Challenges facing Somalia in 2023

Date:

Challenges facing Somalia in 2023

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Saturday, January 28, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The second is how the Somalian government, Islamic military, and political group Al-Shabaab will handle anti-Shabaab clan uprisings.

  • The first is the absence of a holding force for territories that have been retaken.

  • Despite government encouragement, many clans have not joined together to fight al-Shabaab because of fear, a lack of resources, and intra-clan conflicts.

  • Instead, the first step might be to negotiate humanitarian access to prevent the death of tens of thousands of Somalis this year in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

  • Though not always, Al-Shabaab has frequently rejected negotiations with the Somalian government.

Two main interconnected trends will characterise developments in Somalia in 2023. The extent of famine in the nation is the first. The second is how the Somalian government, Islamic military, and political group Al-Shabaab will handle anti-Shabaab clan uprisings. Since the middle of 2022, the new administration of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia has been far more steadfast in its backing of these uprisings than his predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo”.

However, many significant political rifts still existed under Farmaajo’s administration and will do so again in 2023. Additionally, the clan-government military operation against al-Shabaab has substantial flaws that may scuttle the effort while al-Shabaab is still well-entrenched. It would be far too early to declare the clan uprisings the start of al-demise.

The terrible humanitarian situation

Nearly half of Somalia’s 17.1 million people, or at least 6.7 million, experience severe food insecurity, with 300,000 people possibly going hungry this spring. 173,000 more Somali youngsters now have extreme hunger than during the 2011 famine. Due to a scarcity of food and water, more than one million Somalis have been internally displaced. They are looking to move to locations where they can get international humanitarian aid.

However, the vast regions under al-control Shabaab only get a trickle, if any, of aid. One explanation is that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are concerned about attacks on humanitarian supplies by al-Shabaab. Due to al-desire Shabaab’s to regulate and tax humanitarian donations, NGOs are worried that they would be subject to international legal action on claims of providing material support to terrorist organisations. Before the U.S. government hammered out legal exceptions and guidelines, worries that the Obama administration would prosecute NGOs during the 2011 famine hindered and delayed humanitarian assistance for months, probably resulting in tens of thousands more fatalities in Somalia. The United Nations passed resolution 2664 in December 2022 to allay worries among NGOs by exempting humanitarian aid from U.N. sanctions.

The United Nations has not formally referred to Somalia’s severe starving situation as a “famine,” a designation that the country’s administration resists. The drought that has plagued Somalia for years has been made worse by global warming. Each of the five rainy seasons that followed in a row failed to bring in enough rain to irrigate the land adequately. There have been other effects that go beyond human famine. Three fourth of the nation’s cattle, or more than three million animals, have perished. In addition to being necessary for household survival, livestock is a significant source of income for the Somali economy.

Clan rebellions occur amid starvation

Early in the summer of 2022, as the interminable drought worsened, the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabaab responded brutally as usual by raising taxes on the local populace amid recessions and natural calamities to make up for lost revenue, despite its hefty $100 million monthly revenues. It lost formal control over Mogadishu and other areas of Somalia in 2011 for several reasons, including its unwillingness to adjust tax collection to reflect better changing economic conditions and its indifference to people’s plight, which included not allowing humanitarian aid to be provided without taxation during the 2011 famine.

This time, “macawisley” local clan militias rebelled. Water wells were poisoned and destroyed as payback by Al-Shabaab. Clan militias managed to seize significant sections of Hiraan, Hirshabelle, and Galmudug from al-Shabaab when the uprisings continued unabated.

By using elite Gorgor forces with Turkish training, the new administration of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took advantage of the chance to strengthen the clans and launch its offensive against al-Shabaab. Additionally, it convinced the US to use the elite counterterrorism unit Danab, trained in the US, to increase anti-Shabaab clearance operations.

This came as a tremendous blow after six years. There haven’t been any substantial offensives against al-Shabaab since 2016. The African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) multinational forces were holed up at their bases and experiencing severe difficulties. The Somali National Army (capabilities)’s remained appallingly deficient despite years and millions of dollars of international training aid. At the same time, the Somalian administration was preoccupied with serious near-civil war tensions between Mogadishu and Somalia’s federal member states (FMS).

The challenging issues of 2023

The first is the absence of a holding force for territories that have been retaken. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), the new African Union force that took over from AMISOM, has helped with some medevacs but is still largely garrison-locked and is expected to be finished by 2024.

The macawisley are all worn out. Despite government encouragement, many clans have not joined together to fight al-Shabaab because of fear, a lack of resources, and intra-clan conflicts. Al-Shabaab has been contacting families, making concessions, and pressuring clan elders.

The SNA is still too weak even to maintain territory, even though it did not divide along factional lines in the spring of 2022 when the threat of civil war loomed between Farmaajo, opposing clans, and politicians. Operational teeth are provided by the more powerful Gorgor and Danab, the latter of which has embedded American special operations soldiers. They are not designed to retain control of an area.

The Somali government is reportedly beginning to purchase and use Turkish drones on the battlefield because it is frustrated with U.S. drone strike restrictions in Somalia and angry about the ongoing U.S. and international weapons embargo (though the Somali government denies it). However, drones do not overcome the holding challenge, like Danab.

The Somalian government recognises the issue. Due to logistical and legal difficulties, as well as the diplomatic machinations of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, it has struggled to obtain the repatriation of the 5,000 Somali troops sent to Eritrea for training during the Farmaajo era. Instead, a new agreement for the UAE to educate more than 10,000 Somali army and police officers has resulted in better relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Mogadishu.

The arrangement, shrouded in secret, would destroy the remnants of the so-called Somali national security architecture negotiated in 2017 between Mogadishu, FMS, and the international community. The tense relationships between Mogadishu and FMS, as well as between the major tribes in Somalia, which dominate politics and daily life, have the potential to explode. Mohamud purportedly intends to placate state presidents and arbitrarily add two more years to their terms in office by agreeing to postpone state elections. However, that will not sit well with the local lawmakers and clans of the opposition. Delays in elections in Somaliland have already sparked a regional crisis. This more stable Somalian area has long sought independence and is not content with a simple FMS status.

Bad governance lies at the heart of Somalia’s instability. Such dysfunction will continue as long as this exclusive and unaccountable regulation is arbitrarily extended.

Political and clan rivalry still exists. Although not as tense as they were under the Farmaajo administration, ties between the president and prime minister, who represent different tribes, continue to be strained in Somalia.

Due to the Hawiye clans’ extreme discontent with Farmaajo’s reign, Mohamud returned to power with a promise to put their interests first. This included enhancing security in Mogadishu and Benadir from al-Shabaab taxation. However, Mohamud lacks the necessary forces to defend the centre against the Hiraan-Hirshabelle-Galmudug offensives.

Al-devastating Shabaab’s urban terrorist attacks in Mogadishu and other places, including the bloodiest attack since 2017, were a predictable response to the rural offensives. Such attacks jeopardise Mohamud’s guarantees of Hawiye’s security and the human agony they cause.

The US wants southern Juba to become the site of yet another battlefront. The Kenyan government would appreciate this since it has long supported Ahmed Madobe, the strongman president of Juba, and is worried about its porous border with Somalia. However, the front would set off intricate Mogadishu-Juba dynamics, especially those involving the deployment of local and federal forces.

Also significant is the type of government implemented in the retaken territories. Poor governance, interclan violence, and marginalisation are ingrained tendencies in Somalia. Al-tenacity Shabaab’s entrenchment stems from its deft use of corrupt government and clan rivalries, exploitation of clan conflicts, and support for outcast clans.

The clan militias in Somalia have a long history of preying on the indigenous populations, which has led to intense hostility.

However, insufficient preparation has been made to stop militias, clan elders, state and national politicians, and government officials from resuming misgovernance in the liberated areas. Al-Shabaab is waiting for the uprisings to fizzle out instead of launching massive rural offensives in the hopes that rekindled clan conflicts will open up new entry points.

A top 2023 objective should be establishing acceptable government and reducing regional tensions. However, it will be challenging because it calls for negotiating with local conflict resolution procedures, communities, and state legislators.

Negotiating with al-Shabaab is the last significant issue that needs to be handled. The Somalian administration has faltered, the International Crisis Group vehemently advocated it months ago, and the United States continues to oppose it.

But starting a conversation does not entail reaching a problematic agreement, as in the 2020 Taliban agreement. Instead, the first step might be to negotiate humanitarian access to prevent the death of tens of thousands of Somalis this year in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

Though not always, Al-Shabaab has frequently rejected negotiations with the Somalian government. It denied seeking conversations and doing so in early January 2023. Extensive, public, formal talks are unlikely to get started immediately or result in a satisfactory settlement. However, at the very least, NGOs and elders shouldn’t be hindered or penalised for attempting to negotiate access to aid and potentially regional agreements.

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