Somalia Civil War
A frail UN-backed government is fighting the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab Islamist insurgency. The fight is hampered by the Government's inability to control its national security forces, who are largely recruited from clan militias and put through training by other nations.
There was no national government in Somalia for nearly two decades. Much of the country has been effectgively governed by local authorities, in Somaliland and Puntland, but these entities were not recognized as states by the international community. There is a severe lack of capacity in every part of the country to adequately address problems. While parts of the north have been relatively peaceful, including much of the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland," interclan and inter-factional fighting have flared up with little warning, and kidnapping, murder and other threats to foreigners occur unpredictably in many regions. Since 1991, an estimated 350,000 to 1,000,000 Somalis had died because of the conflict.
The Somali Republic gained independence on 1 July 1960. Somalia was formed by the union of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, while French Somaliland became Djibouti. A socialist state was established following a coup led by Major General Muhammad Siad Barre. Rebel forces ousted the Barre regime in 1991, but turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy ensued. The Somali National Movement (SNM) gained control of the north, while in the capital of Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia, the United Somali Congress achieved control. Somalia had been without a stable central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991.
The collapse of Somalia's international relations system, i.e. self-serving embassies that have no defined national external policy to support. Their remaining functions are renewal of Somalia passports and issuing new fake travel documents in addition to begging for scholarship to their own clan/sub-clan children, etc. The seat of Somali capital, i.e. Mogadishu, was in the hands of warlords and wrecked by clans claiming to the city as a property of their own tribe. This kept making the restoration of Somali all the more difficult because there was no capital equal to all Somalis. Somalia disintegrated into a number of poorly defined tribal territories, i.e. Puntland, Somaliland, Jubaland, Rahaweynland, Marihanland, etc., most of which had little capacity to provide bare minimum services to their own constituencies with the exception of ego-boosting clan identity. The intention of the formation of these territories were not based on ideology other than clan supremacy.
From the fall of Siad Barre’s regime to the present day, events have flowed through several distinctive phases.
- The period 1991-1992 was marked by the most intense conflict, when the different clan factions fought for control of land and resources in southern Somalia. This resulted in the devastation of the inter-riverine areas, consequently causing famine and the disruption of farming and livestock production. Increasing numbers of refugees left the country for neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia at that time: the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) increased dramatically. The 1991 formation of independent Somaliland in the northwest created an enclave of reconstruction and relative peace.
- The period 1992-1995 was centered on UN and US interventions. This phase was illuminated by localized conflicts, specifically around Mogadishu. Fighting among rival faction leaders in the south resulted in the killing, dislocation, and starvation of thousands of Somalis, and led the United Nations to intervene militarily. In 1992, responding to the political chaos and humanitarian disaster in Somalia, the United States and other nations launched peacekeeping operations to create an environment in which assistance could be delivered to the Somali people. By March 1993, the potential for mass starvation in Somalia had been overcome, but the security situation remained fragile. The humanitarian objectives of the interventions were clouded by the UN’s ambiguous goals and rules of engagement. The UN’s role in “nation building" became a rallying point for united Somali opposition. On 03 October 1993, US troops received significant causalities (19 dead over 80 others wounded) in a battle with Somali gunmen. When the United States and the UN withdrew their forces from Somalia, in 1994 and 1995 respectively, after suffering significant casualties, order still had not been restored. Somalis continued to flee the country as internal displacement became routine/common in particular regions of the country.
- The period 1995-2000 was the post-intervention phase, which witnessed the emergence of regional administrations and the continued dissolution of the Somali state. Conflict between rival warlords and their factions continued throughout the 1990s. No stable government emerged to take control of the country. The UN assisted Somalia somewhat with food aid, but did not send peacekeeping troops into the country. In the late 1990s, relative calm began to emerge and economic development accelerated somewhat. The country was by no means stable, but it was improving. As conflict continued in different regions of the country, internal displacement and steady refugee flows increased. Puntland in the northeast declared itself a regional administration in 1998. Although not popularly recognized as an autonomous region, Jubaland declared itself autonomous in 1998. A transitional government emerged in 2000, but soon lost power.
- The period 2000-2006 began in with the establishment of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Arta, Djibouti, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Key warlords' opposition to the legitimacy of the TNG resulted in conflict and population displacement in particular areas in the south. By contrast, the process of reconstruction continued in Somaliland and Puntland. In January 2004, 2 dozen or so warlords reached a power-sharing agreement after talks in Kenya. This agreement called for a 275-member parliament. The TNG was succeeded by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), formed in October 2004 after two years of peace and a reconciliation conference held under the auspices of IGAD in Kenya. This Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the 14th attempt at a government since 1991. Its head, Abdullah Yusuf, originally called for African peacekeepers to restore order within Somalia, but many Somalis feared invasion, especially by nearby Ethiopia. In this phase, the Islamic courts emerged.
- The period 2006-2011 was marked by the December 2006 intervention by Ethiopian troops, which by January 2007 had effectively dispersed the Islamic courts. In its place, the militant wing al-Shabaab continued to fight. against the TFG and foreign forces, and by 2008 it had regained control of much of southern Somalia, the territory held by the Islamic courts in 2006.
- Repeating the pattern of the Ethiopian intervention, in October 2011, at the invitation of the Somali Transitional Federal Government, the Kenyan Government launched Operation Protect the Country against the al-Shabaab, which retained control of parts of southern Somalia, though the TNG was installed in Mogadishu. Kenyan troops working with the African Union have battled al-Shabab inside Somalia since October 2011.
Somaliland and Puntland, two regions in the north, broke away from the country and set up regional, semi-autonomous governments. They were not internationally recognized. Unlike Somaliland, however, which has opted to reassert its independence, Puntland’s constitution simultaneously supports the notion of a federal Somalia and asserts the region’s right to negotiate the terms of union with any eventual national government. Other less developed political entities are also emerging out of processes currently at work elsewhere among the Somali. In the central regions of Galguduud and Mudug, for example, the local residents set up several years ago something they call the “Galmudug State," complete with its own website. In 2009, they elected a veteran of the old Somali military, Colonel Mohamed Ahmed Alin, to a three-year term as the second president of what described itself as “a secular, decentralized state." An analogous process was taking place in Jubaland along the frontier with Kenya.
In April 2011, it was announced that a new autonomous authority, “Azania," had been inaugurated with the TFG’s own resigned defense minister, Mohamed Abdi Mohamed (“Gandhi"), as its first president. Meanwhile, another self-declared administration, “Himan Iyo Heeb," originally established in 2008 by Habar Gidir clansmen in central Somalia, north of Mogadishu, had apparently become active again. There were similar stirrings among the Hawiye in the Benadir region around Mogadishu and among the Digil/Rahanweyn clans farther south.
By September 2011, more than 20 separate regional governing authorities had developed across Somalia in addition to Puntland and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland (which maintains a separate regional governing authority) - including Southwestern Somalia, Ayn, Somalia, Maakhir, Northland State, Madar, and Somal. Some of the authorities engaged in armed conflict with each other.
After the attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States gradually began to take a more active role in Somalia's affairs, fearing that the country had become a haven for terrorists. The United States will strengthen engagement with the governments of Puntland and Somaliland in Somalia as part of a two-track policy aimed at curbing the growth of terrorist extremism, but also to support the Transitional Federal Government, according to Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson. At a briefing 24 September 2010 in New York, Carson said the two-track policy supports the Djibouti peace process, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the government of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, president of Somalia. Carson, who is the assistant secretary for African affairs, told reporters that engagement with Puntland and Somaliland is part of the second track.
“We hope to be able to have more American diplomats and aid workers going into those countries on an ad hoc basis to meet with government officials to see how we can help them improve their capacity to provide services to their people, seeing whether there are development assistance projects that we can work with them on," Carson said. “We think that both of these parts of Somalia have been zones of relative political and civil stability, and we think they will, in fact, be a bulwark against extremism and radicalism that might emerge from the South."
Carson said that greater engagement means meeting periodically with government officials from Puntland and Somaliland, discussing a range of development issues that include health, education, agriculture and water projects. But Carson said the United States will follow the African Union position and recognize only a single Somali state.
The United Nations Security Council voted 06 March 2013 to lift a 21-year ban on the sale of arms to Somalia, a move that had some of Somalia’s autonomous regions like Somaliland, Puntland, and others worried. The British-led UN resolution put an end to an arms embargo that had been imposed on the country since 1992 in the aftermath of the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. The ban was originally intended to quell violence in a country that had little semblance of central governance.
However, with tangible gains made in security and development, the international community was now in broad agreement that the arms ban should be lifted to allow weapons in to help the Somali army improve its monitoring capabilities and a drawdown of international peacekeepers. The UN resolution would allow sales of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night vision weapon sights.
While the end of the arms embargo may be good news for Mogadishu, Somalia’s autonomous breakaway regions – Puntland, Somaliland, Baioda, and Jubaland – worried that the new development will threaten their hard-won security. Although these regions had their own armies, however nascent, they worried that a weak Mogadishu will be unable to effectively monitor and control the spread of newfound weapons. These regions are not alone: so too have rights groups like Amnesty International called the weapons ban removal “premature."
The resolution also extended for one year the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, which had been helping government forces stabilize the country and fight al-Qaida-linked militants.
A top U.N. official said up to 3,000 African Union soldiers had been killed in Somalia over the past few years fighting the Islamist insurgency. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson gave the death toll at a news conference 09 May 2013 at UN headquarters. Eliasson said Uganda and Burundi, which supplied most of the troops for the AU force, "have paid a tremendous price." A spokesman for the force, Ali Aden Hamoud, says he cannot confirm or deny the death toll. "That responsibility belongs to each one of those contingents, or troop-contributing countries," he said. Over the previous two years, AU troops, working with Somali and Ethiopian forces, forced militant group al-Shabab out of southern Somali towns and cities they once controlled. The al-Shabab threat receded but still existed, and that the AU force, known as AMISOM, still played a crucial role in Somalia.
A United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia would be a “high-risk undertaking," considering the threats posed by Al-Shabaab militants and despite advances made by the African Union Mission in the country (AMISOM), a senior UN official told the Security Council 16 July 2015. “Progress would not have been possible without the continuing sacrifices of AMISOM troops and the Somali National Army. Their heroism deserves our collective tribute," said Edmond Mulet, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, attributing the significant gains made against Al Shabaab to a surge of AMISOM military personnel and to the logistical support package for the Somali National Army. While improving AMISOM’s efficiency and effectiveness, the surge in uniformed personnel should be maintained until the end of 2016, as recommended by the Secretary-General, he said, welcoming the African Union Peace and Security Council’s decision to reconfigure the Mission within the authorized ceiling.
Most government institutions continued in 2015 to lack basic capacities to implement their mandates, including human resources, guiding policies and infrastructure. Conflict during 2015 involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in the death and injury of civilians and the displacement of many others. Clan-based political violence in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle Regions involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes in the Hiraan, Galguduud, and Gedo Regions also resulted in deaths. Somaliland used military force to suppress supporters of the self-declared Khatumo State.
Conflict between Biimaal and Habar Gedir militias in the Lower Shabelle Region continued, although reports of abductions and killings decreased. Local civil society organizations continued to report that rape occurred in the context of fighting in Lower Shabelle. The ad hoc official commissions that the government established in 2014 to investigate alleged abuses by federal military forces and allied militias in the Lower Shabelle Region did not produce any reports.
Clashes throughout the south and central regions resulted in deaths and displacement. For example, on 22 January 2015, clashes between Dir and Hawadle clan militias over land in the towns of Burdhinle and Hada-Ogle in the Hiraan Region resulted in at least 23 deaths and numerous injuries.
Clan fighting revolving around the state formation process resulted in numerous deaths. ASWJ militias and federal forces skirmished throughout the year, causing internal displacement of persons. For example, on 10 February 2015, the ASWJ attacked Somali National Army (SNA) forces in Guri’el, Galguduud Region. According to local sources, fighting killed at least three civilians and injured many more.
Al-Shabaab continued to kill civilians. This included politically motivated killings that targeted civilians affiliated with the government and attacks on humanitarian NGO employees, UN staff, and diplomatic missions. Al-Shabaab often used suicide attacks, mortar attacks, and improvised explosive devices. It also killed prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders, and their family members for their roles in peace building, and it beheaded persons accused of spying for and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias. There were numerous reported al-Shabaab attacks, including the 20 February 2015 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu that killed approximately 25 persons, including government officials.
The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and have been steadily losing territory since then to the combined forces of AU peacekeepers and Somali security forces. But al Shabaab retained the capacity to mount large, complex bomb attacks. Since 2014, the number of civilians killed by insurgent bombings has steadily climbed as al Shabaab increases the size of its bombs.
Al-Shabab said it killed up to 100 Kenyan soldiers in its attack January 15, 2016 on an African Union base in the Somali town of El-Adde. There was no independent confirmation of the claim and Kenyan officials had not released any casualty figures. Kenyan troops retook control of El-Adde without a fight after al-Shabab members slipped away into rural areas. Most residents of the small town fled, fearing more attacks.
Since the election of the country’s Somali-American president in February 2017, the government has announced a number of military offensives against al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, only to end them weeks later with no explanation. Experts believe that has given the extremists breathing space and emboldened them in their guerrilla attacks.
The US stepped up military involvement in the long-fractured Horn of Africa nation since Donald Trump approved expanded operations against the group early in 2017. The US had carried out at least 19 drone strikes in Somalia from January 2017 to October 2017. The United States had about 400 troops in Somalia. In April 2017, the US announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the country in roughly two decades.
The death toll from the 14 October 2107 truck bombing in Somalia's capital is over 300. The bomb attacks were the deadliest since Islamist militant group al Shabaab began an insurgency in 2007.
Somali intelligence officials said the truck bombing in Mogadishu was meant to target the city’s heavily fortified international airport where many countries have their embassies. The massive bomb, which security officials said weighed between 600 kilograms and 800 kilograms (1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds), instead detonated in a crowded street after soldiers opened fire and flattened one of the truck’s tires.
The United States was expected to play a supporting role in the new offensive that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was set to launch. Somalia’s army spokesman Capt. Abdullahi Iman said the offensive involving thousands of troops will try to push al-Shabab fighters out of their strongholds in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions where many deadly attacks on Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and on Somali and African Union bases have been launched.
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