Somalia: Wayward Warlord Woes


March 17, 2020: Kenya and Somalia have another border dispute, this one largely created by Abdirashid Janan, a Somali warlord accused of numerous atrocities as well as corruption. At the end of August 2019 Janan, currently the Minister of Security in Jubaland, was arrested at Mogadishu airport by the federal government. Four months later (late January) Janan escaped from the Mogadishu jail and three days later (September 2nd) was back in Kismayo, the largest city in Puntland. There Ahmed Madobe, the state president of Jubaland backed his Security Minister. Madobe is also accused of corruption but not to the same extent as Janan.

Ahmed Madobe is accused of doing business with al Shabaab in order to finance his Jubaland government and maintain control of Kismayo. Madobe is also refusing to turn control of Kismayo over to the federal government as an earlier agreement stipulated. The Somali government does not want to start a war with Jubaland over this and asked that the peacekeepers in Jubaland arrest Janan. That has not worked because most of the peacekeepers in Puntland are Kenyans, the rest are Ethiopians and neither believe they should be acting as enforcers for the Somali government.

To further complicate matters several dozen Jubaland militiamen loyal to Janan fled into Kenya two weeks ago and occupied part of Mandera Town, the capital of Mandera country. This was all about Kenya being accused of sending a light aircraft to Jubaland to fly fugitive Abdirashid Janan to a safer sanctuary in Kenya. Kenya refuses to arrest Janan or use force to get the Puntland militia out of Mandera town. Mendera country officials are threatening to take the Kenyan government to court for forcing the army to expel the Jubaland militiamen from Mandera. Kenya does not want to upset shaky relationships with Jubbaland which are key to keeping the peace along the Somali border.

The Substantial Somali Presence

Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyans living in Kenya near the Somali border have been a major source of al Shabaab recruits for raiding and terrorism in Somalia as well as Kenya. Somali violence, both from al Shabaab and clan disputes, is less frequent throughout Somalia but persists in the couth, on both sides of the Kenya border. On the Somali side is the autonomous Somali region of Jubaland. Across the border are the Kenyan counties (provinces) of Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo, Wajir and Marsabit. Occasionally the violence extends to cities elsewhere in Kenya. What is keeping al Shabaab active here and not elsewhere in Somalia are lucrative smuggling operations the Islamic terrorists dominate along the border.

In addition to bordering Somalia, there are several other reasons for all the Somali violence in this part of Kenya. First, there is the pervasive corruption in Kenya and Africa in general. In addition, Somalia is recognized as the most corrupt nation in the world. Al Shabaab takes advantage of the police corruption in Kenya, where the largely Christian police are particularly brutal towards Kenyans who are ethnic Somalis. Similar attitudes are directed at the Somali refugees. That brutality and discrimination make Kenyan Somalis reluctant to cooperate with police in finding al Shabaab terrorists or smugglers. About 76 percent of the four million Kenyan Moslems are ethnic Somalis who are citizens. Kenya is largely (80 percent) Christian with a Moslem minority (12 percent of the population) that has been known to harbor Islamic terrorists. Most Kenyan Moslems live in coastal cities like Mombasa, where about a third of the 1.1 million population is Moslem. A lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live in northeastern Kenya and that is a problem when most of the soldiers and police are Christians and non-Somali. Al Shabaab exploits this friction to continue recruiting in Kenya and enjoying some local support in the Kenyan border areas.

On the Somali side of the border, the situation is worse. Currently, there are five somewhat autonomous federal states in Somalia; Puntland in the far north, Galmudug just south of Puntland, Hirshabelle (Central State), Southwest State and Jubaland on the Kenya border.

Jubaland is something of a special case because it contains Kismayo, the second largest city, and port, in Somalia. Jubaland also borders the more peaceful and prosperous Kenya. Jubaland leaders never got along with the Somali government in Mogadishu.

Since late 2019 the Somali federal government has been cutting economic aid to the Jubaland. The federal government accuses Ahmed Madobe, the recently elected Jubaland state president, of corruption. That includes rigging recent elections. The federal government believes Ahmed Madobe is pursuing a long-term plan to turn Jubaland into an independent state like Puntland and Somaliland up north.

The federal government concept was put into operation during 2016 and has only been partially successful. It was agreed that the federal states would have some autonomy and the ability to elect local leaders, especially the state president. But the current de facto local leaders throughout Somalia don’t trust the national government and believe the central government will interfere with the state elections and otherwise limit the autonomy of the states. The federal form of government is supposed to provide the states with a lot of autonomy. In return, the central government would provide muscle to help control bandits and warlords throughout the country. The central government also controls most of the foreign aid coming in. There was growing acceptance for the federal form of government but many politicians prefer to try and concentrate maximum power in the central government.

This Jubaland feud got started back in 2013 when the federal government agreed to recognize the Ras Kamboni militia, and its leader Ahmed Madobe, as the dominant power in the area along the Kenya border that had earlier declared itself the independent state of Jubaland. The peace deal allowed the clan behind Ahmed Madobe and the Ras Kamboni militia to rule the area for two years as a semi-autonomous region. After that, it was back to negotiations. Ahmed Madobe believed that in two years he would be strong enough to keep Jubaland independent. The government believed that in two years they will be strong enough to make Jubaland a part of Somalia again. Neither belief was accurate. This strategy was also a threat to the two northern statelets of Puntland and Somaliland.

The 2013 arrangement was not a peace deal but a ceasefire. Back in mid-2013, Ahmed Madobe proclaimed himself the president of Jubaland. Kenya backed Ras Kamboni. The other Jubaland clans did not initially accept Madobe as their leader but did not feel strong enough to continue fighting over the issue. The prize here was the port of Kismayo because whoever controlled it grows rich from fees charged businesses to use the port and market places. Ras Kamboni claimed control but that did not go unchallenged because there’s too much money involved. Ras Kamboni has long had the most powerful armed force down there and in 2013 it had the tacit backing of the Somali government and Kenya as well.

Border Wars

In addition to the feud with Kenya over Jubaland, there are also problems with ISIL up north in Puntland as well as border disputes between Puntland and Somaliland as well as with Somalia proper.

The dispute over the maritime boundary between Kenya and Somalia is still unresolved. This was all about both nations claiming a 100,000 square kilometer offshore area that may contain oil and gas deposits and definitely contains valuable fishing areas. An international tribunal is supposed to decide this issue this year.

March 15, 2020: The government announced that one of four Somalis who had just returned from China had covid19 (Coronavirus). This was the first such case known to be in Somalia and the man is being treated. If covid19 gets loose in Somalia the local health system won’t be of much help because the local health system is largely non-existent.

March 14, 2020: Four Kenyan jet fighters were seen flying over Jubaland near the Kenyan border. The jets did not attack. Kenya and the UN complain that the violence in western Jubaland (Gedo region) has forced 50,000 civilians from their homes, creating more refugee problems.

March 11, 2020: In the south, across the border in Kenya (Mandera country) al Shabaab carried out an attack in the county capital Mandera Town.

March 9, 2020: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region), American UAVs attacked al Shabaab, killing five of the Islamic terrorists. This is the sixth such UAV attack in March and that makes the 2020 total about 35. Most of those attacks were against al Shabaab targets with the remainder directed at ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces in the north. In 2019 there were 63 UAV attacks in Somalia for the entire years.

March 4, 2020: In the southwest (Gedo Region), fighting between Somali soldiers and Jubaland milita left 11 dead and dozens of Jubaland militia fled into Kenya where they proceeded to occupy part of the nearby Mandera Town.

February 29, 2020: In western Jubaland, the Somali Army sent several hundred soldiers into the Gedo region along the Ethiopian and Kenyan border. This is a violation of the agreement between Jubaland and the federal government and the UN demanded that the troops be withdrawn. Gedo consists of thinly populated forests and was long a hideout for al Shabaab. The Somali government said the troops were there to protect the border from the threat of Kenyan invasion.

February 22, 2020: Some 320 kilometers west of Mogadishu American UAVs attacked an al Shabaab compound killing Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, an al Shabaab commander responsible for planning the January attack on a Kenyan airbase. Also killed was the Mahamoud wife, who was also an active member of al Shabaab.

February 19, 2020: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region), soldiers repulsed al Shabaab attacks on two bases. Al Shabaab lost fifteen dead and twenty wounded. At least ten soldiers also died.

Across the border, in Kenya (Mandera country) al Shabaab gunmen in Kenyan police uniforms tried to stop a bus from Ethiopia. As the bus sped by (the driver knew there were no police checkpoints in this area) the al Shabaab men opened fire, hit the bus several times and caused the bus to go off the road and crash. The al Shabaab men pulled out all the passengers, identified two that were not Moslem and killed them.




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