Since the beginning of 2022, the overall security situation in Somalia has been getting gradually worse. Bitter political infighting over the long delayed parliamentary elections have further divided national security forces and yielded a strong spike in terror activities perpetrated by Al Shabaab. These include suicide bombings and shootings of both political targets and the general public, as well as voter suppression and intimidation. Between early March to date, the Somali elections have still yet to be held. Whereas some headway has been made with the election of several representatives and a new speaker, the continued delays, uncertainty and tumultuous actions of both President Farmaajo and Prime Minster Roble are inadvertently allowing Al Shabaab to exploit the impasses whilst the increasingly polarised security forces are distracted.
The Current situation
As of 28 April, several important events have transpired which are creating an increasingly volatile political environment. On 7 April, Prime Minister Roble ejected the African Union representative sent to Somalia to monitor the election status, an act which the president swiftly rejected. Demonstrating a further increase in the relations between the two and proving to the IMF and western governments that the strict deadline for all elections to be complete (17 May) may be looking unlikely. The deadline marks the point at which Somalia will no longer be eligible to receive financial aid from the International Monetary Fund. The cause was not aided by an attempt by President Farmaajo to block lawmakers entering in a vote on 27 April. The continued struggle to hold free and fair elections is likely to further erode trust in Somalia’s abilities to manage its political system which is still in its infancy.
On the security front, the political turmoil is creating a perfect environment for bitter struggles between the national security forces who themselves have their own allegiances. Subsequently, Somalia has seen a marked increase in Al Shabaab activity. There is no coincidence that the combined efforts of Somalia’s security forces being diverted towards the political row has come at the same time as extreme violence by the jihadist group both in Mogadishu and in surrounding rural areas and border regions (specifically with Kenya).
Future Prospects and Projections
It is fair to say that with the election of Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur as the new speaker of the House, Somalia edges closer to electing its new president next month. It is likely that together with Abdi Hashi Abdullahi (the Upper House speaker) Nur will oversee the election of the president by the two houses of Parliament, however it is uncertain whether these will take place before the end of May. Given that the elections have been delayed now for over a year, It is our judgement that if the 17 May deadline is missed, significant international pressure will likely begin to take its toll on the political system.
Given that a large amount of Somalia’s house representatives have now been elected and sworn in, we can foresee an incremental march to victory. Somalia’s electoral system however does not rely on the people to vote for representatives. The “House of the People” and it’s 275 representatives is chosen by delegates appointed by clan elders and members of civil society. The MPs then vote for a president, who leads the country. We assess that this procedure has and will continue to likely cause delays and political infighting, as by its nature, it is a soft target for corruption and tribal, ethnic and regional polarisation. As Somalia moves further towards it’s election deadlines, there will likely be increased pressure to avoid losing out on the vital monetary and security aid from foreign nations, resources which, if lost, will represent a significant political blow for both Farmaajo and Roble.
As of April 28, it is unclear if we will see a new president sworn into office by the end of May. We do however see some optimistic movements.
Since 2012, Somalia has been recovering slowly from nearly 23 years of civil war. Within the government system, is the current electoral college which is designed to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power between outgoing and incoming governments. In recent months the President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussain Roble have been at the centre of a constitutional battle which has had wide reaching repercussions for national security.
With both figures commanding support from their own (regionally and ethnically loyal) elements of the Somali national security services, military and police, the disagreement between the two has unnecessarily drained resource and time away from the battle against Al-Shabaab and its affiliates. With neighbouring nations such as Kenya typically offering military and strategic support to Somalia, owing to its shared border and continual risk of attack from Al-Shabaab, the political impasse has seen a general rise in Al-Shabaab opportunism both domestically and in Kenya.
The Current situation
Despite a deepening political crisis in Somalia, in which the divide between the President and Prime had been worsening, the two leaders have announced that the previously postponed elections will now take place in February. In a move that will be seen internationally as a positive step to healing the divide, domestically it will likely allow for Somali defence forces and police to return their attention to fighting Al-Shabaab within their borders.
Al-Shabaab, continues to operate in the background of any political process. The group, which has been attempting to topple the country’s federal government for over a decade provides a continual destabilising affect through terrorism, intimidation and their ongoing propaganda efforts. While the group is known for disrupting the country’s election process, the current political uncertainty and a distracted government have amplified the impact and frequency of their attacks.
Future Prospects and Projections
It is in our best judgement that owing to the IMF threatening to cancel a four hundred million dollar package which pays for Somali military wages, there will be no more delays to elections. A cut of this size would be a disaster for Mohamed, Roble and Somali’s regional leaders, which threaten their control of the military. Owing to this, Somalia is likely on the road to holding the long-awaited elections this month, provided that a way through the current impasse can be reached. Further pressure from third party states will likely be applied to those who persist with actions that undermine Somalia’s stability and the prospects of getting to a quick election. Any failed attempt to control the forces and drivers acting against this, will likely prevent the successful journey to a democratic vote.
With the exception of Al-Shabaab and its affiliates, it is primarily in the Somali public’s highest interest at this time to see democratic elections take place. The population has dealt with severe drought and through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic has been increasingly marginalised.
Regardless of the outcome of any elections this month, we judge it highly likely that continued violent fighting between Mohamed, Roble and their affiliated groups will continue. The likeliness of this will increase if Mohamed loses these elections. Voting delays and subsequent infighting will likely continue into future elections unless Somalia’s electoral system undergoes significant reform.
On 8 February, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was elected Somali’s new president, in the second presidential election to take place in the Horn of Africa nation since 1991. The election was held amidst tight security due to ongoing security threats by al-Shabaab.
Below is a timeline of developments over the past 25 years in the war-torn country:
President Barre deposed, chaos ensues
- In January 1991, President Mohamed Siad Barre, who had been in power since 1969, is deposed by rebels and flees the country. The rebel alliance soon falls apart and clan-based fighting breaks out later that year.
- From December 1992 to 1995, the international community intervenes with 38,000 troops in a bid to end a major famine and restore peace. The United Nations’ mission however ends in failure with the deaths of eighteen American soldiers.
New Government Barred from Mogadishu
- In 2005, a new government formed the previous year after protracted talks in neighbouring Kenya enters the country, however it cannot reach the capital, Mogadishu, which is under the control of warlords. The authorities opt to set up their headquarters in Baidoa, which is located west of the capital.
- In 2006, the Islamic Court movements, which is accused by the United States of harbouring al-Qaeda extremists, captures Mogadishu after heavy fighting.
Al-Shabaab Emerges and Joins al-Qaeda
- In December 2006, Ethiopia, with Washington’s support, invades Somalia. Al-Shabaab, the Islamic Courts’ armed wing, emerges to stage a bloody insurgency in the capital and in the southern region of the country.
- In 2007, an African Union (AU) force is deployed in Mogadishu to back up a transitional federal government, which comes to the capital.
- Ethiopia withdrawals from Somalia in 2009, however just days later, al-Shabaab seizes control of Baidoa while the United Nations holds talks in Djibouti with the entire Somali parliament. Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed becomes president of a transitional administration.
- In 2010, al-Shabaab proclaims its allegiance to al-Qaeda and claims responsibility for a double attack, which kills 76 people in Kampala. The attack is in retaliation for Uganda’s participation in the AU force in Somalia.
- Au troop drive al-Shabaab militants out of the capital city in August 2011 however the militants continue to control rural areas and launched a number of attacks in the capital city.
- In October 2011, an al-Shabaab suicide bombing targeting a ministry in Mogadishu kills 82 people. Later that month, Kenyan troops cross the border into southern Somali, while Ethiopian forces arrive in November.
- Al-Shabaab targets the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September 2013, where at lest 67 people are killed and around twenty go missing. The group states that the attack is in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
- In April 2015, another al-Shabaab attack kills 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya. Kenya continues to see a number of attacks, particularly in the border regions with Somalia.
Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
- A new Somali parliament is sworn in on 20 August 2012 following the adoption of a provisional constitution.
- The new parliament, which is comprised of deputies nominated by 135 clan elders, elects Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president on 10 September. It is the first presidential election to take place in Somalia since Barre was deposed in 1991.
- From October to December 2016, around 14,000 clan-based delegate electors – from a total population of 12 million – vote in a second parliamentary election.
- On 27 December 2016, a new batch of 275 Somali deputies take the oat of office.
- On 8 February 2017, former premier Farmajo is elected president after incumbent Mohamud admits defeat in a second round of voting by lawmakers.
On Monday, 15 February, officials reported that Islamist militant group al-Shabaab killed Somalia’s former defense minister with a car bomb in the capital city Mogadishu. The latest death of a Somali official comes just days after the militant group claimed responsibility for the 2 February bombing of a plane that had departed the airport in Mogadishu for neighboring Djibouti. It also comes as insecurity in the capital city and across the country has intensified in recent months, with the militant group launching a number of deadly attacks, particularly targeting troops with the AMISOM contingent.
Hours after Monday’s attack, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, stating that it planted the car bomb that killed Muhayadin Mohamed, who was also an adviser to the speaker of Somalia’s parliament. Pictures taken by a photographer from the scene depicted the passenger seat took the brunt of the damage, with the passenger-side doors blown out. A police official confirmed that Mohamed was killed, adding that a second person in the car survived the blast without any serious injuries.
Mohamed was briefly defense minister in 2008, during Somalia’s transitional federal government, which was backed by the United Nations and had fought alongside African Union (AU) peacekeepers to push al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other major cities.
Meanwhile on Saturday, al-Shabaab insurgents claimed responsibility for a bomb attack, which ripped a hole in a passenger plane shortly after takeoff from the capital Mogadishu earlier this month. In a statement issued by the group, al-Shabaab stated on 2 February, Shebaab “mujahideen carried out an operation targeted dozens of Western intelligence officials and Turkish NATO forces aboard an airplane bound for Djibouti.” Al-Shabaab added that the bomb attack was “retribution for the crimes committed by the coalition of Western crusaders and their intelligence agencies against Muslims of Somalia.”
The blast left a metre-wide (three-foot)hole in the fuselage of the Daallo Airlines plane shortly after it took off from Somalia’s main airport, killing the suspected bomber and forcing an emergency landing. Two of the 74 passengers aboard were slightly injured. Investigators later reported that a passenger believed to be the bomber, identified as Abdulahi Abdisalam, was killed, probably after being propelled out of the aircraft in the explosion. The man had initially intended to board a Turkish Airlines flight however the Turkish plane did not turn up and Daallo Airlines agreed to fly the passengers onwards to Djibouti. Somali intelligence officials have released surveillance footage appearing to show a passenger being given a laptop in which the bomb was concealed.
According to Somali police, late on Thursday, at least twenty people were killed in the Somali capital Mogadishu when five Islamist gunmen set off bombs and stormed a popular beach-front restaurant.
Police officer Osman Nur disclosed Friday that “the operation ended at 3 AM last night and at least 20 civilians were killed.” Somalia’s security minister, Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, reported that four of the gunmen were killed, adding that one was captured alive. Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that its fighters set off two car bombs at the Beach View Café on Mogadishu’s popular Lido beach, and engaged in a gun battle for hours with government troops trying to flush them out. Police officials have disclosed that al-Shabaab fighters set off the first car bomb at dusk, with witnesses reporting that a huge second blast, which echoed around the city centre, struck about an hour later as government soldiers laid siege to the restaurant. The country’s prime minister urged the public to remain calm and called the attack on a civilian target was a desperate move by a group facing annihilation.
The attack comes a week after al-Shabaab overran an African Union (AU) base near the Kenyan border, saying that they had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers and captured a number of them. Kenya has not commented on the toll.