The pull of political fragmentation waxes in Somalia. The Transitional Federal Government looks unlikely to win a major victory in its assault on al Shabab, the TFG’s alliance with pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna looks shaky, and the conflict between al Shabab and Hizbul Islam continues.
AP reports on preparations for a battle in Mogadishu:
In signs the offensive is approaching, close to 1,000 additional troops arrived from Uganda last week to support the African Union’s forces in Mogadishu, and the Islamists have been digging trenches across the capital’s streets to impede AU armored cars. The AU backs the beleaguered Somali government and has more than 5,000 troops stationed in the country.
But Somalia’s government, whose forces are weak and poorly trained and equipped, has not described how it would consolidate any gains made in the offensive or win the support of the people, who are splintered into hundreds of clans.
Experts say the government does not appear to have a political plan ready to deploy after the end of the fighting, which is likely to kill scores of civilians.
Meanwhile, the TFG and its allies are not necessarily on the same page:
Doubts surround a recent pact with a militia faction aimed at consolidating the power of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia after a section of the militia leadership disowned the deal.
In a sign of leadership struggles within the Ahlu Sunna, the most prominent moderate Islamic group in Somalia, vice chairman Sheik Hassan Sheik Abdi convened a press conference in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area to denounce the purported agreement as well as question the leadership of his chairman, Sheikh Mahammud Sheikh Hassan, who was leading “a non-representative delegation” at the talks.
The agreement, signed this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was aimed at bolstering efforts of the fledgling government to root out radical Islamic militias but protests by Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jamea leaders are likely to collapse the drive.
The latest turn of events cast doubts on earlier reports that ongoing talks between the pro-government Islamist group and the Africa Union-backed government had made headway after both parties agreed on certain issues.
But divisions within Ahlu Sunna and weakness within the TFG do not necessarily play to al Shabab’s advantage at a time when Islamists are still fighting each other:
Sheikh Daud Ali Hasan, a senior commander of al-Shabab, an armed group fighting to topple Somalia’s government, has been shot dead near Kismayo.
[...]Hizbul-Islam denied having a hand in the killing, but said it would step up attacks on Dhobley after a raid on Friday night in which it said it killed a number of al-Shabaab militants.
Neither the TFG nor al Shabab appears able to build consistent momentum toward defeating the other. Neither is stronger than it was six months ago, I would say. And with observers directing allegations of clannism at both, it’s possible that the claim each group most needs to make convincingly – “we can provide a blueprint for Somali unity” – is less and less tenable for either at this point. We’ll see what happens when and if the battle starts, but if neither can make or consolidate gains, the fighting could leave both groups weaker.