A new and much-lauded president isfinding it hard to bury old divisionsAT FIRST glance Somalia’s foreign-backedgovernment seems to be doing well. In thepast two years it has benefited from therecovery of the country’s main cities byAfrican Union peacekeepers after twodecades of clan warfare and intermittentIslamist rule. And on June 29th thegovernment pulled off something of a coup bylocking up the grandfather of militant Islamismin Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir, better knownas Aweys. The red-bearded 78-year-old maybe the victim of infighting in the Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked movement that is steadily losingpower but can still cause mayhem withsuicide-bombings here and there.But appearances may mislead. PresidentHassan Sheikh Mohamud, appointed last yearto much acclaim, is accused of employingwarlords to assert his authority over thefragmented country. A report due to besubmitted to the UN Security Council byindependent experts says the governmentused rival militia leaders to gain control ofKismayo, the second city. The report allegesthat Mr Mohamud, who gets a lot of cash fromWestern governments, has been “co-optingclan warlords”, some of them linked to theShabab.The region around the capital, Mogadishu,remains more or less in government hands. Butsouthern Somalia is engulfed in a powerstruggle. Five rival militia leaders proclaimthemselves “president of Jubaland”, a regionthat includes Kismayo. At least 40 people werekilled last month when clashes broke outbetween them. The most powerful is SheikhAhmed Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni brigadehelped the Kenyan army to drive the Shabab outof Kismayo last year. With Kenya’s implicitbacking, he has refused to let representativesfrom the federal government enter Kismayo. Hismain rival is Barre Hiraale, another warlord whohas sometimes sided with the Shabab.The struggle pits against each other two ofSomalia’s most powerful clans, the Darod ofSheikh Madobe and the Hawiye of PresidentMohamud. Conflict between the “superclans”,as well as internecine battles among myriadsubclans, has fuelled Somalia’s civil war for twodecades.In this context, the humiliating arrest of SheikhAweys may turn out to be counterproductive.He was promised talks with government officialsbut instead was arrested and roughed up bysoldiers. This could split the Hawiye clan, ofwhich the president and the arrested Islamistare both members.To make matters even worse, the Shababappear less divided than was thought. Followingrecent infighting, one aspiring leader was killedand Sheikh Aweys was arrested, leaving solecommand to Ahmed Abdi Godane, who isregarded as being keenest within the Shababon its alliance with al-Qaeda. On June 19thShabab suicide-bombers breached the frontgates of the UN compound in Mogadishu;gunmen barged in and killed at least ninepeople. Nick Kay, a Briton recently appointed asthe UN’s special envoy to Somalia, gamelyinsisted there would be no retreat in the face ofthe assault.

A new and much-lauded president is
finding it hard to bury old divisions
AT FIRST glance Somalia’s foreign-backed
government seems to be doing well. In the
past two years it has benefited from the
recovery of the country’s main cities by
African Union peacekeepers after two
decades of clan warfare and intermittent
Islamist rule. And on June 29th the
government pulled off something of a coup by
locking up the grandfather of militant Islamism
in Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir, better known
as Aweys. The red-bearded 78-year-old may
be the victim of infighting in the Shabab, an al-
Qaeda-linked movement that is steadily losing
power but can still cause mayhem with
suicide-bombings here and there.
But appearances may mislead. President
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, appointed last year
to much acclaim, is accused of employing
warlords to assert his authority over the
fragmented country. A report due to be
submitted to the UN Security Council by
independent experts says the government
used rival militia leaders to gain control of
Kismayo, the second city. The report alleges
that Mr Mohamud, who gets a lot of cash from
Western governments, has been “co-opting
clan warlords”, some of them linked to the
Shabab.
The region around the capital, Mogadishu,
remains more or less in government hands. But
southern Somalia is engulfed in a power
struggle. Five rival militia leaders proclaim
themselves “president of Jubaland”, a region
that includes Kismayo. At least 40 people were
killed last month when clashes broke out
between them. The most powerful is Sheikh
Ahmed Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni brigade
helped the Kenyan army to drive the Shabab out
of Kismayo last year. With Kenya’s implicit
backing, he has refused to let representatives
from the federal government enter Kismayo. His
main rival is Barre Hiraale, another warlord who
has sometimes sided with the Shabab.
The struggle pits against each other two of
Somalia’s most powerful clans, the Darod of
Sheikh Madobe and the Hawiye of President
Mohamud. Conflict between the “superclans”,
as well as internecine battles among myriad
subclans, has fuelled Somalia’s civil war for two
decades.
In this context, the humiliating arrest of Sheikh
Aweys may turn out to be counterproductive.
He was promised talks with government officials
but instead was arrested and roughed up by
soldiers. This could split the Hawiye clan, of
which the president and the arrested Islamist
are both members.
To make matters even worse, the Shabab
appear less divided than was thought. Following
recent infighting, one aspiring leader was killed
and Sheikh Aweys was arrested, leaving sole
command to Ahmed Abdi Godane, who is
regarded as being keenest within the Shabab
on its alliance with al-Qaeda. On June 19th
Shabab suicide-bombers breached the front
gates of the UN compound in Mogadishu;
gunmen barged in and killed at least nine
people. Nick Kay, a Briton recently appointed as
the UN’s special envoy to Somalia, gamely
insisted there would be no retreat in the face of
the assault.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s