Somalia: New Government, More Invasions

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August 10, 2022: There’s been a sharp increase in al Shabaab activity inside neighboring Ethiopia, including what appears to be a major effort by hundreds of al Shabaab gunmen to travel deep into Ethiopia to establish a base of operations in a mountainous area. Ethiopian forces mobilized quickly and defeated the “invasion”, killing or wounding hundreds of the invaders and forcing the survivors back into Somalia.

Al Shabaab has been present in Ethiopia since at least 2018 and in 2019 Ethiopia revealed that it had recently arrested members of al Shabaab and fight ISS (Islamic State Somalia, the local ISIL faction), which wants to destroy al Shabaab for being too moderate, in the capital and the area near the Somali border. Since 2017 Ethiopia has been having problems with fighting between ethnic Somalis in Ogaden and the non-Somali Oromo people who live to the west. The Ethiopian province of Ogaden, which comprises most of eastern Ethiopia contains a largely ethnic Somali population. To the west of Ogaden is Oromia, where the largest minority in Ethiopia (the Oromo) predominate. The Oromo are similar ethnically to Somalis but have very different attitudes towards religion. About half the Oromo are Sunni Moslem while the other half are Christians. All religious Oromo include aspects of their ancient tribal religion that resisted conversion efforts by Moslems and Christians. In general, Oromo do not mix religion and politics and few have gotten involved with al Shabaab. Then there are the traditional territorial disputes along the Ogaden-Oromia border and these have flared up again since 2017 and took awhile for the government and armed forces (many withdrawn from Somalia) to deal with.

Many Somalis believe Ogaden belongs to Somalia. Islamic radicals in Somalia have long sought to conquer Ogaden but the dominant Christian Ethiopians have been defeating these efforts for generations. That is not going to change, especially since oil and gas has been discovered in Ogaden, and drilling is underway. In 2015 Somalia and Ethiopia signed an agreement to not provide rebels from the other nations with sanctuary. In other words, the recent al Shabaab invasion of Ethiopia is yet another chapter in the dispute over control of the Ogaden.

August 9, 2022: In the south (outside the bort of Kismayo) two al Shabaab bombs were used to attack a civilian bus and then those who came to assist the wounded. Four were killed and 11 wounded.

August 7, 2022: In Mogadishu, the parliament finally approves the new 75-member cabinet. There was something for everyone, including a senior job for one of the founders of al Shabaab in the religious affairs department. During the proceedings there were several al Shabaab mortar shells landing near the Parliament compound. There were no casualties. It’s been a long and tedious process to get this far. The parliament met in late June and approved the new prime minister selected by the president. This formation of a new government came after several years of efforts to overcome clan and warlord objections to democracy in general. The elections were held and results certified on May 15th producing a parliament and new president. The prime minister was the one who actually f0rms a government by filling dozens of key jobs with candidates that will not cause disputes in parliament over who got what. Somalia is still dominated by the power of the clans and the blind loyalty to clan even when it harms national unity. Overcoming this factionalism in a democracy is often very difficult. So far it appears that a majority of Somali leaders are willing to give a clean government a chance to work in Somalia. The key test is forming the new government successfully.

August 5, 2022: In the southwest (Bakool region) Ethiopia claims they killed or captured nearly a thousand Somali al Shabaab men who tried to invade and establish bases in a the Bale mountains area deep inside Ethiopia. The fighting went on for several weeks before Ethiopia declared it officially over. Some of the al Shabaab men got 150 kilometers into Ethiopia before being stopped. Similar incursions by Somalis have been going on for generations and none succeeded, at least not for long. While Somalia has never been a united nation, Ethiopia has existed as a nation state for thousands of years and is the only African state that was never conquered or colonized by Europeans (including the Ottoman Turks). There have been lots of civil wars, but when faced by an external threat, Ethiopians unite to deal with that before returning to internal disputes. The Bale mountains, which are 300 kilometers from the Somali border, are where Oromo rebels establish bases when the Oromo are feuding with the central government.

July 29, 2022: Down south, across the border in the Kenyan counties (provinces) of Mandera, Garissa, al Shabaab claims responsibility for five recent attacks. Al Shabaab considers Christian Kenyan rule of Mandera illegitimate because of the large number of ethnic Somali Kenyans and Somali refugees living in the area. Armed Somalis have been raiding into Kenya, where most of the population is not Somali, for centuries.

July 27, 2022: In the south (Middle Shabelle region) al Shabaab used a car bomb to attack a popular, and well-guarded, hotel. The blast left five dead and 14 wounded. The hotel suffered major damage. The hotel is popular with local leaders and businessmen.

Further south (Lower Shabelle region) al Shabaab suicide bombers carried out attacks in two government-controlled towns. This left 19 dead and 23 wounded. About twenty similar al Shabaab attacks have been carried out so far this year.

July 17, 2022: In the south (Lower Juba region) an American UAV used a missile to kill two known al Shabaab officials. This was the second such air strike since American forces returned to Somalia in May. The return was made possible by the successful parliamentary elections.

 

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