Somalia: The Twenty Year Plan

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February 23, 2017: The new (as of yesterday) president has a lot of popular support, especially in the security forces. The new president has been fighting corruption for years and made progress in reducing the incidence of corrupt officials (often senior officers) stealing payroll and other money meant for the soldiers and police. The new president also called on al Shabaab to make peace, but that was promptly rejected by the al Shabaab leaders. The other members of al Shabaab are less certain. The Islamic terrorist group has suffered heavy losses in the last few years but has maintained its strength heavy losses. The reason is growing dependence on using children and apparently at least half the current al Shabaab gunmen are armed boys under age 18 and a growing number under 14 years old. This is why, despite losing control of 90 percent of the area it controlled at its peak in 2012, al Shabaab still exists with about half the personnel it had in 2012. The growing use of child soldiers was noted as early as 2010 when the fighting in Mogadishu was not going well for al Shabaab and many of their fighters had been killed or discouraged enough to desert. Unable to entice enough men to join they have convinced (or coerced) some clan elders to allow kids (large enough to handle an AK-47) to join the fight. The kids have been eager for the opportunity to have an AK-47 of their very own, and people to shoot at. This is a big deal for Somali teenagers. By 2012 it was noted that 10-20 percent of most al Shabaab fighters appeared to be kids. The teenagers are not the best fighters. Most are impulsive and inexperienced so they do not last long if there is a lot of fighting and even then they require more supervision than adult fighters. But given the choice between disappearing because of heavy casualties or recruiting more and more kids, many African irregular groups (bandits, rebels, Islamic terrorists) will resort to the use of kids. This is not a new phenomenon but it did not become as affordable and widespread until the 1990s. That’s because after several million cheap Cold War surplus AK-47s began showing up in Africa in the 1990s, the "child soldier" became a more practical solution to heavy personnel losses. The world market for AK-47s was glutted by the late 1990s. The only market left was Africa, but only if you were willing to sell cheap. The gunrunners were, and still are, very active in lawless places like Somalia and eastern Congo. The cheap AK-47 made it possible to use kids as young as 10-14 years old, as soldiers. This was a new development, because the old weapons (spears, swords, bows) required muscle. Kids had to be older, and stronger. But now, if you could lift a 4.5 kg (ten pound) AK-47 and pull the trigger, you were a killer. Child soldiers changed everything, because warlords could just kidnap or entice kids and quickly brainwash them. These armies of child killers made insurrection and anarchy more common. Tens of millions of Africans fled their homes to avoid these tiny terrors, and many of those refugees died of starvation or disease. These victims were just as dead, even if the bullets didn't get them. In fact, few AK-47 victims died from bullets. It was the massive fear, and breakdown of society, and the economy, that killed most people confronted by all these cheap AK-47s. The kids weren't very good shots, but if they got close enough to you, they were capable of unimaginable horrors. Al Shabaab is continuing this vile tradition, although in the name of God.

February 22, 2017: The new president, M A (Mohamed Abdullahi) Mohamed, took power and warned that he would restore peace and reduce corruption but that this would not happen quickly and would probably take at least two decades. Somalis and foreign donors are now waiting to see if the new president can survive (literally or just politically) running the most corrupt nation in the world. Somalia has been rated the most corrupt nation in the world for a decade. Corruption in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually North Korea, Somalia or, since 2011, South Sudan) have a rating of under fifteen while for the least corrupt (usually Denmark) it tends to be 90 or higher. Somalia has the lowest rating (11) of the 176 nations rated.

M A Mohammed’s rise to power is a somewhat unexpected, but welcome, development. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born (in 1962, as Somalia was being created as a unified nation for the first time) and raised in Somalia and became a Somali diplomat. During 1988 he sought asylum in the United States while serving in the Somali embassy there. He saw that Somalia was falling apart and he belonged to a prominent clan that could not avoid the worsening civil war. Like many expatriate Somalis who were successful in the west he returned to Somalia in 2009 and offered his services to the new government. Currently about a third of the members of parliament are returned expatriates as are many of the successful business owners. They have needed skills, overseas connections and are generally less corrupt. M A Mohamed became known as the least corrupt. In October 2010 the TNG (Transitional National Government) parliament confirmed M A Mohamed as the new prime minister, with 297 of 392 votes. A year later M A Mohamed was feuding with the rest of the TNG over when to hold new elections. Despite objections by the U.S. and UN, the TNG agreed to delay the August elections for a year. Thus most TNG officials want M A Mohamed ousted, apparently (but not officially) because he is not sufficiently corrupt. M A Mohammed has a lot of popular support among Somalis, but TNG soldiers have been ordered to fire on M A Mohammed supporters, and several were killed. In June 2011 Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was selected to replace M A Mohamed as Prime Minister. Both men had moved back to Somalia from the United States (there they had worked, after obtaining graduate degrees) to help build a new government. M A Mohamed was seen as an honest reformer by most Somalis, but was disliked (for the same reasons) by most of his fellow government officials, and was forced to resign on June 19th. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was seen as someone more willing to go along with the corrupt practices. M A Mohamed went back to America for a while and kept developing political support in Somalia. He returned to Somalia frequently, built a new political party focused on fighting corruption and kept active in Somali politics worldwide. Thus he was seen as a contender in the February 8th presidential election (by a very corrupt parliament) but soon demonstrated that he had a lot more support than many local notables and foreign observers realized.

February 19, 2017: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide car bomb went off in a busy market leaving at least twenty dead and many more wounded.

February 18, 2017: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab death squad sought to kill a senior intelligence officer but failed. A bodyguard was killed and the officer was wounded.

February 16, 2017: Al Shabaab responded to the presidential election by firing several mortar shells towards the presidential palace in Mogadishu. The shells missed the palace and landed in a residential area, killing three civilians (two of them young children).

February 13, 2017: In the north (Puntland) a court found seven al Shabaab members guilty of murder and condemned them to death.

February 8, 2017: In the north (Puntland) al Shabaab attacked a popular hotel in the port city of Bosaso. The attack failed but four guards and two attackers died. ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) also took credit for this attack.

February 7, 2017: In the northeast (90 kilometers north of Mogadishu) AU peacekeepers clashed with a group of al Shabaab men trying to plant bombs along a road. Four of the Islamic terrorists were killed and other apparently got away. The peacekeepers have been clearing the Middle Shabelle region (the coastal area north of the capital) recently and most of the al Shabaab presence is gone.

February 5, 2017: In the south (Lower Jubba) al Shabaab publicly beheaded four men in a village 70 kilometers north of Kismayo. The victims were accused of spying for the government.

February 2, 2017: In the south, across the border in northeast Kenya al Shabaab raided a police camp and stole a vehicle and some other equipment.

January 29, 2017: In the southwest (Gedo, 320 kilometers from Mogadishu) soldiers ambushed a group of al Shabaab men and killed eleven of them. One of the dead was a known al Shabaab leader believed to be operating in the areas.

January 28, 2017: In the south (Bay region) al Shabaab publicly beheaded three men accused of spying for the government.

January 27, 2017: In the south, near the Kenya border over a hundred al Shabaab gunmen attacked a Kenyan base and killed over 40 Kenyan soldiers and forced the others to retreat from the camp. The al Shabaab attackers took pictures, looted the camp and fled. There is still some dispute over how many soldiers died. This attack led to yet another effort to find and arrest (or kill) al Shabaab members living in Kenya. This often leads to innocent Kenyan Moslems (especially ethnic Somalis) being arrested, or even killed.

January 25, 2017: In Mogadishu there was another hotel attack by al Shabaab that left 30 dead and many more wounded. There were two bombs, one of them a suicide car bomb followed by al Shabaab gunmen who got into the hotel used by foreigners and wealthy Somalis. Police were soon on the scene and the fighting went on for hours. There were two similar attacks in 2016. Attacks like this makes people aware of the fact that Mogadishu is not as safe has it appears these days.

 

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