Al-Shabaab is the deadliest terror group in Africa; this is according to Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, a Washington based think-tank associated with US Defence Department. Al-Shabaab is responsible for 4,834 deaths in a span of 12 months running up to March 31st.1 This figure accounts for more than half of deaths associated with Islamist militant groups operating in the continent. The figure accounts for civilian deaths as well as lives of soldiers from African Union troop-contributing countries killed by Al-Shabaab in Somalia last year. 2
Former leaders; Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, have called on the current leaders to strengthen the continent’s institutions tasked with peace and security matters. They were attending a meeting themed “Africa in the Global Peace and Security Architecture – Overcoming Gridlocks to Peace” and organized by the Office of the Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa and UONGOZI Institute on 17th May 2018, in Dar-es-Salaam.3 The meeting that also brought together about forty peace and security high-level practitioners and experts from across Africa had two specific conflict areas in the region, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Federal Republic of Somalia. The growing role of the African Union (AU) and African institutions in fostering peace and security in the Continent was recognized. Nonetheless, it was noted that challenges remain and that doubling of effort is necessary, with recommendations on the need to streamline peace and security structures in the African Union (AU) and other African regional blocs, as well as increasing collaboration with United Nations (UN) peace and proposed security structures.4
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during The State of The Nation Address stressed the importance of strong alliances that have made Kenya indispensable to the international community’s pursuit for stability and security, and a global community able to respond to the large-scale crisis as they come. Kenya continues to re-energize its historical ties with other countries in the Horn of Africa with a focus on security and economy. This commitment was reaffirmed by recent visits on May 7th, 2018 by Ethiopia’s PM Abiy who was on a two-day state visit and held bilateral talks with President Kenyatta at Statehouse, Nairobi. The countries already enjoy cordial diplomatic relations with each other but will be looking to raise trade and increase diplomatic ties. The talks also focused on the two countries’ anti-terrorism strategy which both prioritizes the stabilization of Somalia and winning the fight against Al-Shabaab.5 President Kenyatta was also able to host President Guelleh of Djibouti on the 9th and 10th May 2018. While on 30th May 2018, he held talks with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of Somalia on shared issues and security matters. This is even as Kenya continues with its internal fight against terrorist element with visible signs of success as several suspected terrorist group members were arrested in various parts of the country. 13 youths were rescued by KDF from recruitment in Somalia and only reduced numbers of terrorism incidences witnessed.
Security-related challenges have seen Ethiopia postpone Major National social economic and political plans. This is including the fourth National Population and Housing Census which was set for next year. The decision which follows recent postponement of the local elections was reached by the joint session of the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives and House of Federation. Although security challenges are not currently active in the country, the postponement for the second time of the census that had been set to take place in October 2017 is attributed to escalated inter-ethnic clashes and incessant violent anti-government demonstrations in parts of the country.6
The security review covers events that happened during the whole month, in the greater horn of Africa countries in summary. Below in detail is a classification going by the different countries
The war on terrorism has received a major boost with collaborative efforts between the Kenya Defence Forces(KDF) and their Somalia counterpart leading to the rescue of 13 youths from Lamu and Kilifi County who had been recruited into Al-Shabaab. KDF states that the unidentified youths all male, aged between 18 and 34 years had taken a boat from Malindi and were meant to continue with their journey by road once in Kiunga, were rescued in Ras Kamboni in Somalia on transit to join the terror group. This is after their parents filed reports with the police stating that their children had been lured into the terror group by being given KS.5000 each with promises of better paying jobs. The youths were flown back to Malindi on 30th April,2018 where they were received by Malindi OCPD Matawa Muchangi, and later reunited with their families. The hunt for three people, two of whom are said to be residents of Malindi and Kilifi and alleged to be the recruiters continues. One of the suspected recruiters is said to be a renowned fisherman in Marereni, Malindi and has been arrested before following complaints by parents whose children have been taken to Somalia without their knowledge. KDF has so far managed to rescue 1100 youth since 2011. 7
Education in North Eastern region of Kenya continues to be affected with the exodus of non-Muslim teachers from the region. The exodus which started out early in the year after the February 19th Al-Shabaab attack on a primary school where two non-Muslim teachers were killed, has intensified in recent times leading to 224 primary schools and 42 secondary schools in Wajir county closing. This has led to the transfer of teachers in the region by the Teachers Service commission.8 For Al-Shabaab this is a “win”, as they view schools and education as avenues that have been used to build counter-narratives against their extremist ideologies. Earlier in the month, Al-Shabaab militants attacked a mine at Shimbir Fatuma in Mandera North, 65 km from the Kenya Somalia border. The attack which happened on 3rd May,2018, is the first to successfully happen in the past three years in a Kenyan quarry and resulted in the death of four miners and left two injured. The bodies of the miners and those injured were airlifted to Nairobi. The miners are claimed to have defied government orders to vacate the area due to increased Al-Shabaab attacks.9
On 7th May 2018, accomplices of Abdiweli Mohamed Guleid alias Abdiweli Kamaure who is said to be the key mastermind behind the November 2014 Mandera bus attack where the militants killed all the non-Muslims on board the Mandera-bound bus, were arrested in Eastleigh, Nairobi. The couple Yassin Abdille Hussein aka Abu Sumeiya and his wife Fartun Mohammed Guleid, who is also Kamaure’s sister, who emigrated from Gedo region in Somalia and have been operating in Kenya using fake documents. They are suspected to be financiers and logistical operatives for the Al-Shabaab terror group. Initial reports confirm that the couple have been sending funds to Kamaure for over five years.10
On Sunday 21st May,2018, Francis Macharia Karishu a suspected Al-Shabaab facilitator hunt came to an end. He was arrested in Kayole where he had been hiding since a bounty of Ksh.1 million on his head was issued by police two days prior to the arrest. It is alleged that he is an illegal document facilitator and has been issuing Al-Shabaab members with forged Kenya Identification cards. Mr Karishu is said to have forged four Kenyan ID cards used by two terror suspects Abdimajit Hassan Adan and Mohamed Nane who were arrested with a bomb laded car in February 2018 in Merti, Isiolo County. The two who were planning to execute a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack within Nairobi managed to cross the Kenya-Somalia border using the fake IDs. Two of his accomplices in the fake document syndicate are said to have been arrested too and charged with forgery of official documents. 11
On 24th May 2018 in Mandera county, an unknown number of Al-Shabaab militants invaded a mosque in the Kenya-Somalia border town of Komor Haile during Ramadhan prayers and teachings. Residents say that the militants arrived at the mosque at 10 p.m when the Sheikh was delivering his sermon and ordered him to sit down. They proceeded to force the worshippers to listen for 4 hours to their tirade against the Kenya government, local civil servants, and security officials. They then left at 2:00 AM.12
Three Al-Shabaab suspects were arrested on 28th May 2018 and handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit in Nyeri county following intelligence reports that indicated a likely attack at Kenya Medical Training College in Nyeri town during the weekend. Two of the suspects are said to have been arrested in Othaya and communication gadgets and items associated with Al-Shabaab terror organization recovered from their possession. The third suspect was arrested at Majengo slums within the county after he snuck into the country from Somalia. The entire Mt. Kenya region was kept on alert with the country preparing itself for Madaraka day celebration and the President set to preside over the celebrations at Kinoru Stadium in Meru county.13
On 30th May 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a delegation of US senators led by James Inhofe of the Armed Service Committee. They held talks on security in the Horn of Africa and the threats posed by radical terror groupings like Al-Shabaab and ISIS. The President stated that Kenya and Somalia are working in partnership to contain insecurity in Somalia which has now seen Somalia being able to control its own security systems.14 Later in the day President Kenyatta hosted President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo at Statehouse, Nairobi where they held talks on bilateral issues including security and Kenya’s continued support for African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).They also updated one another on shared security concerns, successes and challenges in the war against the Al-Shabaab, underscoring the importance of a stable Somalia.15
LT. Col. Richard Nyabuti Omwega who is the AMISOM spokesman on 1st May 2018 told journalists at Leaf camp Hotel how Al-Shabaab are still a big challenge in matters of general security in Somalia even though they have been downgraded. Reasons for finding it difficult to eradicate them fully is because the militants are embedded within the local population hence proving difficult to deal with the problem. However, AMISOM has made a positive impression since it took over the mandate in restoring peace in the war-torn country, reinstating governments base in Mogadishu and maintaining security in regional federal governments with sitting presidents. 16
A United Nation’s World Health Organization worker and two others were shot and killed in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on 2nd May 2018. The victim Maryan Abdullahi was gunned down by unknown men armed with pistols. The family to the deceased said that she had been receiving threat phone calls, but she died before she explained who was making the threats. According to an anonymous witness, a woman and a soldier were shot dead by unidentified gunmen at a busy junction in the capital. The killers fled from the crime scene immediately after the assassination. No arrests were made over the killings. 17
On 3rd May 2018 in Mogadishu, AMISOM shifted their operational tactic from military engagement to talking with communities to win the hearts of Somalis. The new approach entails reaching out to clan heads and ordinary citizens to challenge the dominant Al-Shabaab propaganda present that AMISOM troops are infidels who must be ousted. Lt. Col. Robert Nahamya, commander of UPDF’s 19th Battalion operating in Buufow confirmed that the Al-Shabaab had won many hearts by convincing Somalis that AMISOM seeks to impose paganism on the country.18
On 4th May 2018, AMISOM beefed up security in major urban centers ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan. This is due to experience where Al-Shabaab militants carried out attacks during this period. Amisom forces partnered with the Somali National Army (SNA) as well as the police to increase checkpoints on all routes into urban centers since these areas have been the main targets during Ramadhan by planting IED’s in busy areas such as markets, restaurants, mosques, security installations, and hotels. 19
Heavily armed militants belonging to Al-Shabaab on 6th May 2018 launched a deadly ambush attack on Somali military convoy near Baidoa Town southwest of Mogadishu. The militants armed with RPGs, machine guns and AK-47s attacked the vehicle killing three and injuring two soldiers on board. Al Qaeda linked with Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.20 On the same day, seven KDF soldiers were killed, and two others seriously injured after an improvised explosive device targeted a military vehicle that was in a convoy of patrol near the Somali town of Dhobley. A Somali military official who requested to be anonymous reported seeing the incident. He mentioned the IED tore apart the vehicle killing the soldiers instantly. The Al-Shabaab claimed killing 15 KDF soldiers however the Kenyan military officials could not be reached for comments. Other witnesses put the casualty numbers higher as a resident in the area said the explosion affected two vehicles hence the death toll is more than 10 with several injured soldiers.21
Ongoing processes of downsizing AMISON forces in the war-torn Eastern Arica country by the United Nations has been challenged by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) as they warn that it could have a consequential negative impact on efforts to stabilise Somali. The UN had already directed AMISOM to start a gradual reduction of its forces and already 1,000 personnel have been sent back home. Plans to do the same were in place to cut the same number in October this year from the current 21,000 peace-keeping fighters in the area. Reasons for the UN in doing so is to eventually handover to the Somali National Army (SNA) by 2021. According to the commander of Uganda contingent AMISOM sector 1, Brigadier Gen Paul Lokech, said they still need more time to prepare to handover since such a move if not reverted and handled carefully would draw the country to turmoil.22
In Wanlaweyn, in the country’s Lower Shabelle region, at least ten people were killed by an explosion on 9th May 2018, leaving more than 10 wounded with most of the victims being civilians. It was however not clear if the bomb was planted by a terrorist or a suicide bomber was behind the blast. No one has claimed responsibility, but officials suspect the AL-Qaida linked terror group Al-Shabaab.23 A Somali military officer identified as Ragge was killed on 19th May 2018 by a bomb explosive which had been fitted in his car in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. He was among Somali special commandos trained by United State at Bailidogle which a military airbase 100 kilometres northwest of the capital of Mogadishu. Somalia’s armed group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for his death. 24
On 26th May 2018, the EU’s special envoy, whose main objective is to make sure East Africa is well protected from the rapidly shifting geopolitical environment, warned of diplomatic tensions between countries in the Gulf as they threaten peace efforts in East Africa hence bringing about concerns of regional efforts to resolve conflict in the latter could be harmed due to the fallout from the Gulf crisis. The crisis involving Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against Qatar, with Riyadh and its allies accusing Doha of fostering close ties with Iran and backing Islamic extremist. Due to the fallout, it has had direct repercussions in the Horn of Africa where it has aggravated already existing tensions especially in Somalia where the United Arab Emirates has sought to extend its influence as the war in Yemen rages on. In April 2018, Somali security officials seized a large cache of money which had arrived in Mogadishu airport from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. UAE envoy refused to have the bags carrying money to be scanned hence led to the counter-terrorism units confiscated the bags.25Furthermore, conflict in Somalia has raised the tensions between the central government and the federal states leading to the unhappy state of the citizens about President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s neutral stance on the matter. 26
There was an ambush by heavily armed Al-Shabaab fighters on African Union personnel carrier in Golweyn area 120 kilometers south of Somali capital Mogadishu on 28th May 2018. A roadside explosion burnt and destroyed an armoured personnel carrier followed by a surprise attack. However, the African Union Forces repulsed the ambush triggering a fierce clash that lasted for hours. There was no mention of how many people were killed or injured in the incident. 27
29th May 2018, the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia explored water and air transport to deliver supplies and troop reinforcements. AMISOM field commanders reported in the recent weeks floods that rendered impassable the improvised routes in Lower Shabelle region where roads were non-existent, hence military supplies and infantry vehicles were delayed risking the security troops in the operating bases under AMISOM control.28 Pro-Islamic States militants were reported to have targeted Puntland forces following an overnight attack at their post near the ancient port town of Qandala in Bari region. The midnight raid was followed by a fierce gunfight between the attackers and Puntland Darwish troops that lasted for several hours and caused heavy casualties on both sides. The area force commander Fowzi Hassan Ismail confirmed the death of at least one soldier on their side and three civilians were injured during gun battle. The troops managed to fend off the assault and inflict irretrievable losses on the militants.29
On 30th May 2018, Moussa Faki Mahamat,the chairperson of the African Union expressed his concerns over the increasing instances of interference especially by non-African actors in Somalia’s internal affairs. During a meeting at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, he mentioned that such actions normally threaten peace-building efforts in Somalia therefore urging all concerned external actors to refrain from any actions that might undermine Somali’s progress. Faaki also acknowledged the progress that has been made by the Federal Government of Somalia on the adoption of a Transition Plan that provides for a gradual handover of security responsibility from AMISOM to the Somali Security Forces.30
China’s new military base in Djibouti has alarmed the international community, Rex Tillerson, former US secretary of state, bemoaned Chinese encroachment in the Horn of Africa states. In November, the People’s Liberation Army performed its first overseas live-fire military exercise there. Djibouti is portrayed as a victim of China’s malicious zeal to entrap less developed countries in sovereign debt. It is ruled by an authoritarian regime centred around President Ismail Omar Guelleh since 1999. Chinese money has helped Guelleh tighten his grip on national politics and economic affairs purging opponents such as Abdourahman Boreh on corruption and terrorism charges that were later overturned by a London court. 31
Ever since United States lifted three sanctions regime against Sudan as part of the shift in bilateral relations with Khartoum in October 2017, the sanctions have had a broad impact on Sudan’s economy, however, they did not hinder key regime functions including government institutions ability to transact in US dollars, acquiring of military and dual-use materials and obtaining of US- origin goods and services. The easing of sanctions reflects international acceptance of Sudan’s strategy of seeking militarized counter-insurgency solutions to its internal conflict while ignoring efforts to achieve negotiated settlements. 32
The African Union Mission in Somalia has embarked on a stock-taking move that will bring to light its eleven-year operations in the war-torn easternmost country, in the Horn of Africa on 2nd May 2018 with 14 Ugandan journalists for a three-day field engagement. During the process, journalists from troop-contributing countries which include; Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia, will visit the army bases spread throughout the country. AMISOM Spokesperson, Lt Col Richard Omwega told the journalists upon arrival in Mogadishu, that this was intended to account for the presence of foreign troops in Somalia.33
South Sudan’s opposition rejected a power-sharing proposal by the the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) at a meeting on 22nd of May 2018 in Ethiopia. Its position spearheaded by the Riek Machar led armed group Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) puts the peace talks in jeopardy as the nation sinks deeper into crisis. The argument brought forward was that the proposal gave more power to the Juba Government. SPLM-IO envoy to Tanzania Peter Kleto. He mentioned that it excluded key reforms in the governance system, did not reflect inclusivity and also did not take into account the local government. Other issues raised involved lacking to address the issues of accountability and attempt to usurp the powers of accountability hence considered to be one-sided, and cannot be claimed to be a bridging proposal.34
On 31st May 2018, South Sudan conflict and civil war has driven over four million people from their homes with seven million, almost two-thirds of its population, could become severely food insecure in the upcoming months. Violence has once again flared, bringing fresh upsurge to the Protection of Civilians Camp (POC). It is the biggest settlement with 120,000 residents for the internally displaced. With rape being a by-product of this civil war, the International Rescue Committee which is an NGO coordinated by UNICEF is playing a leading role in preventing and responding to gender-based violence and financed by EU Humanitarian Aid Office that runs four women centres in the camp and two other camps outside where women find protection, assistance and training.35
This month marked the 20th anniversary of the Ethiopia – Eritrea war. The war that began on 6th May 1998 and sparked by a battle to control Badme which is a small border town, leading to unprecedented loss leaving tens of thousands dead or injured and many more displaced in a span of just two years. Though the war ended in June 2000 with a peace deal between the two countries and Eritrea subsequently being awarded control of the town by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, the effects are still being felt as Ethiopia refused to accept this ruling without preconditions or further negotiations with Eritrea. With neither side willing to cede some ground, lasting peace between the two countries remains elusive.36
On 2nd May 2018, Ethiopia received a high-profile visit from the President of Israel. President Reuven Rivlin becomes the first Israel President to visit the country. Institute of Security Studies researcher Zackary Donnenfeld while talking to Anadolu Agency Israel observed that Israel is trying to reset its relations with much of Africa, particularly in East Africa and the Horn as shown through recent visits of Israeli high-level delegations to the region. Though the visit primarily focused on the economic ties between the two countries, it also unscored the strategic importance of both Ethiopia and Kenya to Israel from a security perspective. 37
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn asked South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to resign and let other leaders find a lasting peace in the war-torn country on 6th May 2018. Desalegn’s call came after President Kiir dismissed his calls to quit labelling such demands as unreasonable conditions to make peace for those fighting his government. Desalegn recently resigned after he realized his party’s hold on power was threatened and that his country was at a risk of breaking up. 38
On 21st May 2018, former president Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa convened in Dar es Salaam came to the agreement of African Peer Review Mechanism(APRM) as an essential tool for ensuring good governance, strong national level governance and inclusiveness. The APRM founded in 2003 is a mutual agreed agreement voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union as a self-monitoring mechanism. This was a follow up meeting to the African Leadership Forum 2017 that was held in South Africa under the theme Peace and Security for an Integrated United and Sustainable Africa. The meeting was attended by over 100 key African leaders, experts and thinkers working on issues of peace and security, complex dynamics that fuel conflict and ways of navigating the dynamics to secure lasting peace.39
On 7th May 2018, tensions were high at Bedmont village, Murunda Sub-county in Kiryandongo District after a tribal clash erupted between two communities that is Acholi and Paluo over a disputed land. Four people were seriously injured with more than 10 houses burned causing residents to flee their homes. What had started as a disagreement and misunderstanding between the two communities escalated into tribal clashes in the area on March 2, 2018. More than 50 families have been affected by this bloody dispute most of them being displaced and living in a Karuma Trading Centre.40
This month has had numerous attacks, especially in Mogadishu, Somalia. Minimal or no attacks have been witnessed in the other countries as compared to April. The number of militants killed has also recorded the least with some areas not mentioning exact figures while in other cases both the government and Al-Shabaab share differing figures on the number of casualties. According to military experts, IEDs have been identified as the weapons of choice for Al-Shabaab during attacks when targeting Somali and AMISOM convoys.
35 individuals have been killed,19 being civilians and three militants. A total of 16 people were injured, four being Law enforcement officers being as a result of the war on Al-Shabaab. In Kenya, nine suspects were arrested for having links with the terrorist organization, three being Al-Shabaab terrorists arrested with communication gadgets and items that would have been used in an attack at the Kenya Medical Training College in Nyeri. Four individuals were injured and more than 50 families displaced in Uganda due to tribal clashes over a land dispute. New ideas can be utilized in the various ways of tackling the extremist menace, and a good example is in Mogadishu where AMISOM shifted from their operational tactic to talking with communities to win the hearts of Somalis by reaching out to clan heads and ordinary citizens.
Although there have been numerous initiatives taking part in Eastleigh by the contribution of various stakeholders all fighting the same vice of terrorism and Countering and preventing violent extremism, seems not to have a great impact according to current situations. A suspect linked to the Mandera bus attack where non-Muslims were targeted and killed was arrested in Eastleigh. This leads to a conclusion that Eastleigh is still a hotspot area hence more criminals might be in hiding and the process protected by sympathizers within the community.
Numerous efforts by different international and local partners on the need to P/CVE in the region is notable via the numerous platforms that take place in different countries bringing together dignitaries who brainstorm and come up with solutions to the problem that is common to the affected countries.
Though certain countries that contribute their troops to the African Mission in Somalia(AMISOM) have expressed their intention to withdraw from Somalia and hand over all operations to SNA due to the perceived view that the Al-Shabaab threat and the war on terrorism in Somalia are now at a manageable level for the SNA to take charge. This, however, is not the case as terrorist organizations are normally unpredictable hence it cannot make that their silence or reduced activities imply that they have been overpowered. There are some who believe the Al-Shabaab threat is still a major concern. Uganda’s People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Gen Paul Lokech, insists efforts stabilize Somali could be jeopardized if the process of downsizing AMISOM troops is done in a rush which will leave a huge gap that will enable infiltration of terrorist groups, rebuilding their forts hence leading to negative impacts to the country. Sympathizers play a major role in the community in the aspect of ensuring that militants are well hidden, and this causes frustrations from the government, law enforcement and the community as we cannot infiltrate every hole and cranny to flush out terrorists. Teamwork as well as coordination from stakeholders from those with high authority to a member of the community. This is evidenced by AMISOM who have confessed to having challenges due to militants, in Mogadishu, who are embedded within the local population hence proving difficult to deal with the problem.
As observed by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “you can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate which revolve around poverty, disease, and ignorance.” Steps taken in reducing or eliminating these conditions will be a huge leap towards sustainable peace throughout the world.