Al-Shabaab is allegedly in fresh crisis. The Somalia-based jihadist militia has plunged into chaos amid fears that its leader Ahmed Umar, also known as Abu Ubeiydah, may die after prolonged illness. Umar’s deputies, Mahad Karate, Ali Dhere and Maalim Osman, have reportedly failed to agree on who to replace him in the event that he dies.1 A former Hizbul Islam leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has launched a furious attack against the al Qaeda affiliated terror organization Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahedeen based in Somalia. The clergy who is said to very radical accused the terror organization of assassinating his friend and former colleagues Ismail Haji Addow, Abdulkadir Gaamey and Ahmed Haji Abdirahim in Mogadishu.2 Hizbul Islam was a Somali Islamist insurgent group, formed after four Islamist groups merged to fight the new Somali government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. It was defeated and became part of AL-Shabab in 2009.3
The United Arab Emirates announced it will be ending its military training mission in Somalia after its soldiers were assaulted and nearly $10 million was seized in Mogadishu.4 Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto toured Eritrea, Djibouti and rounded off his activities in Ethiopia. The agenda for the tour was to conduct bilateral consultations with Eritrean government officials, to meet with the diplomatic community, and to visit the Embassy’s staff based in Asmara, lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum April 24-25 in Djibouti, our annual dialogue on matters of political, economic, assistance, and security cooperation, and to meet with Ethiopian government officials to discuss shared interests and concerns.5 The United States military confirmed on Monday, April 2nd, that its special forces conducted an airstrike on al-Shabab terrorists in central Somalia, killing five militants. The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) said the airstrike on Sunday was conducted in cooperation with Somali government near El Burr.6
President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged security agencies across the world to partner closely, saying terrorism can only be defeated through an all-inclusive approach. He was speaking at the Chatham House in London at an event titled ‘Kenya’s Priorities for Inclusive Growth: Towards Domestic Development and Regional Peace’. He called for United Kingdom’s support to build stronger initiatives to prevent recruitment into terrorism and to more effectively disengage and rehabilitate foreign terrorist fighters who have defected and returned home.7
A high-level meeting on Peacebuilding and sustaining peace was held on the 24th & 25th at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The two-day meeting was held over different segments including; the opening segment, high-level segment, high-level lunch, a plenary debate running concurrently with the first interactive dialogue dubbed ‘Sustainable Financing for Peace’ and a second interactive dialogue session dubbed ‘Strengthening¬ the United Nations work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace in¬ the field. Scofield Associates, represented by the director had the opportunity to contribute to the conversation during the first Interactive dialogue dubbed ‘Sustainable Financing for Peace’. His presentation borrowed from Business 4 Peace (B4P) model8 with the arguments that better engagement process require the ‘Whole society’s inclusiveness to guarantee peacebuilding’ for a mutually supportive and sustainable peace vs development process.
The summary above, the security review covers events that happened during the whole month, in the greater horn of Africa countries. Below is a classification going by the different countries.
There is visible progress on engagement between the community and the police. In this light, police are calling on members of the public to share any information on three suspected Al-Shabaab recruits believed to have sneaked to Somalia for training. The three are Mohammed Abdalla Asman alias Papa, alias Raymond from Majengo in Nairobi County, Hamisi Hemed alias Balotelli and Ali Ahmed Ali both from Malindi Kilifi County. Police say the trio is in contact with other suspects in Kenya and could be planning to execute terror attacks locally. However, a return to conflict by individuals passing through the correctional facilities in Kenya questions their role in countering violent extremism. Mohamed Abdalla Asman was released from jail on 12th July 2017 after he was arrested by security agencies on 4th October 2013, where he was charged, got convicted and served at Garissa GK Prison. At the time of his arrest in the year 2013, his journey to Somalia had been facilitated by Sheikh Ibrahim Umar alias Amru who taught him religion at Answar Sunna Mosque. Members of the public have also been cautioned against withholding information on suspected radicalization activities and anyone found culpable will be held liable for abetting crime. Before their escape to Somalia, both Hamisi Hemed and Ali Ahmed Ali were employees at Afrafat hotel owned by one Mahfudh in Malindi town.9 The judiciary in Kenya is facing a lot of challenges balancing between the rule of law, human rights and administration of justice based on evidence. Two cases; involving four women and their links to Al-Shabaab, may be acquitted after the officers in charge failed to appear before the court in Mombasa resulting to a warrant of arrest against ATPU officers.10
Even with the gains associated with progress on police-community engagement, the process is not to the same level across the hot spot counties. Following the killing of three teachers at Qarsa Primary School in Wajir on February 16, an elder accused a local administrator of leaking information.11 According to these locals in Mandera, information shared to the police is also leaked to Al-Shabaab militants in the area and on other cases there is in-action. Residents accuse the police of doing little to stop the attacks despite being provided with information. The police, on the other hand, are blaming the residents for failing to inform them about the militants’ presence, despite having prior knowledge.
In Garissa County Government officials have said they will not allow the attack on Garissa University College to cause enmity. Speaking during the third anniversary at the institution on Monday 2nd April, County Secretary Abdi Sheikh and Gender, Youth and Sports Executive Committee member Zeinab Abdi said the Ali Korane-led administration is committed to fostering peaceful coexistence. Mr. Sheikh condemned Al-Shabaab militants and lauded residents showing resilience by resisting seeds of hostilities planted by the terror group. He also said that the regional government is developing programs on de-radicalization, targeting the youth. The commemoration, which was initially ruled out by Vice-Chancellor Ahmed Osman Warfa who said it would rekindle tragic memories, was a low-key ceremony; involving Athletics Kenya which held a marathon in tribute to the victims.12
On 3rd of April, a police officer in Lamu was injured in a fierce gun battle after suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked the Mangai Rapid Border Patrol Unit camp. Residents in nearby villages have been reported to have started fleeing. Lamu East police boss Gideon Mugambi said about 20 attackers fired indiscriminately at the camp, intending to overrun it. They were repulsed after an exchange of gunfire. The attackers were overpowered and fled towards Boni Forest. Mugambi urged residents to be vigilant and report suspicious persons or activities that might threaten security. The attack comes days after Lamu leaders led by Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud and Lamu East MP Athman Shariff urged the national government to carry out crackdown on Al-Shabaab militants. The fighters are hiding inside the dense Boni Forest and Basuba ward has been turned into a terror zone.13Apart from the call from the deputy governor, an outcome of the extremist organization activities in Lamu, include a crippled medical service unit where community members have resulted to using witchdoctors for medical assistance.14
Internationally, a recent United Nations (U.N.) report accuses the Kenyan Defense Forces of continuing its years-long practice of enabling the trade of charcoal in Somalia—a trade banned by the U.N. in 2012 because it profits al-Shabaab. Instead of enforcing the U.N. ban on the charcoal trade, Kenyan forces allegedly allow it to continue in exchange for its own slice of the action. The Kenyans charge about $2 a bag and may make as much as $12 million a year from the arrangement. The Kenyan forces’ cupidity allows Al-Shabaab to rake in charcoal profits. The U.N. conservatively estimates that the terror group makes approximately $10 million dollars a year from the 4.5 million to 6 million bags of charcoal exported annually. Al-Shabaab benefits primarily by taxing vehicles ferrying charcoal to port cities such as Kismayo for export. Kenyan forces’ refusal to enforce the charcoal ban only makes the fight harder, and the money they reap comes at the cost of both Kenyan and Somali lives.15 Apart from the bad publicity, KDF has also provided medical care to residents in Busaar town as a way of responding to the ban from Al-Shabaab on Haram Medical care.16
A high-level meeting on Peacebuilding and sustaining peace was held on the 24th & 25th at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The two-day meeting was held over different segments including; the opening segment, high-level segment, high-level lunch, a plenary debate running concurrently with the first interactive dialogue dubbed ‘Sustainable Financing for Peace’ and a second interactive dialogue session dubbed ‘Strengthening¬ the United Nations work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace in¬ the field. Scofield Associates, represented by the director had the opportunity to contribute to the conversation during the first Interactive dialogue dubbed ‘Sustainable Financing for Peace’. His presentation borrowed from Business 4 Peace (B4P) model17 with the arguments that better engagement process require the ‘Whole society’s inclusiveness to guarantee peacebuilding’ for a mutually supportive and sustainable peace vs development process.
There are mentions of gains against the militant group in Somalia. Apart from the defections witnessed by top-level commanders, Al-Shabaab is allegedly in fresh crisis. The Somalia-based jihadist militia has plunged into chaos amid fears that its leader Ahmed Umar, also known as Abu Ubeiydah, may die after prolonged illness. Umar’s deputies, Mahad Karate, Ali Dhere and Maalim Osman, have reportedly failed to agree on who to replace him in the event that he dies. The militia group’s executive council, called Shurah, that was recently convened to discuss a succession plan reportedly ended badly after leaders sharply differed and threw barbs at each other over the replacement of the ailing Umar. The executive council, which is allegedly composed of eight leaders, majority of who are from the Hawiye clan, is now split into two factions. The crisis has reportedly been worsened by shortage of cash-flow to facilitate the militia’s operations, which is being redirected to the ailing Umar. It is understood that the current leadership and financial crisis in Al-Shabaab has left the group vulnerable.18
Apart from the internal leadership wrangles, a former Hizbul Islam leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has launched a furious attack against the al Qaeda affiliated terror organization Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahedeen based in Somalia. The clergy who is said to very radical accused the terror organization of assassinating his friend and former colleagues Ismail Haji Addow, Abdulkadir Gaamey and Ahmed Haji Abdirahim in Mogadishu. Hizbul Islam was a Somali Islamist insurgent group, formed after four Islamist groups merged to fight the new Somali government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. It was defeated and became part of Al-Shabaab in 2009.19 Sheikh Hassan was added to the US government’s list of terrorists in 2001 for heading the 90-member Shura Council of the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia that promoted radical Sharia laws. He is also among the radical leaders that direct the Al-Shabaab to take control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu in 2006. He was also an active member of the Al-Shabaab and supported Mukhtar Robow as the Emir of the Al-Shabaab mostly serving as a spiritual leader to the militants. Therefore, his recent statement is an indicator that he has fallen out with the group and as such shaming their violent attacks especially against Muslims and unarmed civilians further highlighting the rift and imminent collapse of the Al-Shabaab caused by ideological differences within the ranks. 20
The African Union Troops have also been instrumental in dealing blows to Al-Shabaab. On Sunday 1st April, Al-Shabaab militants attacked an African Union (AU) peacekeeper base in the town of Bulamarer, 130 kilometers southwest of the capital Mogadishu, around 9 a.m. local time.21 As a partner providing air support to the troops in Somalia, the United States military confirmed on Monday, April 2nd, that its special forces conducted an airstrike on Al-Shabaab terrorists in central Somalia, killing five militants. The latest U.S. strike came amid heightened vigilance by Somali security forces, who have launched operations targeting several parts of the Horn of Africa nation, in response to increasing terror attacks. 22
Even though efforts from the UPDF are stranded due to mismatch between what they want and what they have as indicated by Gen David Muhoozi,23 the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Tuesday 17th April, lauded Ugandan soldiers for ensuring a safer and stable Somalia. AMISOM Deputy Force Commander in charge of support and logistics Salvator Harushimana praised the troops who had completed their tour of duty for their diligence. He applauded how they represented Uganda well and Africa at large and how they performed their duties with dedication and a high level of professionalism. They were part of battle group 21 of the Ugandan People’s Defense Force who were tasked with securing Mogadishu and Neighboring Regions. Uganda’s Deputy Ambassador Nathan Mugisha, speaking at the function, noted that there is need to enhance governance, justice, and rule of law and humanitarian support in liberated areas to enable residents to lead a normal life. 24
In addition, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Wednesday 18th April, called on the international community to help Somalia develop capacity to tackle the potent threats in the country. Senior AMISOM officials including security officials who ended their fourth Bi-annual Counter IED Conference in Mogadishu reached agreement on measures to tackle effectively the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that present a major threat to the country’s stabilization process. The conference acknowledged that the indiscriminate use of IEDs by al-Shabab militants posed a major risk to the realization of sustainable peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country and emphasized efforts that will decisively tackle the problem.25
There is also a call by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), asking partner states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country. The call was made on the same day, by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone. This brought to 160, the number of police officers from Sierra Leone. She urged other contributing countries to do the same because there was an expansion of operations, moving away from Mogadishu. Apart from Sierra Leone, other police-contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana. Ms Alalo also noted that between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but there was need for reinforcement. The AMISOM assistant Inspector General of police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, stated that the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.26
Internationally, diplomatic ties between Somalia and the UAE are worsening. UAE has been faced with violations of diplomatic traditions and norms and of the memorandum of understanding between it and Somalia, after fulfilling its responsibility, in cooperation with the UN, on several fronts in the country. It has decided to suspend its operations in the war-torn Horn of Africa country after building three training centers and a hospital, sending medical teams to treat the Somalis and succeeding in training thousands of Somali soldiers & other security forces and after paying the wages to more than 2,400 Somali soldiers.27 The United Arab Emirates announced it will be ending its military training mission in Somalia after its soldiers were assaulted and nearly $10 million was seized in Mogadishu.28 Somali relations with the UAE have been particularly tense since Somalia announced it would remain neutral over the Qatar diplomatic crisis. Somalia also opposes the UAE’s efforts to establish a military base in the port city of Berbera, in Somaliland; which Somalia considers it part of its territory. 29
One success involving the African Union forces recapturing villages in the Hirran region of Central Somalia from Al-Shabaab30 was dampened by killing of two police officers by Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu and a deadly ambush that killed four soldiers in Balcad.31 However, Army officials in Somalia said they killed several Al-Shabaab militants and injured others on Wednesday, April 19th, after Somali National Army (SNA) troops attacked Al-Shabaab positions in southern Somalia. Hassan Adem Mohamed told local reporters that SNA troops with assistance from AMISOM successfully attacked the militants in Lower Jubba and currently have full operational control of the area. Al-Shabab fighters attacked their bases in Qoqani location in this region on Tuesday, then they resisted and fought with the terrorists, killing several of their fighters and injured others during the battle that lasted more than one hour.32
In another incident, Somalia National Army (SNA) said its forces killed 30 Al-Shabaab militants in security operation in Hiiraan region of central Somalia on Tuesday 17th April. Army Spokesperson in Hiiraan region, Mohamed Noor Agajof said the SNA forces recovered military equipment from the insurgents following a fierce gunfight with the terrorist group. About 30 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed and they recaptured areas along the road linking Beledweyne town, Mataban and Mahas that had been formally captured by Al-Shabaab.33 In this light, SNA are launching an operation aimed at rooting out Al Shabaab presence in the areas between Bal’ad and Jowhar towns in Middle Shabelle region. The move came following series of Al-Shabaab ambush attacks against Somali and AMISOM forces in the main road linking Bal’ad to Jowhar in the past few months. The operation was jointly carried out by Somali forces backed by AU soldiers. Al-Shabaab has been driven out of a major ground in the region, but, the militant group is still capable of staging attacks, including roadside bombings and gun assault.34
ETHIOPIA, ERITREA, DJIBOUTI:
The United States Department of State on Saturday announced that a top official on African Affairs was due to tour three East African countries between April 22 – April 26. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto will start off his tour in Eritrea, head to Djibouti and round off his activities in Ethiopia. The Horn of Africa region has been one that has continually engaged the attention of the United States. Its relations with Ethiopia has largely been premised on anti-terrorism combat and need for democratic reforms. Eritrea, meanwhile, continues to slam the United National Security Council and the United States in particular for the refusal to lift sanctions on Asmara over their purported support for Somalia insurgent group, Al-Shabaab. Djibouti, on the other hand, is seen as a key security ally of the West and other Asian giants, hosting a number of military bases. The U.S. also maintains special interest in Somalia where they continue to carry out air strikes against Al-Shabaab. In November 2017, Yamamoto, a former US envoy to all three countries, announced that the United States was ready to facilitate peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has said that he is ready for dialogue. However, Eritrea insists on Ethiopia’s withdrawal from occupied territory, particularly the town of Badme, awarded to Eritrea by international arbitration following the two countries’ 1998–2000 border war, but never vacated by Ethiopia.36
FOUR Ugandan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers and 22 Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen militants were killed during armed clashes in the town of Bulo Marer in Somalia’s Shabeellaha Hoose region on 1 April. The clashes broke out after militants detonated two suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) near an AMISOM base, targeting a military and an AMISOM vehicle. Radicalization and recruitment is gaining ground in Uganda. The arrest of 36 individuals in a radicalization center in Uganda, provides some a starting point for discussions and planned engagement for future activities. Usafi mosque has been identified and the actions from law enforcement resulted in the killing of two individuals and injuries to a police officer. An average of 100 individuals comprising of 18 women and 94 children who were held against their will, were released from this mosque during the encounter. Questions, therefore, arise on the changing trend of violent extremism that involves kidnapping of women and children. 38
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition said the government forces have resumed attacks on their position in Yei River State in Central Equatoria. In order to indiscriminate shelling took place following an announcement at local radio on Saturday saying the army would conduct a testing exercise of their artilleries on Sunday morning. On Friday and Saturday, the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan and the Joint monitoring body condemned the increase of violence in the country in violation of the ceasefire agreement signed in December 2017. The Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (JMEC) asked the ceasefire body (CTSAMM) to investigate the attacks and also urged to release 10 aid workers abducted around Yei town.39
The month of April has seen efforts to fight Al-Shabab bearing fruit as 57 militants were killed which is a rise from the number of in March. There were 38 militant arrests with only four AMISOM soldiers from Uganda being killed during armed clashes in the town of Bulo Marer in Somalia’s Shabeellaha Hoose region. Over 100 individuals comprising of 18 women and 94 children were released from Usafi mosque where they had been held against their will. This month also saw the realization that Al-Shabab could be in a crisis due to disagreements between their leaders who are fighting over who is going to control the group after their ailing leader is dead. As a result, they have been left vulnerable, which presents an opportunity for forces fighting the extremist group with a chance to act strategically.
International and local scene intensified their efforts to counter violent extremism in the greater horn region of Africa. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) laud Ugandan soldiers for ensuring a safer and stable Somalia, while at the same time call for more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country. A former head and clergy of Hizbul Islam denounce Al-Qaeda affiliate terror organization Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahedeen based in Somalia.
Some locals in Mandera revealed their fear and lack of cooperation with police was because of harassment and threats from some police who end up revealing the information shared with Al-Shabaab. This is an indicator that there is a gap that needs to be addressed in resolving conflict between police and community members. To this end, Scofield Associates is involved in a project addressing this issue dabbed, Community Together Initiative in Kamukunji area, whose aim is to increase partnership between law enforcement and community members in the society dealing with actual or potential victims of violent extremism, that is on course to being rolled out countrywide.