately killed civilians but that is hard to prove and doesn’t really make sense unless some local civilians are fighting alongside al Shabaab. That does happen occasionally. Some of the civilian casualties are the result of air attacks by Kenyan and Ethiopian warplanes against al Shabaab in urban areas or military vehicles captured by al Shabaab.
Unfortunately several hundred al Shabaab men have escaped this operation so far and are now living in the bush. This displacement from housing causes losses as long as the Islamic terrorists are living rough and surviving as bandits. Unless these groups can build a base in the bush or retake some villages and towns, there will be losses (often has high as 50 percent over several months) to disease and (mostly) desertion. The peacekeepers depend on Somali police and soldiers to provide security in the newly liberated towns and villages but the continuing problems with corruption (especially bribes, theft and abuse of power) often result in local warlord or clan militias chasing away the security forces or constantly skirmishing with the security forces because of complaints from locals about the corruption. All this eventually provides opportunities for al Shabaab to return. Not as strong as before, but to return nonetheless. Thus the peacekeeper led clearing operations have liberated some towns and villages more than once over the last few years.
July 28, 2015: The UN has extended the Somali peacekeeping operation by another ten months and ordered preparations for turning over all security duties to Somalis. Since 2012 the UN force has increased from 17,700 to 22,000 personnel, most of them armed peacekeepers. The UN continues to turn down Somali requests to completely lift the arms embargo, although in 2013 there was a partial easing of the embargo. There is fear that lifting the arms embargo completely would let the wrong people get weapons because of the rampant corruption in the Somali government. This was why the peacekeeping mission has been so closely watched by UN officials. This is all about the massive corruption problem which has long hampered peacekeeping and foreign aid efforts in Somalia. While Somalia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, African nations in general have major problems with corruption and the AU (African Union) operations in particular have to be monitored carefully to keep down the misbehavior because most of the money for AU operations comes from foreign donors who are increasingly withholding donations if no progress is made in controlling corruption.
July 26, 2015: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked the Jazeera Palace Hotel killing 17 and wounding ten. The bomber was later identified as a 30 year old Somali man who was living in Germany. There he was convinced by al Shabaab recruiters to return to Somalia to defend Islam and Somalia from non-Moslems. The hotel was heavily damaged and was a favorite with foreign diplomats. The Chinese embassy was located in the hotel. None of the hotel guests were hurt but one member of the security staff died and several were wounded. The bomb went off before it could get closer to the hotel, because of the tight security. China reopened its Somali embassy in late 2014, but now may shift the embassy to neighboring Djibouti until the security situation is improved in Mogadishu.
July 25, 2015: In Mogadishu al Shabaab death squads killed two government officials and one bodyguard. One of the dead was a member of parliament, the tenth member of parliament killed by the Islamic terrorists in the last year.
July 18, 2015: In Kenya the Westgate Shopping Mall reopened 22 months after four al Shabaab gunmen attacked in September 2013. The four days of shooting and explosions inside the mall were largely the result of incompetent leadership from the security forces. After it was all over 72 people were dead and there was enormous damage done to the multistory mall. Repairing all that damage took nearly two years.
July 13, 2015: In the south (Rage Celle) 25 al Shabaab gunmen were killed in a three hour gun battle as nearly a hundred Islamic terrorists tried and failed to take a government controlled town. Five soldiers and two civilians also died and several more civilians were wounded by all the gunfire. Just across the border in Kenya (Lamu) an al Shabaab roadside bomb was used against a police vehicle but the police were unharmed. However, five civilians, including a mother and an infant, were killed by the blast. Rural police often give civilians a ride when they can. Usually, but not always, the ride is free.
July 12, 2015: In the south (Tula Barwaqo and Quarat) the Kenyan Air Force carried out air strikes against al Shabaab forces. In one case the warplanes attacked two armored vehicles al Shabaab had captured and was still using.