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Vietnam’s COVID-19 Dilemma

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Vietnam’s initial successful control of COVID 19 put them in an enviable position. However, now, as vaccination programs progress around the world, Vietnam is going back into lockdown with less than 3% of the population vaccinated and its borders firmly closed. Until a vaccination program is begun in earnest, this situation is likely to repeat itself.

Vietnam’s initial success in stopping the spread of COVID 19 was due to early action taken by the government, and a high level of public buy-in for disease prevention methods like mask wearing. By closing the borders quickly, the government was able to construct an effective track and trace system that was not overwhelmed, and that continues to perform well. However, this initial success has left the country in a relatively unique position.

While many countries around the world have been forced to focus on vaccination programs because they have not been able to stop the spread of COVID, Vietnam has been able to take its time.  Vietnam has a good record with regard to respiratory diseases being one of the first countries to contain and eliminate SARS in the early 2000s. This confidence has led to the government pinning their vaccination hopes on a locally produced vaccine. Instead of making large purchases from the US or Europe, or accepting doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, Vietnam has waited for Nanocovax, and two other local vaccines, to pass through clinical trials.

However, Vietnam is now experiencing its largest COVID outbreak in both the north and south of the country and the Vietnamese government faces a difficult decision. As the Indian variant, and a potential hybrid “Vietnamese” variant, spreads faster than before, the government must decide if they can afford to wait, or if they should purchase vaccines from overseas.

In early June the government committed to purchasing 120 million does in 2021, for a population of 100 million people. Small purchases of AstraZeneca and Sputnik V have been made already, and there are plans to produce Sputnik V and Pfizer-BioNTech in country. But these avenues are unlikely to be productive until 2022. The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine is potentially a solution to Vietnam’s problem, but so far Vietnam is the only nation in Southeast Asia not to accept the Chinese vaccine, with it only just receiving approval for use in the country. Generally speaking, the Vietnamese public are sceptical about Chinese intentions, and there is a large amount of anti-Chinese sentiment throughout the country and in the government.

If Vietnam is able to stop their current outbreak quickly, then they may be able to withstand pressure to purchase large amounts of vaccines from overseas and wait for their own to finish trials. But if the virus continues to spread, they will have little choice but to invest significantly in purchasing vaccines. If their purchases include the Sinopharm vaccine it will be interesting to see how the government sells the vaccine to the Vietnamese public, and if that has any effect on the number of people willing to be vaccinated.

The Islamic State’s Presence in Syria Today

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Syria’s yearlong civil war has plunged the country into instability and insecurity, providing  a fertile ground for the Islamic State not only to grow, but also to last and maintain its existence, despite its degradation dated back in 2019. ISIS has successfully continued recruiting fighters, by propagating the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, enticing a global audience, including youths and women, while it has secured the funding of its operations through illegal means. In recent months, the risk of an ISIS insurgence has been acknowledged by the majority of the international community, actively involved in the Syrian affairs. This, coupled with the lessons learned from the past, have led them to be considerably cautious and pro-active, particularly during the month of Ramadan, carrying out simultaneous and occasionally coordinated operations against the Islamic threat. By no means, should the international community be complacent, by underestimating the IS capabilities and the possibility of a storming revival across the Syrian territory.

The fear of a possible ISIS break-out attempt during Ramadan between April 12 and May 22, led all the forces operating in the Syrian terrain to preempt such strikes and to eventually achieve decisive blows against ISIS during April, halting its hopes for a comeback. For instance, the Syrian Democratic Forces conducted the “Humanitarian and Security Operation” against the Islamic State cells at the al-Hol camp from March 27 to April 12. At least 150 ISIS affiliates were arrested during the raids, who were deemed to be responsible for a number of residents’ beheadings, shootings, or injuries by grenades in early 2021. On April 4, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted at least four strikes on ISIS cells in Syria, at least one of which hit targeted cells 50 km west of Hasakah City, likely in the Abdul Aziz or Bayda mountains, Hasakah Province. About two weeks later, Russian-backed forces launch coordinated ground and air assault on ISIS hideouts in Jabal Bishri. As admiral Alexander Karpov, leader of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, reported, the Russian Air Force killed 200 ISIS militants and destroyed 24 trucks and a IED production facility between April 17 and 18. The uptick in ground operations and airstrikes marks a move intended to stem ISIS’s Ramadan campaign in the Central Syrian Desert, which last year reached some 260 attacks, killing or wounding hundreds of people. Furthermore, just two months ago, in February, ISIS carried out the deadliest reported surprise attack in recent years, claiming the lives of 19 Syrian regime personnel and allied militia forces, sounding the alarm for Syrian authorities.

The reason ISIS is still capable of infrequently performing such attacks, is that despite the loss of most of its territories, as well as several leading figures, it features considerable experience that allows it to do so. Since the fall of the caliphate in 2019, the group has adapted its recruitment tactics and it has preserved the ability to self-finance its operations through three different sources: the sale of natural resources, the taxation of local communities and criminal activities. Oil sales was the prevalent income resource up until 2014, when the coalition forces launched a series of air strikes, destroying about half of the group’s refineries. Within the next three years, it is estimated that the U.S-led international coalition managed to cut the group’s monthly oil revenues by nearly 90%. Therefore, the leadership soon realized that alternative resources should be employed, with criminal activities and taxation of local communities currently covering a much greater portion of the group’s revenue. Ad hoc criminal activities, particularly kidnapping for ransom,  extortions and thefts constitute the most common tactics for the group. A great deal of reports have revealed that ISIS generates revenue worth of $800 million each year, from taxes imposed on agricultural products, such as wheat and barley crops, collected by civilians. This is an attainable tactic on Daesh’ ends, since its presence is more significant in the government-held areas of Syria, especially in the Badiya desert south of the Euphrates and east of Palmyra, where it intermittently holds some terrain there and is frequently able to cut off local communications. In this region, terrorist are used to intimidate and shake local merchants and farmers down financially. ISIS has also been engaged in other criminal activities, such as trafficking migrants from Libya into Europe, drug smuggling across the Middle East, and illegally selling antiquities from archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria.

In terms of recruitment methods, the Islamic State has highly sophisticated social media platforms and networks. In fact, undergoing investigations carried out by Turkish security teams have shown that there are individuals who are actively organizing the trade of arms, as well as the making of ammunition transfers for Daesh/ISIS members in conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, indicating the group’s efforts to climb back. On top of that, Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence announced on April 27, that its security forces arrested a Daesh terror suspect, while trying to infiltrate into Turkey through illegal means, over charges of making propaganda for the group. ISIS’s strategic use of social media demonstrates the resourcefulness of the Islamic State, which mobilized an estimated 40,000 foreign nationals from 110 countries to join the group. It is noteworthy, that the Islamic State has largely focused on appealing youths and men from around the globe, invoking them to join the group and contribute to its vision. The use of social media platforms, as well as slick and well equipped videos, has turned out to be few easy tools to be employed in order to achieve this goal. The group can successfully communicate its messages to a wider global audience, and eventually entice those, who are the most vulnerable to the extremist ideology.

Surprisingly, one of the most popular demographics that ISIS recruits, are women, particularly young Muslim-American females, who are marginalized by their environment and who are eventually recruited by other women. ISIS’ propaganda magazines, Dabiq and Rumiyah, are circulated in various languages worldwide, and have a separate section that is aimed at women, consisting of articles written by other women attempting to incite them to join the terrorist group. A primary point of these articles is the woman’s “duty” to give birth to the next generation of fighters and then raise them to be good mujahideen. Additionally, increasing internet access in the African region and the Middle East means has allowed ISIS to acquire supporters despite its territorial losses and the loss of power over the past years. Being partly a byproduct of Arab Spring in 2011 and populations’ dissatisfaction with their nations’ politics, along with nowadays’ increased social media access, the Islamic State has employed information and communication technologies (ICTs) to regain support and territory among the region’s politically aggrieved domestic audiences.

Undoubtably, the Islamic State is still present, even after its deconstruction in 2019, and following the recent operations conducted by national, regional, or international forces. Led by intelligent figures, the terrorist group has managed to survive all-out strikes, to come up with all the necessary means to continue financing its activities, as well as to maintain a respectful number of supporters across the globe. Young people, as well as people from poor, unshaped backgrounds constitute an easy target, while in the age of Internet they might be extremely prone to the propagating tactics employed by ISIS. These people should be the first to be protected. Therefore, both international and regional forces need to remain vigilant, as it is likely that ISIS will keep ramping up its efforts to reclaim its power in countries such as Syria, which could be better described as vulnerable and a breeding ground for terrorism.

A Tale of 2 Middle East Powers: Presidential Edition

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Next month, two of Middle East’s powers will hold presidential elections: the Islamic Republic of Iran and the State of Israel. On 25 May 2021, Iran approved 7 candidates for its 18 June presidential elections. The selections were whittled down from 590 registered candidates by Iran’s 12-member Council of Guardians – an appointed legislative committee that answers to the head of state, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In Israel, on 22 May, it was announced only 2 candidates had successfully gained the 10 members of Knesset (MK) signatures to run for president. Both countries are bitter rivals, already embattled in an ongoing conflict for regional supremacy – in terms of who has the most influence, and who can possess a nuclear deterrent. There exists the peripheral question about whether the next president of either country would impact the ongoing conflict or regional matters. This analysis profiles the main candidates, their career backgrounds – using such information to forecast how their presidency could impact regional events.

Starting with Iran, notably 5 of the 7 candidates are principalist (conservative) in some form or another – with the other 2 being a moderate and reformist respectively featuring alongside them. The candidate in the dominant position is Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi – current Chief Justice of Iran a notable member of the powerful, deliberative judicial body, the Assembly of Experts. Raisi has a very full portfolio of career positions in the Iranian political establishment, and has an Islamic jurist background. He is also believed to be the favourite of the Supreme Leader. He first ran for president in 2017, coming second to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani. Should Iran elect him to be president, there is a good chance he will be staunchly loyal to the Supreme Leader’s vision of Iran – which is notably in stark opposition to cooperation with the West, and is openly hostile to Israel. Therefore a Raisi presidency could trigger a move away from the Iran deal, towards isolationism and complete nuclear autonomy. Further, with Israel, it is possible he could be the president that goes to war with Israel.

Another candidate with close ties to the Supreme Leader is Saeed Jalili – former nuclear negotiator, former deputy foreign minister for European and American Affairs, and former chair of Iran’s security cabinet, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). Jalili preciously ran for president in 2013 – placing third. Possessing an important and contemporary portfolio, he would certainly professes the credentials for being president at this point of Iranian national life – especially with regards to the Iran deal, and the current Vienna negotiations meant to facilitate indirect dialogue between Tehran and Washington. However, it is his close connection to the Supreme Leader’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei, which makes him most a standout candidate. Notably, Mojtaba is a hardliner with influence in such circles, and is believed to exercise much influence over his father.

Moreover, Mojtaba reportedly possesses extensive financial assets, and has close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) – Iran’s foremost military faction who guard the regime. The IRGC has massive sway in Iranian society, and therefore should Jalili elected, such degrees of separation could give the IRGC the greenlight to expand its military operations abroad. This could be cause for concern for Iran’s enemies in the region – namely the Arab Gulf states with links to Israel. Such predictions however could be far-fetched, as Mojtaba’s is the one possessing such influence, and not Jalili himself. However, Jalili’s former role as SNSC chair suggests he indeed does have sway with the Iranian security establishment. This suggests any foreign policy under a Jalili presidency could be quite hawkish, and offensive in nature – with more active Iranian fronts in the region (namely Syria, Lebanon, and perhaps the Palestinian Territories).

In contrast to the principalist candidates, interestingly reformist candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh has an outside chance of winning. Former Vice President of Iran and a former provincial governor of Isfahan Province, Mehralizadeh does possess a senior political portfolio. Further, his running for presidency in 2005 puts an interesting tinge on his odds. That year he was disqualified from running by the COG, only to then be reinstated by the Supreme Leader’s direct intervention. This shows his closeness to the most important figure of Iran. Also, reformist outlook and his vice presidential experience would allow for the maintenance of Rouhani’s pragmatic policies. The ramifications of this could be a renewed push towards cooperating with the West vis-à-vis the nuclear deal, and could also give the United States a person they could work with in the area of sanctions.

On the other hand, arguably there exists another candidate who could potentially be more instrumental in the lifting of Iranian sanctions: Abdolnasser Hemmati – Governor of Iran’s Central Bank. Hemmati is the moderate candidate, and his economic background makes him somewhat more pragmatic. He has been very vocal about the negative impact of economic sanctions on Iran – including its impact on Iran’s ability to fight Coronavirus, and the devaluation of its currency compared to other foreign ones. Further, Hemmati is a close friend of President Rouhani, therefore a Hemmati presidency is likely to promote the Iran nuclear deal and dialogue with the U.S. in the area of sanctions.

Summarising, the conservative slant is of importance, as it makes it highly Iran’s next president will take a hard-line stance to such matters as Iranian nuclear aspirations, U.S. sanctions, and the conflict with Israel. Principalist dominance also suggests the Supreme Leader of Iran and the wider Iranian political establishment is looking to purge the more pragmatic and moderate approach of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani. This is perhaps a consequence as such factors as the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy; developments with its nuclear programme, and the flexing of its military might in the region. Therefore, expect to see a more combative Iranian posture in Iran should one of those candidates prevail on 18 June.

For Israel, 2 candidates have passed the 10 MK threshold for the presidential elections. Unlike Iran, Israel’s president is a largely ceremonial figure in Israeli national life, and is not voted in by plebiscite – on the contrary, they are selected from within parliament. However, presidents do have an influence on Israeli political life – including foreign policy, but also as a voice of reason for the government. Most of Israel’s presidents have been political moderates. Currently, the front-running candidate is Isaac Herzog – former Avodah (Labor) politician and current Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Herzog is the son of Israel’s 6th president, Chaim Herzog. He has a law background, and in his army career he served as a major officer in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps.

Herzog is a popular man, and a unifier – he received 27 signatures from the Knesset to kickstart his candidacy, when he needed only 10. Of those 27 seats, they came from MKs from across the political spectrum: from the left and centrist parties, to the right-wing, nationalist and religious parties. Politically speaking, as Avodah leader he prioritise security policy, and is in favour of the 2-state solution – the latter a position he pledged to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Such past precedents suggest a Herzog presidency would steer Israel towards improved relations with the Palestinians, and bring a diplomatic edge to Israel’s foreign policy – perhaps driving further normalisation with the Arab and Islamic world. Further, Herzog has in the past been interested in the political styles of former U.S. president Barack Obama and N.Y. Mayor Bill de Blasio. Therefore, such ideological links could indicate a potential reciprocation with the policies of U.S. president Joe Biden (who was Vice President under Obama). Thus a Herzog presidency could peripherally impact developments with the Iran deal.

Meanwhile, the other candidate Miriam Peretz, who received 11 signatures, differs somewhat from Herzog and other past presidential candidates. First of all she is a woman, and secondly a political outsider – an educator and orator by profession. Peretz became a public figure from the deaths of both her sons whilst actively fighting in Israel’s wars against Lebanese militias and Hamas respectively. She also is a recipient of an Israel prize honour. She is also ideologically slanted to the right – having been a resident of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and having been courted in the past by right-wing and centre-right parties. Thus much of her support comes from the Israeli right.

The above information suggests a Peretz presidency will be unique – likely being less moderate and more hard-line. Moreover, potentially a right-leaning candidate with a personal stake in Israel’s conflicts and territorial disputes could perhaps birth a president that is somewhat unfriendly towards the Palestinians, but perhaps also to Iran – the latter of which backs and funds Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah. Further, her Moroccan-Sephardi Jewish heritage could be an interesting factor that could shape Israel’s relationship with its Arab and Muslim neighbours: on the one hand, an Arabic speaker could build bridges with the Muslim world, but on the other hand, Sephardi-Mizrahi Israelis have often been the most vocal against Arab relations due to oppressive familial experiences in the Middle Eastern and North African Jewish diaspora. But even still, Peretz’s personal pain of losing 2 sons to war could influence her presidency to be one that first and foremost promotes peace with its neighbours.

Lukashenko and the Highjacking

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When Minsk scrambled a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land on Belarusian territory with the sole apparent aim of arresting the journalist and activist Roman Protasevich, the Belarusian political crisis stopped being a domestic issue and went definitively global. Alexander Lukashenko’s international isolation has been growing for many months following the contested presidential election last summer and ensuing protests, but now it has reached a whole new level. With its own nationals and airplane having experienced how Minsk treats its opponents, the West is embarking on measures it has been reluctant to undertake for decades.

The problem is that this episode wouldn’t have even dared happen in the Cold War. There were rules back then, worked out with difficulty by both sides in the attempt to prevent the worst from happening. There was no trust, but there were talks, with precise protocols and a thousand difficulties: between the Kremlin and the White House, the famous “red telephone” would be used only as the last resort to stop a nuclear war, just like the one narrowly averted with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pieces were moved on the chessboard, and the Iron Curtain also served as a line dividing mutual safe zones: a tacit agreement prohibiting enemies from crossing over the Wall, and an escaped, or more likely, expelled, dissident could feel safe in the West.

After Belarusian opposition journalist Protasevich was kidnapped, alongside an entire Ryanair plane, the EU came to realise it is facing a dictator who doesn’t play by any rules. Lukashenko is looking to clash, not communicate. He has been in power since 1994, he has been the only ruler of post-Soviet Belarus and he is behaving as if treaties, conventions, courts and international responsibilities didn’t exist.

The dialogue between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War followed a kind of code of hostility, based on the rational assumption that even enemies can try to build a system to co-exist. The problem is that Lukashenko thinks only about his regime in personal terms. He is not the son of a system or attached to an ideology that would make him feel part of a mission bigger than himself. The Soviet Union possessed a well-structured political system and a protocol for succession. Lukashenko, a veritable populist, who came to power 20 years before the term entered common use in the region, doesn’t have an ideological dictatorship, because he has no ideology. Like other examples of such neo-autocratic rulers, including Vladimir Putin, or even Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Belarus leader is the inventor of a personality-driven regime of corruption and unlimited power that will die with him.

If we analyse what he achieved we need to start with, first of all, intimidation. He wants to show opponents that, ’You are not safe anywhere’. Additionally, Lukashenko worked hard to create an information vacuum in Belarus, consequently, the information channels operating from outside, such as Nexta, posed a direct threat. That was definitely what he cared about in the arrest of Protasevic, namely, to control the informational realm inside the country. The third reason is more speculative: Lukashenko probably wanted to show his teeth. With the intention of knowing how far he can go, how far he can challenge the West.

What also needs to be assessed is the impact of Russia. Putin has been pursuing closer integration between Belarus and Russia for nearly two decades, and he appears to have ramped up efforts in recent years. Lukashenko has long opposed measures that could jeopardize Belarusian sovereignty, but the suppression of demonstrations last fall and the anger of the West at them brought Belarus closer to Russia. Since last year, the two countries have also concluded new agreements on long-term cooperation. Moreover, the Belarusian economy is largely dependent on Russia. By continuing to support Lukashenko economically and politically, the Kremlin actually approves of what is happening in the country. This being considered it is still not entirely clear what is going on behind the scenes and how far Moscow’s hand is. But Moscow clearly supports Belarus. Russia described the anger and condemnations from the European Union as “shocking” and said that news of the arrest was being misused in the West for its political and anti-Russian agenda. Consequently, Minsk is not afraid to take steps that are bound to incense the West because it feels protected by Moscow. In fact, such provocative actions are even an asset that Lukashenko can use in conversation with Russia. The message to Putin is that there will never be a more anti-Western leader of Belarus, so he should cherish this one. The extent to which Moscow is prepared to prop up Lukashenko, including financially, is unclear. The more costly the union becomes, and the more that Russia is accused of involvement in Minsk’s actions, the louder the voices critical of Lukashenko heard within the Russian elite will be heard.

And lastly, we need to account for the implications of the awaited Putin-Biden summit for June 16 in Geneve. There is much speculation that Moscow and Washington will strike some kind of deal on broad de-escalation, involving exchanging concessions on various regions and issues. Ultimately, the more toxic Lukashenko becomes internationally, the more important it becomes for the West to show that its pressure on the Belarusian regime is having tangible consequences. Russia is the only country that can truly influence the behaviour of the Belarusian authorities, so it’s only a matter of time before that pressure is transferred from Minsk to Moscow.


Somalia’s Electoral Crisis

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After Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s, popularly known as ‘Farmajo’, term expired on February 8th, Somalia’s leaders were unable to hold elections, resulting in a constitutional crisis. The nation’s planned vote on February 8 was cancelled due to disputes over the mechanism between the federal and regional governments. On April 13, the Lower House of the Parliament voted to prolong Farmajo’s term for another two years in the absence of elections – an issue at the centre of the dispute. While the country’s lower house supported the change, the upper house did not, and an angry opposition – headed by two former presidents – claimed the extension was nothing more than a power grab. This sparked protests, clashes and further unrest in Mogadishu later that month, with international partners condemning the decision to extend the president’s term.

Clashes broke out between forces loyal to the president and opposition-affiliated forces on April 25th. Rival powers traded gunfire in Mogadishu neighbourhoods, including those where opposition political leaders live. According to local media, the clashes resulted in nearly two dozen deaths and, fearing the worst, up to 200,000 civilians fled the capital. Militiamen targeted army positions near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the majority of the city’s roads had been blocked, and special forces were mobilised.

By evening, the fighting had died down, and Mogadishu was quieter the following morning, with the majority of residents remaining at home. The situation remained tense, nevertheless, as heavily armed rival security units appeared to be stationed throughout the area, serving as a chilling warning to anyone who passed by that fighting could resume at any time.

Shortly after, and following intense domestic and international pressure, Farmajo decided to drop his intentions to extend his term on the 1st of May and allowed instead for Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble to begin talks to negotiate a settlement by tasking Roble with overseeing the elections implementation and stability, signalling the start of a path out of the crisis. Opposition members and leaders of the five federal member states will gather around the negotiating table with Farmajo. The aim is to establish confidence between bitter political foes and to hold the long-delayed elections as soon as possible.

However, the situation is still precarious. On the 13th of May, Farmajo turned down a role for the African Union’s special envoy, whose presence is seen as essential by the opposition. Thus, both opposition and government forces are apprehensive, and could remobilise as easily as they disbanded when all parties agreed to talk.

The latest political tensions have only worsened the existing precarious situation faced by Somali people. The negotiated resolution to the impasse, along with strengthened security, will only help humanitarian aid reach and benefit the people who need it. The crisis came on top of a slew of humanitarian disasters, including the war against al-Qaeda linked rebels al-Shabaab, recent heavy flash flooding, and a forecasted drought that could impact more than 6 million people.

Due to political infighting, the delayed elections have allowed al-Shabaab militants to gain ground in an insurgency, increasing the threat of instability in eastern Africa. According to Bloomberg, al-Shabaab has taken advantage of the standoff as well as the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia to increase their recruitment of fighters. Authorities have foiled some attempts, but the government is concerned that raids in Somalia and neighbouring countries will become more common.

Moreover, as the situation has heightened political and military distrust, this is playing into the hands of the militants who have already staged frequent attacks in Mogadishu this year. A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) stated that the violence within Somalia [leading up to the political crisis] was already worsening, with at least 10 suicide bombings in the capital in the second half of 2020, more than double that of the previous six months. March 2021 also saw the highest number of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks since 2019. According to the ICG, although the Somali army has battled to retake territories from al-Shabab, it has not gained enough ground to prevent a security threat during elections. The increase of attacks, coupled with political uncertainty, has the ability of greatly deteriorating Somalia’s security situation.

The danger is not limited to Somalia. In the past, the group has carried out deadly attacks in countries throughout the East African region, including Kenya and Uganda. Thus, it is due to the security concerns that Kenya’s government is expected to close some of the world’s largest refugee camps along its Somali border, as Kenyan authorities have accused several asylum seekers of harbouring suspects in Kenyan terror attacks, including the 2015 assault on Garissa University.

Furthermore, during this period unrest, the Somali National Army, amid years of reforms and initiatives backed by their donors, fragmented along clan lines, which made the situation even more explosive. Some units defected back to the Hawiye-led opposition, capturing vast swathes of Mogadishu. The danger is that the Somali security sector will be further splintered along clan lines as a result of ongoing clashes – where solidarity is solely based on clan. In the heated political climate, the fighting on April 25th showed how the sector’s cohesion has largely broken down. This distracts the security forces from their primary tasks which are to protect Somali people as well as combating insurgents.

The difficulty comes simultaneously as the number of foreign troops assisting in the fight against the insurgents has decreased. In 2020, Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Somalia – relocating them to Kenya and Djibouti. Ethiopia also pulled out some of its troops from a peacekeeping mission in Somalia in November 2020, focusing instead on resolving an internal dispute.

But the presence of AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, could fill any security gaps and serve as a buffer between the different factions- however, the opposition has already cast doubt on the mission’s neutrality, saying it has previously backed Farmajo. However, to appease the opposition’s fears, AMISOM, via the AU Special representative to Somalia, should clarify that it will support any AU-led mediation initiatives and will not take sides.