A Sobering Start for Somalia’s New President

On Monday, Somalia’s new parliament selected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new president. Mohamud’s term has begun on a sobering note, with an assassination attempt on the president yesterday by three suicide bombers from the rebel movement Al Shabab. Mohamud was unharmed, but the attack claimed the lives of eight soldiers. Al Shabab, which has regularly conducted bombings in the capital Mogadishu since its “tactical withdrawal” last year, vowed that attacks will continue. Reuters (previous link) comments,

The timing of the attack showed the militants had reliable intelligence, perhaps someone on the inside. This will be a problem for Somalia’s new leadership.

A foreign ministry official, Mohamed Maie, said security staff and African Union soldiers had let their guard down.

While al Shabaab is steadily losing ground, it can still regroup and easily infiltrate government-controlled areas. More worryingly, there are still disenchanted, radicalised Somalis ready to strap on explosive belts.

Among Mohamud’s biggest challenges will be to capitalise on the security gains made over the last year and reform a disparate and badly paid security force so that it pledges its allegiance to the country, rather than rival power-brokers.

The international media is full of analyses of how difficult Mohamud’s job will be. IRIN expands on this theme with commentary from several experts, while the LA Times approaches the topic through some “man in the street” interviews.

At the same time, some observers see real potential for change in Somalia at this moment. Part of that change, some say, should involve a shift in the international community’s strategy. Bloomberg editorializes,

Americans — the State Department, nongovernmental groups and businesses — can best help by ending the welfare handouts to the central government and shifting aid and investment directly to projects that change the lives of average Somalis. With al-Shabaab mostly gone, a good first step would be for UN agencies and charity groups, which decamped from country after a rash of kidnappings, to get their peaceful boots back on the ground.

Abdi Aynte, meanwhile, writes,

For years, members of the international community have been micromanaging the politics of Somalia from afar, often in pursuit of wrongheaded policies. The exception to this is the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM), which has shown a remarkable degree of neutrality.

In order for this government to succeed, external actors must take two steps: First, they should immediately cease their appetite for meddling and imposing their will on Somali governments. President Mohamud has an unrivaled legitimacy from the Somali people. The Nairobi-based politicians should give him space to chart his own path – and make mistakes along the way.

Second, the international community ought to change the culture of supporting individuals over institutions. Much of the failure of Somalia’s institutions stems from foreign powers giving an outsized influence to unelected politicians and armed groups.

It’s also, of course, very much worth hearing what the president himself has to say. His interview with South Africa’s eNCA (sent to me by a reader of this site) is excellent. His three priorities, he explains, are “security, and service delivery, and economic recovery” – but he adds, “Number one will be security, number two will be security, and number three will be security.” He also makes some interesting remarks on the ideological struggle with Al Shabab in the context of a country that is nearly 100% Muslim.

Somalia’s New President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Yesterday, Somalia’s new parliament selected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country’s new president. The voting proceeded in three rounds; the first round yielded four candidates, including incumbent President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and former Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. Ali and another candidate dropped out of the second round, and so Sheikh Ahmed and Mohamud went directly into the third round, which Mohamud won 190 to 79. As of a few weeks ago I had the impression that many analysts expected Sheikh Ahmed to win re-election; Mohamud’s selection comes as a surprise to some.

Reuters has a sketch biography of Mohamud:

Mohamud [born 1955 and from Jalalaqsi in central Somalia] graduated from the Somali National University in 1981 before obtaining a master’s degree in education from India’s Bhopal University in 1988.

During the early years of Somalia’s civil conflict, he worked for the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.

In 1999, the fluent English speaker co-founded the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development in Mogadishu, which later became Simad University, and served as its dean until 2010.

In 2011, he founded the Peace and Development Party.

Wikipedia and the BBC have more. The BBC states that Mohamud is from the Hawiye clan.

Both the United Nations and the White House have issued statements praising the outcome, each describing the election as a “step forward.”

International media coverage of Mohamud has been largely positive so far, although different outlets have characterized his background in different ways. A few examples:

  • Xinhua: “The civic activist and academic is seen as new breed of leaders coming to power in the war ravaged Horn of Africa nation following the similar landslide victory for the new speaker of the Somali parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari.”
  • New York Times: “Mohamud, a moderate political activist and academic, took on one of the world’s most challenging political posts on Monday.”
  • BBC: “Mohamud could represent a different kind of future for the country because he is not associated with the violence and corruption of the past.”

AFP‘s article on Mohamud is well worth reading – it stresses how little the world knows about him, and includes a few morsels on his religious background and his experience holding talks with Al Shabab. AFP stresses, “Unlike many Somali political figures, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is not part of the diaspora. The new president has never served as a minister, nor, up until the past few days, as an MP.”

Last but not least, here is an article on Mohamed Osman Jawari, the new speaker of parliament.

What is your opinion of the election, and of Mohamud?

Somalia: Presidential Selection Open Thread [Updated]

Today Somalia’s new parliament will select a new president for the country, marking the culmination of Somalia’s formal political transition.

More than two dozen candidates are vying for the position, including the current president and prime minister, as well as prominent Somalis who have returned from overseas.

If no one candidate secures a two-thirds majority in the first round, and a simple majority in the second the election would go to a third round.

[...]

Some presidential contenders and Somalis have criticized the election process saying it will merely bring in a new government that will look much like previous ones.

A diplomatic source in Mogadishu said millions of dollars were being used to bribe lawmakers to vote for the incumbent, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Consider this an open thread for election-related news.

[UPDATE]: Somalia has a new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. See commenter Ahmed and AP for more.

Somalia’s Transition Remains Incomplete

Yesterday was to mark the end of Somalia’s political transition, and be the date of presidential elections. Yesterday did see an event of political significance – the swearing-in of 215 new parliamentarians – but the election did not take place, meaning the transition will continue to stumble forward.

Monday — the last day of eight years of Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government — was the day by which the U.N. repeatedly said a new president would be in place. But political bickering, violent threats and seat-buying schemes delayed progress, guaranteeing the day would come and go with no new leader in place.
Nonetheless, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the people of Somalia “on reaching this watershed moment on their road to peace, stability and political transformation,” U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.
He urged clan elders to complete the seating of all parliament members within a few days and called on the new parliamentarians to prepare for elections of a speaker and president so that the country’s political transition can be completed promptly and peacefully “in an environment free from intimidation,” del Buey said.

Other steps in the transition have been delayed too, but missing the deadline for the presidential election is the biggest hitch yet.

Nearly all commentators, even the optimists, are sounding notes of caution about the viability of the new government. As the International Crisis Group, which takes a critical and fairly pessimistic tone, points out, the transition has been problematic and is set to remain so.

The current political process has been as undemocratic as the one it seeks to replace, with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation. The end of the transition roadmap process – that is supposed to usher in an inclusive political dispensation – may fail to bring stability. Convening an incomplete parliament and electing a contested, tainted leadership in Somalia’s polarised political environment could easily unravel the painstaking humanitarian, political and security progress made in the past three years.

One problem for the immediate future is the absence of a publicly announced timeline for the presidential election. Crisis Group predicts

Barring a full-blown meltdown, the selection and ratification of the lower house parliamentarians (however tainted) could still be completed in coming days if not weeks. But then the new body must elect a speaker, deputies and a president. The president also has to appoint a prime minister within a month who must then assemble a cabinet in 30 days, pending approval of the parliament. All these tasks will take time and the earliest Somalia could realistically have a fully working government is late October.

For another perspective, I recommend reading this interview with the BBC’s Mary Harper, who is somewhat more optimistic about the new government’s chances of success:

I think there’s so much will, both from within Somalia and also from the international community, which is thoroughly fed up with basically holding whatever Somalia administration exists, kind of holding it in its hands and financing it, and directing it and trying to influence it. And I think Somalis in Mogadishu, where I was recently, they’re so fed up with violence. And you kind of get the feeling that there is a momentum building now, whereby people will have more to gain from peace than from war.

And if that balance can be kind of shifted, then I can imagine that the new political administration might have enough of a sort of energy for it to establish not peace and security that the rest of the world might understand, but, relatively speaking for Somalia, something that would enable that territory to advance economically and therefore, become less likely to fall back into this endless cycle of violence.

What do you think? Where do you see this transition heading?

Somalia: Kenyan Troops Begin Assault on Kismayo

The port city of Kismayo, Somalia (map) is one of the rebel movement Al Shabab’s last strongholds. In June, Kenyan leaders vowed that their soldiers, who have been fighting Al Shabab inside Somali territory since last October, would move to take Kismayo by August. Now August has come, and the assault will reportedly begin soon:

Kenyan troops, now in Afmadow are expected to advance towards Kismayu, probably using Biibi, a town located 75 kilometres from Kismayu, as a forward operations base.

They are expected to fight alongside Ethiopian units and allied militia. The Ethiopian air force may also take part in the air bombardment.

Sources familiar with military thinking suggest that the initial air strikes would target Al-Shabaab command and control sites, troop concentrations and convoys and defensive fortifications.

Two potential targets are Kismayu Stadium, believed to be a key logistical and operational hub, and Jilib Beach District, where senior Al-Shabaab commanders are thought to live.

More details at the link, and more background on key commanders and decision-makers here. As of last night, sources on Twitter were saying the attack had already begun.

The conquest of Kismayo would build on military gains that the African Union Mission in Somalia and other foreign forces have made in the country in recent months. Kismayo’s significance lies partly in the revenue its port generates for Al Shabab, and its loss could weaken the movement even further. The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia wrote in its report in July (pp. 11-12),

Al-Shabaab’s fortunes have declined dramatically, ceding much of southern Somalia to the forces of AMISOM, Kenya and Ethiopia, and their local Somali allies. The loss of so much territory has also deprived Al-Shabaab of some lucrative border taxation points, and a Security Council ban on the importation of Somali charcoal threatens to further erode the group’s income. An anticipated joint offensive towards Kismaayo would also deprive Al-Shabaab of its single most important source of revenue and its principal training bases. Confronted by such pressures, serious rifts
have emerged within the group’s leadership, threatening to produce a formal rupture, and Al-Shabaab fighters have begun to migrate northwards towards Puntland, Somaliland and Yemen. A steady trickle of foreign fighters is reported to
be leaving Somalia.

From what I understand, many analysts expect Kenyan forces to succeed in their effort to conquer Kismayo.

One key question that surfaces in the Monitoring Group report and other analysis is whether Somalia’s government, currently in a transition set to culminate with presidential elections by August 20, can deliver effective governance to these reconquered areas. Another key question is what will become of Al Shabab – fragmentation, dissipation, relocation, reorientation? The two questions are, of course, interrelated; how well Somali authorities perform on the governance front will affect the choices Al Shabab makes, and shape the options available to it.

Somalia’s New Constitution [Updated]

Somalia is completing a political transition – or what some analysts are calling “a transition to a transition.” The country’s leaders have missed certain deadlines. Yesterday, several weeks late, members of the Constituent Assembly voted overwhelmingly (621-13, with 11 members abstaining) to pass a new constitution, replacing the 2004 Transitional Federal Charter.

As the Christian Science Monitor writes,

Wednesday’s move is one of three key milestones on a “road map” to peace that includes a deadline of Aug. 20 for all of the current transitional government bodies to hand over power to permanent successors…Somalia’s leaders must before then also select a new 275-seat parliament and elect a new president.

You can read comments on the constitution’s passage from Somali government ministers and the president of the semi-autonomous Puntland region here, and comments from United Nations officials here.

I have not been able to find the text of the new constitution. (UPDATE: Commenter Quentin posted a link to this draft version of the constitution.) Of articles that I have seen, the BBC has provided the most detailed analysis of its provisions. The BBC waxes fairly pessimistic, saying that provisions ensuring universal education and banning female genital cutting – some of the planks that have attracted the most media attention – are going to be difficult to enforce. Even more seriously, core questions of how governance will work are left vague or unstated:

Somalia will have a federal system – however the status of Mogadishu, the borders and distribution of power and resources between the regions are yet to be decided.

[...]

This is where ferocious arguments are likely to develop, and possibly become violent.

If this happens, the transition process – in which so much time, money and hope has been invested – would simply cause the complexion of the Somali conflict to change, rather than bringing it to an end.

Pessimists (with whom I sympathize), then, are more doubtful about long-term success than they are about short-term transitional milestones. After all, chances look good that Somalia will hold presidential elections by August 20 or thereabouts, possibly resulting in the re-election of current President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

CSM quotes one analyst who expresses the long-term challenges succinctly:

It will be years until national popular elections can be held, and analysts pointed out that the parliament would for some time be “selected rather than elected.”

“The new constitution is a major milestone in terms of the deadline of Aug. 20,” said Abdirashid Hashi, Somalia analyst with the Crisis Group’s bureau in Nairobi.

“But in terms of a true, good and democratic government for Somalia, it’s very far from that. Essentially, it’s handing over from one interim authority to another, from one transition to another.”

As a coda, it is worth mentioning the double suicide bombing that occurred outside the Assembly’s meeting place yesterday. One bomber was shot, and the other detonated his bomb, injuring several policemen. While the attack essentially failed, it symbolize’s the country’s continued instability and violence – as did a bombing at the rebuilt National Theater this April. Throughout 2012, the media has been reporting a renaissance and an economic boom in the capital Mogadishu, and my initial skepticism about those claims has slowly faded – yet, as one analyst told me, the gains in Mogadishu remain extremely vulnerable to politics (including the politics of violence).

A UN Report on Somalia – And Somali Leaders’ Responses to It

The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea is due to release its 2012 report soon, but the report has already been widely leaked. It is available, for example, at the website Somalia Report. Journalists have already begun to analyze it, and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali have already responded to it. Leaks of such reports, one contact told me, have become relatively common. Members of monitoring groups and panels of experts are sometimes thought to leak reports out of a desire to forestall the possibility that members of the UN Security Council, or governments criticized in reports, will try to censor or block publication of damaging findings. Whatever the case may be, the political storm around the report has started.

The report’s findings are particularly sensitive (though some findings are not necessarily surprising) given that Somalia is currently in the midst of a transition set to culminate with presidential elections in August. This transition has already fallen behind schedule. Critics charge that the transition is hollow: it will produce a government similar in personnel and design to the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG), critics say, and will not solve core political questions regarding corruption, federalism, inclusiveness, and legitimacy.

The BBC highlights ten critical takeaways from the UN report. To my mind, three findings outrank the others in importance. First, the scale of corruption in the TFG, which apparently cannot account for upwards of 70% of its funds. Second, the abuse of diplomatic passports, including passports given to senior pirates. Third, the potential for the rebel movement al Shabab, which is steadily losing territory, to shift its center of gravity to the northeastern region of Puntland. All of the findings the BBC mentions, as well as the report itself, are worth reading.

Below are some excerpts from Sharif and Ali’s responses to the leaked report. In his response, the President attacked the Coordinator of the UN Monitoring Group, Matthew Bryden, whom he accused of being a supporter of Somaliland and of partitioning Somalia. Sharif further accused the Monitoring Group of disrupting efforts toward peace in Somalia. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, focused on rebutting accusations that mentioned him and his office, addressing his criticisms to the media as well as to the report itself. (I am indebted to a reader for passing on these links.)

The President:

President Sharif spent half of his one-hour speech to discuss the recently leaked report by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, and he launched a clear attack against Monitoring Group Coordinator Matt Bryden.

“Matt Bryden is not ashamed to support the division of Somalia into two countries. Matt Bryden has a track record of being against the restoration of peace in Somalia,” said President Sharif to the crowd’s applause.

Responding to Monitoring Group allegations of corruption, President Sharif said: “This government is ready for transparency. If any money is missing, I am ready to resign and to be taken to Guantanamo Bay,” President Sharif joked.

The TFG president expressed his disappointment that the Monitoring Group report was leaked at such a time when Somalia is ending the transitional period for the first time since 2000.

“This Monitoring Group report was timed to coincide with the end of transition period in order to discredit the TFG,” said President Sharif.

The Prime Minister:

The Office of the Prime Minister of Somalia (OPM) condemns allegations contained in news reports appearing in some of the media on a “leaked Monitoring Group’s report” linking The Office of the Prime Minister to alleged corruption and misconduct.

The Office of The Prime Minister maintains that the allegations are absolutely and demonstrably false. This deliberate misinformation is intended to tarnish the good name and integrity of the Prime Minister and also constitutes defamation and libel intended to maliciously harm the hard earned reputation of the Prime Minister.

[...]

H.E Abdiweli Ali Gaas reassures the Somali People and development partners of his personal commitment in ensuring transparent and accountable utilization of donor funds especially at this critical time in the history of Somalia.

Parsing these statements helps show what accusations sting Somali leaders the most (corruption, lack of transparency), but my guess (and it is only a guess) is that the denials and refutations will not substantially diminish the widespread sense of pessimism regarding Somalia’s political trajectory that the report seems bound to reinforce. Of course, some of the TFG’s most powerful backers appear to regard it as the most viable political framework for Somalia, whatever the Government’s flaws, and will continue to back its successor government on that basis, at least for a time. But the combination of the report’s damning conclusions and the missed deadlines in the current transition make the outlook for political stabilization in Somalia (despite recent military successes by the TFG and its allies) look quite grim.

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Illness and Potential Political Changes in the Greater Horn

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi missed an African Union summit this past weekend, rumors spread that he was ill. News agencies reported yesterday that Meles was in “critical condition” in Brussels. By late in the day the Ethiopian government had announced that Meles was “in good condition.” Under Article 75 of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution (.pdf), Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of Foreign Affairs) Haile-Mariam Desalegne will act on the Prime Minister’s behalf in his absence.

Meles, a former rebel leader who took power in 1991, has previously stated his desire to step down when his current term ends in 2015. If Meles leaves office, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front will almost certainly retain power, but Meles’ absence would represent a significant political change for Ethiopia.

Indeed, Meles’ illness potentially foreshadows a coming period of political change (specifically the installation of new heads of state) for several countries in the greater Horn of Africa. Change could occur in several ways.

First, there is retirement. Meles is not the only leader in the region who has said he will step down in 2015 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir made the same promise during a small wave of protests in early 2011, and Djibouti’s President Ismael Guellah has stated that he will step down in 2016. Some observers have doubted the sincerity of these pledges, but Meles in particular sometimes seems fatigued and ready to give up the job, an appearance that this illness underscores.

Elections will bring changes in leadership elsewhere in the region. Many observers expect Somalia’s ongoing political transition, which includes presidential elections next month, to produce a government fairly similar in personnel to the current Transitional Federal Government. But in Kenya, presidential elections set to take place in 2013 must produce a new head of state. President Mwai Kibaki, who has reached the limit of two five-year terms, cannot run again, leaving the field open to a number of major politicians, including current Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Other transitions, as Meles’ case reminds us, could come about because of sudden illness or death, a grim possibility but one that must be mentioned. These leaders are not old: indeed, all of them (not counting Kibaki) are short of seventy – Meles was born in 1955, Bashir in 1944, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in 1951, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 1964, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki in 1946, Djibouti’s President Ismail Guellah in 1947, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni around 1944. Yet four of them have been in power for over nineteen years (Museveni came to power in 1986, Bashir in 1989, Meles in 1991, and Isaias in 1993). The high stress of being head of state seems to accelerate aging in some leaders. There remain only six African leaders who have been in office longer than Museveni.

Finally, no leader in the region has faced a monumental threat from mass protests, but significant anti-regime protests have occurred in the last two years in Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. If nothing else, such protests add to the pressures these heads of state face in other areas.

It is possible, of course, that in three or four years only Kenya, out of all the countries in the greater Horn, will have new leadership. But a combination of factors could produce transitions in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, potentially shaking up, within a relatively short period of time, what has long been a fairly stable roster of leaders.

Somalia: Missed Transition Deadlines, Speculation about the Long Term

This summer, as Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government nears the end of its mandate, the country has a number of deadlines to meet in a political transition meant to culminate in the August 20 presidential election. These deadlines, as originally set, include:

  • By June 20, Somalia must assemble a National Constituent Assembly whose members will meet in Mogadishu by June 30.
  • By July 10, Somalia must adopt a new constitution.
  • By July 20, Somalia must swear in a new parliament with 225 members selected by elders.
  • On August 4, the parliament will elect a speaker and deputy speaker.
  • These MPs will then elect the next president by August 20.

Last week, the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia expressed disappointment that Somalia had missed several of these deadlinesVOA provides some more detail on the delays and their causes:

The next step in the so-called “Roadmap Process” is for a group of 135 elders representing the various clans to select the 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly who will vote for a new parliament, constitution, and president.
The constituent assembly is scheduled to convene July 12, but the elders still have not presented the names.
Chairman of the Hawiye clan elders, Mohamed Hassan Haad, says the council first wants a chance to review the draft constitution.

[...]

U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga says the elders have a right to express their concerns, but they do not have the authority to make decisions about the constitution, and certainly not to withhold the names for the constituent assembly.

Some Somalis, VOA continues, feel that the draft constitution “is being forced upon them by the United Nations.” Complicating the transition, then, are not only power struggles between Somalis and Somalis, but also between Somalis and external partners.

Assuming that Somalia makes the August 20 deadline for holding presidential elections, some voices are starting to say that the real work – or, some say, the real problems – will begin only after the “transition” is complete. Mahiga recently wrote in an open letter to Somalis that “the end of the transitional period will be an important benchmark, but it is time for us all to begin to look past 20 August and think about the future political dispensation of Somalia.” After August, the draft constitution will be put to a popular referendum, an event that could cause major debate and conflict.

Dr. Michael Weinstein argues that the core unresolved problem in the transition is the issue of federalism and the nature of the state:

What kind of “transition” will occur on August 20 when the very structure of the state has not been determined – whether it will be unitary, decentralized unitary, federal, or confederal? The question of the nature of the state is both the most fundamental and the most divisive political issue in Somalia. The reason why it has not been resolved in the “draft provisional constitution” is that it is so divisive…The T.F.G. was a more coherent structure than the one that will replace it; at least the T .F.G. had a completed charter.

In what seems like an early warning shot in the debate over federalism, the TFG’s minister for home affairs recently made news by stating that the government recognizes none of the country’s many self-declared autonomous regions.

Weinstein goes on to outline other issues, including accountability for the new government, political divisions within parliament, the relationship of Somalia to the donor community, etc. He concludes pessimistically, saying that at best, Somalia faces “a transition to a transition”: “The territories of post-independence Somalia now face a new four-year transition with a presumptive government that replicates the one that it will replace.” He writes that there could be substantial continuity in the new government in terms of personnel. Indeed, current President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed may well win re-election.

What do you think? Is the transition hollow? What do you expect will happen after August 20?

Kenya: Amid Terrorist Attacks, Offensive Against al Shabab Will Continue

On Sunday, “masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in…Garissa, the north Kenya town which has been used as a base for operations against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.”

IRIN, meanwhile, reports on how Mombasa, Kenya is grappling with a recent spate of terrorist attacks:

Following three grenade attacks in recent months and a US “terror” alert, residents of the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa are bracing themselves for the possibility of yet more violence; local leaders are working towards better disaster preparedness and improvements in the emergency services.

Three people lost their lives after a grenade attack on a bar in the Mshomoroni area of Mombasa on the night of 24 June, a day after the US issued a warning of an imminent attack. One person was killed and several injured in a suspected grenade attack on 15 May at a Mombasa sports bar; two grenade attacks in the city on 31 March left at least 15 injured. There have also been a spate of attacks in the capital, Nairobi, and northeastern areas of the country since Kenya crossed into southern Somalia in October 2011 to help stamp out the radical Islamist group, Al Shabab.

Kenyan leaders, however, say that the offensive in Somalia will continue. Speaking in Garissa,

Prime Minister Raila Odinga…ruled out pulling Kenyan troops from Somalia, saying it will be tantamount to surrendering to terrorism.
He made it clear that Kenyan troops will not leave Somalia until the country is liberated and pacified, noting Kenya will not be at peace until Somalia which has not known peace for two decades realizes peace.
“We want Somalia to be peaceful so that the 500,000 Somali refugees being hosted in Dadaab refugee camp can go back to their country to relieve Kenya of the burden of hosting them,” he said.
“Surrender is therefore not an option for us because if we leave Somalia, anarchy will set in which will spill over the borders.”

Kenyan forces’ next target in Somalia is the port city and al Shabab stronghold Kismayo, which they hope to take by August.