Update on Somalia and Turkey

Earlier this week, I wrote that al Shabab risked a backlash among Somalis by bombing a building in Mogadishu, Somalia where students were gathered to hear the results of a scholarship contest for study in Turkey. As commenter James Gundun pointed out, al Shabab also risked angering Turkey and its popular leader Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Somalia in August.

Indeed, Turkey has moved swiftly to transport victims of the blast to Turkey, where they will receive care. Reuters (at link) attributes Turkey’s involvement in Somalia to the Turkish government’s desire for a stronger relationship with Africa, but I would argue that there is also an element of Muslim solidarity. Finally, politics aside, Turkey is doing a noble thing here by helping people who are hurt.

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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.

Africa Blog Roundup: Abuja Bombings, Erdogan in Somalia, the LRA, Cote d’Ivoire, and More

Ambassador John Campbell and Tolu Ogunlesi offer thoughts on Friday’s bombing of the UN building in Abuja, Nigeria. Next republishes and updates part of an editorial posted after the June bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja.

Baobab on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Somalia:

BAOBAB…was moved beyond cynicism by the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Mogadishu on August 19th. Mr Erdogan is not the first head of state to visit Somalia’s wrecked capital since central authority collapsed there in 1992. But the nature of his visit was different. It was not about regional security. He came with his wife and daughter, his cabinet ministers and their families. The trip was brief and choreographed to boost standing at home. But that should not diminish the courage shown. The Turkish plane scraped the runway on landing. Even though the Shabab had been forced out of the city, the visit was an extraordinary security risk.

Osiama Molefe, meanwhile, writes that the $70 million that African leaders have raised for Somalia calls their commitment to “Africans solutions for African problems” into question.

Kal offers his initial thoughts on the fall of Colonel Moammar Qadhafi.

Kim Yi Dionne posts some results from her team’s study of protests in Malawi.

Sanou Mbaye asks, “Can Senegal Succeed?” (h/t Loomnie)

Philip Lancaster on the intractable problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ashley Elliott takes a look at where things stand in Cote d’Ivoire.

What are you reading today?