Tag Archives: AU and Somalia

Somalia – Al Shabab takes another town from AU forces


The Islamist militant group Al Shabaab took control of a sizeable town in central Somalia on Sunday after African Union forces left the area, the third town the insurgents have seized since Friday, militants and local officials said.

The group, which seeks to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islamic law, has remained a potent threat in the Horn of Africa country even after being forced out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011.

The African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, left Buqda on Saturday night, less than a month after taking control of the town, an economic centre of the Hiran region, from al Shabaab.

“We have taken Buqda town peacefully today. The town is now under our control,” said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military spokesman.

Ahmed Nur, a senior Somali military officer, acknowledged that military forces had left the town, but said this was to engage al Shabaab elsewhere, and that it would return.

“AMISOM and our troops have gone to launch operations against al Shabaab strongholds in the region,” he said.

Residents said they had been treated brutally by both sides, but some said they welcomed the return of al Shabaab.

“The problem is that the government cannot keep control of the town and it does not want al Shabaab to rule it,” said local elder Nur Ibrahim. “Government troops rape, rob and kill us. Al Shabaab also punishes anyone who sells items to the government.

Over the last two days, al Shabaab has taken two small towns in the lower Shabelle region, El Saliindi, 65 km (40 miles) south of Mogadishu on the road to the port of Marka, and Kuntuwarey, on the road from the capital to the port of Barawe.

The al Qaeda-affiliated group regularly attacks the AU-led peacekeeping force and Somali authorities.

On Sept. 1, al Shabaab stormed an AMISOM base in Janale, about 90 km (55 miles) south of Mogadishu, killing at least 12 Ugandan soldiers. Al Shabaab said it had killed 70 people in the assault, which came roughly a year after its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a U.S. air strike.

Somalia – Al Shabab kills suspected CIA and Ethiopian spies


Armed members of the militant group al-Shabab attend a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in this February 2012 file photo. Several top officials of the al-Qaeda-linked group have either defected or have been killed in recent months

Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabab has killed by firing squad four men accused of spying for the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

The men, who included two government soldiers, were shot in front of a large crowd in the southern town of Bardhere, witnesses said.

A court run by al-Shabab had earlier convicted them of spying for the CIA, Ethiopia and the Somali government.

US air strikes have killed two senior al-Shabab commanders in recent months.


“One of the spies worked with the CIA and facilitated the killing of an al-Shabab commander,” a judge in the al-Shabab-run court said.

He did not name the commander, but al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a US air strike in September and last month its intelligence chief, Tahlil Abdishakur, was assassinated in a similar strike in southern Somalia.

Somalia's army, file picSomalia’s army has been fighting the militants with help from African Union troops

Abdishakur’s killing came just days after his predecessor, Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi, gave himself up to the Somali government.

Bardhere resident Ali Ronow told the AFP news agency that hundreds of people watched the killing of the four suspected spies on Tuesday.

“The men were blindfolded and shot from the back by a team of hooded gunmen,” he is quoted as saying.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, is notorious for killing by firing squad suspected spies.

In 2011, Muslim cleric Ahmed Ali Hussein was chained and shot dead after being accused of being a CIA spy and belonging to a sect opposed to the group.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state, but has lost key towns and cities in recent years to African Union (AU) and Somali government forces.

The AU has about 22,000 troops fighting al-Shabab in Somalia.

Neighbouring Ethiopia, which sees the Islamists as a major threat to its security, also has troops in the country. Some of them are part of the AU force while others operate independently.

Various armed groups have been battling for control of Somalia since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Somalia – government troops and AMISOM capture port of Barawe


Somali troops capture key port town from al-Shabab

African Union forces march through the town of Golweyn in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region - 30 August 2014African Union troops have helped government forces retake several towns across Somalia in recent weeks

Somali government troops backed by African Union forces have captured a key stronghold of al-Shabab Islamists, local officials say.

The regional governor told the BBC that he was in the centre of Barawe, about 200km (125 miles) south of Mogadishu.

The AU says al-Shabab, who had held the town for six years, used it as a base to launch attacks on the capital.

Residents said many of the al-Qaeda-aligned militants had begun withdrawing from the key port town on Friday.


“The situation is calm, the militiamen had fled before the forces reached the town,” regional governor Abdukadir Mohamed Nur said.

Al-Shabab has lost control of several towns in the past month, but still controls large swathes of territory in rural areas.

The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza says the news is a significant blow to al-Shabab because they had used Barawe as a supply route for weapons and food and as a base for a lucrative charcoal business.

The loss of Barawe comes a month after al-Shabab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed by a US air strike near the town. US strikes have also targeted other senior militants in and around Barawe.

The group, which is estimated to have at least 5,000 fighters, wants to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government and has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control.

Last week, a woman was stoned to death in Barawe for alleged adultery.

Correspondents say al-Shabab tends to tactically withdraw from areas when faced with a large offensive, but leaves some fighters within the civilian population to launch attacks later.  BBC

Somalia – US air strike against Al Shabab leader Godane


US armed forces have launched an air strike against the Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. The attack targeted the head of the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, but it’s not yet clear if he was hit.

The Pentagon’s initial statement was terse. A spokesman confirmed an “operation” was carried out against the militia, and that it was “assessing the results.”

Only on Monday afternoon could Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby confirm what Somali officials had already let slip: the drone missile strike was directed at Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.

Kirby said that “actionable” intelligence led to the airstrikes by special operations forces using both manned and unmanned aircraft. The airstrikes “hit what they were aiming at,” Pentagon spokesman Kirby said, saying that if Godane were killed in the attack, it would be “a very significant blow” to al-Shabab and its capabilities.

Godane, who has headed the East African terrorist group since 2008, is high on the US State Department’s list of the world’s top terror fugitives. The US is offering a $7-million (5.33-million-euro) reward for information leading to Godane’s arrest.

It is still not clear whether Godane, high-ranking advisors and commanders were among the “several” dead reported by the German press agency DPA in the military mission in southern Somalia. According to the Associated Press news agency, “six militants” were killed.

Drones instead of ground troops

In the 1990s the US was forced to withdraw its troops following a traumatic mission, and over the past years, Washington has relied on drone strikes to keep the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in check. Observers rate the fact that the Somali government has not protested yet as an indication that it was informed and involved. The population was pleased at the news, says DW correspondent Hussein Aweys in the capital Mogadishu.

Somali soldiers in Mogadishu
Photo: REUTERS/Omar Faruk Somali soldies at the site of a bomb explosion in Mogadishu

Monday’s drone strike is presumably connected to the offensive launched this past weekend by Somali government forces and African Union (AU) troops under the codename “Operation Indian Ocean”.

They managed to recapture the strategically important town of Bulomarer, an al-Shabab stronghold in southwestern Somalia. Apparently in retaliation, the militia then attacked the intelligence headquarters and a high-security prison in Mogadishu on Sunday.

The US operation is presumably also linked to the Somali and AU troops’ plans to capture the coastal town of Barawe, the last port under al-Shabab’s control. From here, the militia dispatches ships carrying charcoal to the Gulf States – the group’s key source of income at an estimated 19 million euros per year.

Far from defeated

But even Godane’s death wouldn’t mean the militia is defeated, says Annette Weber, Somalia expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), adding they have proven to be quite versatile over the past years. “They were always prepared to adapt their military tactics, from urban fighting in Mogadishu and control over larger territories outside of the city to the return to guerilla fighting.” The militia still has a relatively large sphere of influence even though it was swept out of the capital by AU troops in 2011, she says. “The idea of al-Shabab is much greater than a few hundred or thousand fighters in southern Somalia”, Weber told DW.

Shabaab fighters training with guns
Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh- Al Ahabaab is not yet defeated

But simply taking control of al-Shabab’s territory is not going to be the end of the group, warns Rashi Abdi – a security analyst and Somalia expert based in Nairobi – even if the present offensive is the most intense against their strongholds in the south so far. “It has deep roots in Somali society in many places,” he told DW. “While the military campaign will probably diminish al-Shabab’s military capabilities, its asymmetric capabilities will not be diminished and will probably escalate as a result of the military pressure.”

Seeking a political solution

Weber is critical of reports that al-Shabab is the eastern toehold of a pan-African terrorism belt that stretches all the way to Mali in the west. While Godane publicly confirmed his alliance with al Qaeda, praising the terrorist network as “pioneers of the jihad,” cooperation with other militant groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is not as close as reports would indicate. “Al-Shabab is a very self-contained group,” she says, adding that although some fighters from the western diaspora are trickling in, the group is by no means hooked up with the network of your typical traveling jihadists.

Rashid Abdi agrees that there may be a broad strategic approximation between the jihadist groups, but he points out they definately have different ideologies. “The context is always very different from one place to another, so we should not always see a grand scheme,” he says.

Experts like Weber and Rashid have for years urged a political solution for Somalia, but a change in stance is not on the horizon, particularly in Washington. Strategies based solely on a military solution are not likely to be “crowned by far-reaching success,” Weber says. “We’ve seen over the years that al-Shabab is very adept at adapting territorially and tactically.”

This is essentially a political struggle, Rashid says. “It may be military at the moment, however the real problem in Somalia is not even al-Shabab, but the inability of the government as well as the clans to really agree on stabilization and a political way forward.”






Uganda to send “protection force” to Somalia

Uganda to ‘send troops to Somalia to protect UN’

Uganda will send a 410-strong special force to guard UN installations in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, a Ugandan army spokesman has said.

The protection squad will free up thousands of UN-backed troops to pursue militant Islamists in the city, Paddy Ankunda said.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has stepped up attacks in Mogadishu in recent weeks.

At least 12 people were killed in a suicide bombing last Thursday.

Last June, it carried out a major assault on the main UN base in Mogadishu, leaving at least 22 people dead.

‘Mortar raids
On Tuesday, a Somali military general, Hassan Mohamud, assumed the post of mayor of the city, following the removal of the incumbent, Mohamed Nur, who is known by his nickname of Tarzan.

The government’s decision to appoint him shows that improving security in Mogadishu remains its key priority, correspondents say.

A 22,000-strong African Union (AU) force, operating under a UN mandate, is battling al-Shabab in Somalia.

Col Ankunda said the protection squad would ensure the AU force was not “bogged down” escorting UN staff – many of whom are involved in aid work.

“Amisom [the African force] will be freed to follow al-Shabab wherever they are hiding,” he added.

Al-Shabab lost control of most of Mogadishu in 2011 to AU and Somali government troops.

It has changed its strategy since then, launching guerrilla-style attacks – including suicide bombings and night-time mortar raids.

Last month, al-Shabab fighters stormed Villa Somalia, the seat of government in Mogadishu, killing at least 11 people.

The group has waged an eight-year insurgency to overthrow the weak UN-backed government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.

About 22,000 troops are fighting al-Qaeda linked militants in Somalia



The new horizons of African Peacekeeping

Institute of Security Studies


Peacekeeping - UNMIS

Peacekeeping in Africa is at a crucial juncture, and ‘template solutions’ are just not good enough anymore. This was reflected in statements made during the United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34), which started on 19 February 2013. Peacekeeping in Africa faces numerous emerging challenges that require a mind shift starting at the top structures in the UN Security Council (UNSC) down to the most common standard operating procedures.

The Under Secretary Generals of the UN Departments for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Hervé Ladsous, and Field Support (DFS), Ameerah Haq, certainly need the C34’s constructive contributions and feedback to ensure that peace operations policies, mandates and force compositions are flexible and pragmatic enough to find solutions to complex emerging threats. Indeed, in-depth knowledge and understanding is needed to manage peacekeeping missions effectively. The UN is responsible for providing strategic direction to 15 DPKO-led peace operations (14 peacekeeping operations and one political mission), of which seven are in Africa and two more (Mali and Somalia) are under consideration, and which have close to 114 000 personnel. Approved resources amount to US$ 7,33 billion.

At the UNSC level there is a need to enhance cooperation with regional partners to ensure more timely and pragmatic consultations, which are necessary for political coherence on the fundamental objectives of peace operations. Mechanisms should be established to ensure that regular dialogue takes place with regional organisations and countries that contribute troops and/or police before the UNSC makes peace operation decisions. Joint field missions between the UNSC and regional organisations should be the norm rather than the exception. The UNSC should consider engaging regional organisations in a more structured and regular manner during crisis situations in which those regional organisations have a vested interest. Even though it might not be feasible for another decade, initial discussion on the reform of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter should also be considered.

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter anticipates the need for close consultation between the UNSC and regional organisations, but the right balance has not been found yet. According to UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the traditional principles of neutrality/impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defence now give way to strong political engagement and more ‘muscular’ intervention approaches such as the ‘intervention brigades’ in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali, which are akin to peace enforcement. He raises the question of how the UN will manage to balance this approach with its need to continue humanitarian operations and uphold humanitarian principles. Early warning mechanisms, including sound analysis and integrated planning, combined with the political will of all stakeholders, are required to ensure preventative action.

An important development in peace operations policy took place with the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2086 on 21 January 2013, which captures how multidimensional peacekeeping has evolved to meet the challenges of effective peacebuilding. Furthermore, the new UN Infantry Battalion manual developed by the DPKO in 2012 identifies several modern equipment and training capabilities required by peacekeepers to operate in environments that need robust peacekeeping. Smaller, highly mobile, well-trained and well-equipped forces with timely access to well-assessed intelligence are required to counter spoilers (that are often state-sponsored and well-equipped). Modern equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), air reconnaissance, night vision equipment, radar scanning, precision weaponry, real time command and information systems and blue force trackers, is needed to overcome the huge technological gaps in current UN peace operations. The introduction of UAVs in the eastern DRC out of Goma to undertake monitoring and surveillance tasks to protect both civilians and UN personnel is a welcome sign.

Ladsous’ recommendation that a director for the evaluation of Field Uniformed Personnel be appointed is promising, especially because there is currently no mechanism for regularly monitoring these personnel during peacekeeping operations. The Integrated Training Service’s needs assessment of civilian, military and police peacekeeping staff will hopefully result in an approach to UN training that enables the collaboration required for effective peacekeeping. Important cross-cutting issues such as the protection of civilians, security sector reform, rule of law, gender-related topics and multilingualism (especially French and Arabic) will need to be included in future training.

An issue that was not addressed by the DPKO/DFS, but that requires more immediate consideration, is the establishment of an office for maritime security in the DPKO. UN peacekeeping can no longer be land focused only. The other ongoing debate that needs attention is the requirement to finalise a mechanism for the international regulation of private military security companies. These companies provide protection to numerous UN facilities and personnel across the globe. If well regulated, the use of private military security companies will be a force-multiplier, potentially contributing to the success of peace operations.

How does this relate to the African Union’s (AU) African Peace and Security Architecture in its aspiration for enhanced African autonomy, often referred to as ‘African solutions for African problems’?

A better understanding of African peace operations principles is needed at the UNSC level. The AU has to ensure that it speaks with one voice and that the ambitions and activities of its regional economic communities (RECs) support overall AU objectives. The size, role and functions of the African Standby Force (ASF) need to be reconsidered. The operationalisation of the ASF by 2015 will not be achieved in its current concept, which should be realigned to address the disparities between the RECs’ own force design, development and mission readiness. Issues concerning logistical support, deployment timelines, resource constraints and African conflict realities, if properly evaluated, will lead decision-makers back to the multidimensional brigade-size force that was originally envisaged. The urgent requirement to appoint an AU Police Advisor and activate the Police Strategic Support Group will ensure a balance between military and police representation in AU peace operation decision-making.

Hybrid peace operations through a partnership between the UN and AU are necessary for solving future conflicts in Africa. This partnership is complex and challenging in terms of the political, economic and technical aspects. The statement by the UN’s Senior Advisory Group that the divide between financial and troop contributors is an ‘artificial one’ does not correlate with several African states’ realities. The UN and AU will be in a difficult position when some of the poorest troop-contributing countries are required to deliver highly skilled and technologically advanced forces to complex security situations. A meaningful partnership between the UN and AU depends on effective and dynamic cooperation. Both organisations will have to show leadership to overcome the internal ambitions responsible for fragmentation and the lack of political will.

AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s recent opening remarks at the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) are inspiring for the future of the AU’s peace operations: ‘Should we not at this stage consider providing sufficient time, capabilities and tools to implement and assess the impact of decisions we have taken? … [H]ow much time does the AU have to operationalise its peace operation decisions? It will require an orchestrated effort by the AU, and all international stakeholders, to ensure that the AU PSC and RECs are enabled with professional expertise, advice and outcomes-based support to implement well-meaning strategies into pragmatic and implementable peace support plans.`

Annette Leijenaar, Head, Conflict Management and Peace Building Division, ISS Pretoria

Somalia – is Al Shabab losing a battle but winning the war?

African Arguments by  Abdi Aynte

The Somali militant group al-Shabaab is currently losing ferocious battles against Kenyan troops in Southern  Somalia –  part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. However, they are winning a strategic war back in Kenya; this is the battle for hearts and minds.

On Sunday, a blast likely carried out by al-Shabaab sleeper cells in Nairobi killed seven Kenyans on a minibus. Soon after, a machete-wielding mob of angry Kenyans descended on the capital’s Eastleigh or “Little Mogadishu” neighborhood. They pillaged shops, burned cars and left dozens of people injured.

In Garissa, near the boarder with Somalia, the scenes were much uglier. After unknown assailants killed three Kenyan soldiers, the Kenyan Defense Force (KDF), using brute force, went on the rampage, setting the local market on fire. In doing so, they deprived the local community of their main source of living.

Members of the Kenyan parliament, who represent Garrisa constituencies, even allege that the KDF forces have raped some women and tortured many innocent people in the area following the pandemonium. Livid, and feeling profoundly insulted, they’re now calling for an urgent investigation, and even suggesting that international help is needed for their protection.

Ethnic Somalis, irrespective of which passport they carry, have become a target for armed thugs across Kenya. Fear, guilt by association and a sense of ‘otherness’ have now enveloped the millions of Somalis living in the country, all of which is good news for al-Shabaab.

This hysteria is playing right into the militant’s playbook. As the Kenyan columnist Macharia Gaitho has aptly observed, “lashing out indiscriminately at Somalis is as foolish as it is self-defeating. The mad bombers must be laughing themselves silly having succeeded in turning Kenyan against Kenyan.”

Having lost the conventional war, the al-Qaeda-linked fighters are now on a mission to engage in a different kind of battle – one that requires no guns but plenty of highly manipulative techniques.

The Kenyan government appears woefully unprepared and frighteningly fragile. Just four months away from a national election that could see the country finally shed the memory its 2007/2008 post election violence, it can’t afford to marginalize one of its largest minorities. Come March next year, the Somali vote could prove decisive. Unlike their war-weary cousins in Somalia, Somali-Kenyans are highly educated and invariably sophisticated. They won’t accept being treated as second-class citizens.

As a frequent visitor to Kenya, I often notice how the country is institutionally pre-occupied with an intense competition over who succeeds President Mwai Kibaki. Rival tribes are jostling for power, which would’ve been fine if the security apparatus had the capacity to untangle itself from politics.

The events of the last few days could prove to be a turning point for Kenya. While the country has been able to decimate al-Shabaab fighters in southern Somalia, its shocking failure to protect its own ethnic Somalis (and Somali refugees) constitutes a defeat in the strategic war on hearts and minds. Al-Shabaab has in the past exploited the Somali people when they have felt most victimized. Already, the Shabaab’s effective propaganda machine is hard at work, trying to turn a largely unsuspecting community into a hostile unit.

If Kenya fails to turn the tables against the Shabaab by fiercely protecting the Somali community from the mob justice that befell it, then it’s hard to see how Kenya can ultimately win this developing war within.

Abdi Aynte is a journalist researcher.  AA