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.

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?

Somalia: Media Narratives of Progress and Peril

The media narrative of progress in Somalia has really taken hold. Some parts of it are absurd (a dry cleaner?), and some parts can cut both ways, but much of the narrative deserves to be taken seriously. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its allies – the African Union, Kenya, and Ethiopia – have retaken several key towns from the rebel movement al Shabab. Al Shabab fighters are reportedly defecting to the TFG in significant numbers. In terms of formal politics, the true tests will come later this summer when Somalia adopts a new constitution and holds presidential elections. But having a roadmap toward those goals represents some progress in and of itself.

Yet that narrative of progress coexists with another narrative, one that says Somalia is at a crossroads. I find this second narrative more accurate. This narrative asks, “If the TFG and its allies have wrested control of some areas away from al Shabab, what will the government’s rule look like?” On the answer to that question hangs the government’s legitimacy.

Gabriel Gatehouse of the BBC points to three problems: corruption, law and order, and internal TFG politics.

Despite the military advances, the battle for “hearts and minds” is not yet won.

At Mogadishu seaport, we watch two dozen men unloading bundles and boxes from cargo ships and piling them onto their trucks.

All the drivers said they thought life was better under al-Shabab – less corrupt and more secure, so long as you stayed out of politics.

“In al-Shabab areas, we don’t see guns everywhere,” said Mahmood Abdullahi.

“If the government disarmed the militias and got rid of the checkpoints that steal money from us, then we would support the government.”

Yet it is politics that could make or break Somalia’s current momentum towards stability.

Gatehouse goes on to describe the political roadmap Somalia is to follow this summer, which he calls “hugely complicated.”

“The process,” he concludes, “is fraught with potential pitfalls, not least a number of former warlords who have financial and political interests in maintaining instability.”

Ahmed Egal, writing at African Arguments, has an even more negative take on the roadmap. Egal believes this moment could be different from other times when Somalia tried to establish a new government: he notes “sustained military success,” “widespread fatigue” with al Shabab among ordinary people, and a revitalization of civil society. But he does not believe the roadmap offers a way out:

This positive public mood and hope for the future needs to be harnessed in the service of a genuine Somali-driven process of nation-building and state reconstruction.  Yet, this is precisely what the so-called Roadmap ignores and precludes in favour of establishing yet another bogus ‘parliament’ composed of members that have either bought their seats or which have already been bought and paid for. This ‘parliament’ will, in turn, ratify a constitution that has not been put to the people it purports to govern and ‘elect’ a ‘President’ that has succeeded in buying the largest number votes with cash payments, appeals to tribal solidarity and promises of patronage and disbursements of aid monies in the future.

He foresees a “farce” where “erstwhile warlords, Siyad Barre* henchmen, self-appointed civil society leaders, newly minted clan elders and Diaspora carpet-baggers will take their usual places in the drama,” with the presidency, and seats in parliament, going to “the highest bidders.”

If the new government proves to be illegitimate in the eyes of the people, unable to provide law and order, and riven with internal divisions, that does not necessarily mean al Shabab will come roaring back. But neither would it mean genuine stability for Somalia. As Gatehouse and Egal both point out, there are various powerful parties with an interest in prolonged instability, and parties who prefer instability to having someone else consolidate power.

Which narrative – progress or peril – do you find more convincing?

*Siad Barre was president of Somalia from 1969-1991.

Somalia: Al Shabab Loses Afgoye and Afmadow, Kismayo Next?

On Friday, troops from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) captured the town of Afgoye from the rebel movement al Shabab, in what the Associated Press called “the biggest victory over al-Shabab since the pro-government forces took control of the capital last August” (more here). Further south, troops from the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), who have been fighting in Somalia since October, took the town of Afmadow from al Shabab some time between yesterday and today (Kenyan troops also took the town of Hayo). The KDF’s next major goal is to capture the port city of Kismayo – al Shabab’s “last key bastion” – by August.

McClatchy says the importance of Kismayo lies in the fees al Shabab charges at the port. Its loss would therefore deprive the group not only of territory but of much of its income.

Brief fighting occurred in Kismayo earlier this week, when Kenyan warships reportedly came under fire and shelled the city in response. “For the past couple of months,” VOA says, “Kismayo has come under fire targeting al-Shabab from air and sea.”

Here is a map showing Afgoye, Afmadow, and Kismayo, as well as the capital Mogadishu.

Military conquests by the government and its allies are coming at the same time as some political progress – namely a framework for holding presidential elections by August 20. This combination has generated significant optimism about Somalia’s future. It is important to note, though, that there has been some criticism of and disagreement with that line. Dayo Olopade, for example, notes that the Kenyan intervention in Somalia has lasted much longer than Kenyan leaders first implied it would, and decries “unacceptable side effects” of the conflicts, namely bombings inside Kenya that seem to be reprisals by al Shabab and its sympathizers. Roland Marchal, meanwhile, asks important questions about what political arrangements conquerors will create in areas formerly held by al Shabab:

The question is, and we see that everywhere, what kind of political answer you give to the population after having beaten Shabaab. In Beledweyne and Boosaaso, two big cities that have been taken from Shabaab, the Ethiopians promoted their friends, their allies. That makes a lot of sense. But if you don’t have local reconciliation with clans that explicitly supported Shabaab – because they had some good interest to do that, some very real interest beyond the jihaadi rhetorics – if you don’t do that, then sooner or later you create tensions and new problems come up.

[...]

So if you look at the very short term, you may believe that there are still incidents, but there is no longer a battle, and therefore the situation is going to improve. If you take a longer perspective, however, then it becomes a very concerning issue. Look at Mogadishu: the number of people who were killed last week is basically the same as the number of people who were killed ten or twelve weeks ago, so that means that the intensity hasn’t diminished. What has changed is the targeting.

To put it in a nutshell: it is very dangerous for the Somalis and the international community to assess the condition of the current war with the parameters of what was the war in 2011. And I believe that is exactly the mistake the Ethiopians made in 2007. They had been able to crush Shabaab in December [of 2006] in a very easy and very radical manner, because they fought face-to-face, and of course Shabaab couldn’t confront a professional army and therefore lost with many casualties. But then Shabaab shifted to an urban-style guerrilla, and that created a new problem for the Ethiopian army.

What do you think? Where is this all headed?

Somalia: A Deadly Mismanagement of Politics by the TFG

Human Rights Watch released a new report Wednesday entitled “Somalia: Pro-Government Militias Executing Civilians.” The report points to key problems in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)’s campaign to reclaim areas held by the rebel movement al Shabab: brutality, sloppiness, and administrative ambiguity.

The TFG is assisted by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and coordinates in many ways with the forces of Kenya and Ethiopia, both present in Somalia. These groups have pushed al Shabab out of a great deal of territory in southern Somalia since last August, when al Shabab partly withdrew from the capital Mogadishu, and particularly since last October, when Kenya invaded. Yet the TFG’s chronic problem – establishing political control and goodwill in areas it controls – has surfaced in these newly reconquered areas as well.

Pro-government militias in Somalia have committed summary executions and torture in the towns of Beletweyne and Baidoa since occupying them with Ethiopian forces earlier in 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should take immediate steps to stop the abuses and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said.

On December 31, 2011, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and two Somali militia groups – Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) and Shabelle Valley State (SVS) – ousted the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab from Beletweyne, the capital of the Hiraan region, which borders Ethiopia. Ethiopian troops and militias allied with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia took over Baidoa, the capital of the Bay region, on February 22, 2012.

Civilians told Human Rights Watch that since the transition, security has become worse in both towns due to abusive security operations by allied forces and, in the case of Beletweyne, rising tensions between militias vying for control. Although al-Shabaab no longer controls either town, its forces continue to attack the Ethiopian and other forces and target civilians perceived to support them.

One could say that these are pro-government militias and outside fighters, and not the government itself. One could also say that al Shabab is notorious for abuses against civilians. Both points would be true. But a would-be government hoping to establish rule in new turf can ill afford to have its allies alienating civilian populations. The actions of those who act in the name of the TFG reflect on the TFG.

Flashing back to 2008, when Ethiopia was occupying Somalia, we see the same kinds of problems. Ethiopia invaded in 2006 to topple the Union of Islamic Courts, which held Mogadishu, and they left in 2009 with the TFG nominally in control. But Ethiopia’s brutality, the rallying cry provided by the presence of foreign troops on Somali soil, and the fragmentation of the Courts Union helped spur the rise of al Shabab, formerly the youth wing of the Courts but now a self-standing group, one with ambitions to act as Al Qaeda’s chapter in Somalia.

I do not believe there is a one-to-one equation in which brutality by the Somali government and its allies drives people straight into the arms of al Shabab. But I do believe that such violence has serious political repercussions: namely the violence seems to ensure that many people will have little or no faith in the TFG and will, indeed, fear it just as much as they fear other groups. Somalia looks ahead now to an uncertain transition in August, when the TFG’s mandate technically expires. Core political questions – who controls what, and how – remain not only unresolved, but also grimly contested. And as happens so often, civilians find themselves tossed about between Sylla and Charybdis.

Maps of the Military Situation in Southern Somalia

Since October, Kenya has been waging war against al Shabab, the Muslim rebels of southern Somalia. Kenya’s incursion into Somalia has also prompted Ethiopia to send (not for the first time) some of its own soldiers into the southwestern part of Somalia. The capital Mogadishu, since al Shabab withdrew in August, has been controlled by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG is supported by the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

With conditions changing by the day, determining who holds what is difficult. It is clear that al Shabab is losing territory by the month, and that Kenyan forces are advancing on some of the movement’s key strongholds, particularly the port city of Kismayo. Beyond that details are somewhat hard to pin down – I have probably gotten some things wrong in what follows. On a technical note, things are made even more confusing by the fact that transliterations of Somali town names vary widely in English.

Here is one list of the towns Kenya controls: Bilis Qooqani, Ras Kamboni, Bibi, Jilib, Tabda, Gherile and Bardere. Other sources say Kenya controls Burgabo (“a key trade route” for al Shabab), Hosingo and Badade. Top towns that Kenya is targeting appear to include Baidoa, Afmadow, Afgoye, and Kismayo.

VOA describes the areas where Ethiopia has a presence:

Soldiers…reached the town of Luq in the southwest Gedo region.

The location includes a major road leading to the Bay and Bakool regions, which are under al-Shabab’s control. The official says the Ethiopian convoy entered Somalia through the border town of Dolow.

And here are two maps: one, by the BBC, is a political/military map of all of Somalia.

The second is my own creation. The red shows towns that seem to still be in al Shabab hands, the blue shows towns in Kenyan hands, and the green town is Luq, held by Ethiopia. No pin marks Mogadishu, but it should be visible.

Finally, here is an in-depth Al Jazeera report on the recent al Shabab-al Qaeda merger.

In Somalia, Kenya Anticipates Gains Against al Shabab [Updated]

As I noted last week, many observers feel pessimistic about the long-term prospects of Kenya’s invasion of southern Somalia. In the short term, however, Kenya is making gains against al Shabab, the Muslim rebel force that operates in the region.

Fierce fighting is expected this week in the towns of Afmadow (see this map, and more reporting here) and Kismayo, (map). Kenyan planes bombed Kismayo this weekend. Taking these towns would deprive al Shabab of some of its key remaining strongholds, and could push the rebels into more remote areas.

Kenya is reportedly receiving Western military aid in its campaign:

Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, said that the United States or France, or possibly both, had stepped up airstrikes in the past few days, killing a number of Shabab militants. The French Navy has also shelled rebel positions from the sea, Kenyan officials said.

The United States and France have not confirmed involvement in Somalia.

If Western military powers have indeed joined the conflict, analysts said, it could mark a turning point against the Shabab, a ruthless militant group that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda. It controls much of southern Somalia, though its young fighters and battered pick-up trucks are deemed no match for a sophisticated army.

US officials are actively discussing how best to help Kenya.

If Kenya and its allies succeed in taking territory from al Shabab, the question will be what comes next. Will Kenya attempt to hold this territory? If so, the estimated 2,000-3,000 troops it has deployed may not be enough for the task. Next, what role will Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which has de jure authority over southern Somalia, play in administering this territory? Will Kenya, in conjunction with the TFG and African Union troops, attempt to wipe out al Shabab completely, or will Kenya be content to take major cities and drive al Shabab into the bush? How, in other words, will Kenya avoid the mistakes Ethiopia made during its occupation of Somalia from 2006 to 2009, when it smashed Somalia’s Islamists but then faced persistent guerrilla attacks? The Kenyan press, meanwhile, is asking about the exit strategy.

Kenya seems poised to make gains on the battlefield. But the tricky politics of southern Somalia could prove harder to navigate.

UPDATE:

BBC:

Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has said his transitional government is opposed to Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia.

[...]

Speaking to journalists at the scene of recent fighting in Mogadishu, Mr Ahmed said Kenyan support in terms of training and logistics was welcome but his government and the people of Somalia were opposed to the presence of the Kenyan army.

The BBC’s East Africa correspondent, Will Ross, says his comments put the Kenyan government in a very difficult position.

On the Bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia

Yesterday, two men drove a truck laden with explosives into a building in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Al Shabab, a Muslim rebel movement in southern Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the attack. This attack attracted major attention because al Shabab only withdrew from Mogadishu in August. The bombing symbolizes the inability of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and their allies from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to control the capital. E.J. Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group ably explains this point, as quoted by Scott Baldauf at the Christian Science Monitor.

“The unfortunate reality is that this was to be expected,” says Mr. Hogendoorn. “This was announced by Al Shabab when it withdrew from most of Mogadishu. Essentially, they could not fight AMISOM or the TFG conventionally, so they would adopt asymmetrical warfare tactics such as suicide bombings.”

But while expected, Hogendoorn says, “this raises questions of the capability of the TFG, and it also raises questions of the capability of the AMISOM to protect the areas under their control.”

As AMISOM forces establish their presence further out into Mogadishu, and as the TFG begins to administer more parts of the country, Hogendoorn says, “inevitably this will increase the risks that its security forces take. They are more exposed to attack.”

However, what’s bad for the TFG is not necessarily good for al Shabab. The choice of target could provoke a political backlash. The blast claimed the lives of government employees, but also “killed scores of college students queuing up for results of a scholarship program that would have allowed many Somali students to study in Turkey.” Turkey is not only a Muslim country, but is also headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader, one of the most popular figures in the Muslim world, visited Somalia with his family in August to show solidarity during the country’s famine. I don’t know how many ordinary Somalis have heard of Erdogan, but I would imagine that there are a good number, even among the government’s opponents, who are horrified by this act of violence against Muslim students heading to a Muslim country ruled by a popular Muslim leader.

The attack, then, may be yet another instance where all sides in Somalia lose, especially the innocent civilians who are now dead.

Somalia: 3,000 More Troops for AMISOM/TFG

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is battling al Shabab, a Muslim rebel movement, for control of the southern part of the country. Assisting the TFG in this campaign is the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM), which has around 9,000 soldiers drawn primarily from Uganda and Burundi. In August, al Shabab completed a “tactical withdrawal” from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, allowing the TFG to extend its control over much of the city. Conquering the rest of southern Somalia, however, will prove very difficult.

AMISOM commanders have long asked for greater international support and for reinforcements. In July, Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, the head of AMISOM, wrote in Foreign Policy,

Virtually everything we do at AMISOM revolves around donor support. If that support were to stall now, amid our biggest gains to date, the results for Somalia would be disastrous. The extremists, now on the brink of defeat, would regroup and renew their campaign of terror — not just in Somalia, but as they have shown, across the region and potentially the globe.

The support AMISOM most wants is more men. Now AMISOM is slated to get some of the reinforcements it wants. The BBC reports that some 3,000 troops will join the force over the next six months, coming primarily from Sierra Leone and Djibouti. But the reinforcements will not necessarily solve AMISOM’s problems, nor is their deployment an indication that international doubts regarding the TFG and AMISOM have been allayed. The subtle skepticism toward AMISOM’s claims evident in the BBC’s language is interesting to see, and likely reflects broader skepticism regarding the force:

AU commanders have long complained they have do not have sufficient numbers.

Their current force deployment is too small to hold the whole of the city, they argue, even though the Islamist insurgents of al-Shabab have pulled back from some areas they held until early August.

[...]

Now they are promised the reinforcements they say they need.

One reason for skepticism toward the AMISOM (and I suspect there are many in Washington, London, and elsewhere feeling skeptical) is the math. If AMISOM needs 3,000 more soldiers just to hold Mogadishu, how many will it need to take territory beyond Mogadishu? (20,000, at least?) And what are the chances that those forces are available? And how long, given problems within AMISOM such as soldiers’ complaints about unpaid salaries, will existing troop commitments last? Taking Mogadishu was a major accomplishment for AMISOM, and the TFG almost certainly could not survive without AMISOM, but the barriers to future success are huge, even with the scheduled reinforcements.

Some Early Consequences of al Shabab’s Withdrawal from Mogadishu

In August, Somalia’s Muslim rebel movement al Shabab withdrew from the capital Mogadishu. Commanders framed the retreat as tactical, leaving questions open about what new strategies the group would pursue. It is still too early to say how the next phase of Somalia’s civil war will look, but some consequences of al Shabab’s withdrawal are already occurring.

The New York Times:

The Transitional Federal Government [has] an enormous opportunity to finally step outside the capital and begin uniting this fractious country after two decades of war.

Instead, a messy, violent, clannish scramble is emerging over who will take control.

This is exactly what the United States and other donors had hoped to avoid by investing millions of dollars in the transitional government, viewing it as the best antidote to Somalia’s chronic instability and a bulwark against Islamic extremism.

But the government is too weak, corrupt, divided and disorganized to mount a claim beyond Mogadishu, the capital, leaving clan warlords, Islamist militias and proxy forces armed by foreign governments to battle it out for the regions the Shabab are losing.

Kenya’s Standard:

There has been heavy fighting between Al-shabaab militia and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government personnel near the Elwak Kenyan border in Mandera. Witnesses confirmed several casualties on both sides as the fighting to control the border town of Burahashe continued on Sunday.

At least 15 TFG soldiers are admitted at the Elwak Hospital in Kenya after being hit by the militia group. It is not yet clear how many are dead or injured from both sides as the fighting rages.
Locals who crossed from Somalia jammed the hospital to visit the victims as tension mounted amid claims the fighting was spreading to Kenya before the gang was repulsed.

El Wak is also somewhat close to Ethiopia (see a map here).

Somali government leaders are talking about seeking a politically negotiated end to the conflict, but for now it looks like civil war is on in the south, while a scramble is taking place in and around Mogadishu. Stability, even in the capital, remains a ways off.