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Somalia Crisis: A brief guide to who is opposing whom

The Frontier takes a look at the actors, both domestic and foreign, involved in the Somalia crisis and who they are siding with

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The three decades of conflict in Somalia are difficult and complex to understand because of the numerous parties involved. Rivals compete for power, resources and influence and, all competing factions are Sunni Muslims and all speak the same language, Somali.

Somalia has five state governments, created under the country’s federal system, each maintaining their own police and security forces which have a degree of autonomy over their affairs, but are subject to the authority of the federal government. But federal member states undermine the authority of the central government. Somalia faces both political and security crises.

Somalis have become familiar with foreign interference. Kenya, Ethiopia and the West, mainly the US, have been actively engaged in the country’s internal affairs, backing different armed militia groups and a weak central government.

Ethiopia, the single biggest foreign player in Somalia, is on friendly terms with Kenya on the status of the Somali central government based in Mogadishu. Kenya fully backs Jubbaland, a regional administration in the south of the country which it played a key role in creating; but Ethiopia does not back Jubbaland as it does other regional administrations. Addis Ababa suspects Jubbaland of supporting the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel group in eastern Ethiopia fighting to secede from Ethiopia.

Although Ethiopia is part of the African Union mission (Amisom) helping the government defeat al Shabab, it also has non-Amisom n troops inside the country.

Both Ethiopia and Kenya support Puntland and Somaliland. Puntland is a semi-autonomous region in northeast Somalia while Somaliland is a break-away and self-declared republic in the northwest of the country.

Somaliland and Puntland are sworn enemies. They are engaged in a border dispute with sporadic fighting between the two. But they are on the same side against the central government based in Mogadishu. Puntland supports Jubbaland and they sometimes gang up against Mogadishu. Somaliland and Puntland both receive support from Ethiopia.

Somaliland supports the Galmudug administration in central Somalia because it fights Puntland.

Puntland hates the government in Mogadishu. It accuses Mogadishu of not sharing donor funds with it. It has cut ties with Mogadishu at least three times and banned the Somali government-owned Radio Mogadishu in its territory. But Mogadishu and Puntland are allies against Somaliland and are united against the Al-Shabab group. Ethiopia supports both Mogadishu and Somaliland.

There is a Sufi armed group controlling parts of central Somalia called Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’a. For years, it has been fighting the Galmudug administration and has now transformed from a paramilitary group to an influential political force. Its leader has been appointed Gamudug’s chief minister. It has 20 members of parliament in the local Galmudug parliament.

Ahlu Sunnah is opposed to the radical al Shabab group and is a vital player in the war against the al Qaeda-linked militants. Both Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna are allies against Al-Shabab. Ahlu Sunnah sometimes fights the Mogadishu government but supports its fight against Al-Shabab.

The Somali government has the constitutional responsibility for foreign affairs and diplomacy, but regional administrations, which are like provincial or state governments, make their own foreign policy. Its leaders travel to other countries and meet foreign leaders, making deals.

When Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf countries and Egypt blockaded and cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in May 2017 for what they said was Doha’s “support for Iran and terrorism”, Somalia remained neutral and offered to mediate. Federal member states took advantage of Mogadishu’s weakness and sided with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

The function of foreign affairs falls under the federal government and the states have no role in it. It was a breach of the country’s constitution, according to the government in Mogadishu.

In December 2019, Somalia’s national security agency, NISA, said a foreign government without naming which nation ‘planned’ an attack that killed 80 people in Mogadishu on 28 December. Observers say the Somali government suspects a Middle Eastern country for aiding those who carried out the attack. Al Shabab, despite keeping mum for days, took credit for the attack.

All parties, foreign and domestic, are enemies of Al-Shabab.

With all these players involved, the conflict in Somalia is far from over.

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Politics

What comes next after Janan’s surrender?

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By Siyad Abdigedi

The surrender of Abdirashid Janan to the Federal Government of Somalia ushered in a period of calm for the citizens of Gedo. Residents of Mandera and Beled Hawo towns, which are located on the border of Kenya and Somalia, respectively, feel a big weight lifted off their shoulders, they no longer have to worry about a potential conflict of armies, which has always been reported to result in civilian casualties.

Just a few months ago, an aggressive dawn assault by Janan’s men on the Somalia federal army in Beled Hawo resulted in the killing of an entire family of six, with only the mother surviving the attack. A number of Janan’s men were also captured.

Janan, a former Jubaland state government security minister, was detained in Mogadishu in August 2019 for suspected human rights violations but fled in January 2020 and had been on the run before his recent surrender.

The surrender was secretly orchestrated by Janan’s loyalists and Somali Chief spy Fahad Yassin. Janan was later fired from his position as a security minister by Jubaland’s leader, Ahmed Madobe, for surrendering to the federal government in Mogadishu. He was flown to Mogadishu and met with top security officials before handing over his militia and weapons days later as talks between him and the federal government continued.

The Federal Government of Somalia and the administration of Jubbaland have been at odds. The Farmajo administration had previously rejected Madobe’s re-election but later accepted its legitimacy to serve as a transitional government for two years.

Possible results of Janan-Mogadishu negotiations

Rub my back, I rub yours, will most definitely be the compromise between the two parties. In return for cutting ties with Madobe’s camp, Mogadishu can grant him amnesty from his case.

The surrender of Janan to Mogadishu represents a significant political breakthrough for Farmajo because it ensures the stability of the Gedo region. Janan was a crucial figure in Jubbaland administration, and his surrender, along with his forces, weakens Madobe’s camp morale. He not only defected with troops and arms, but also with secrets, which is a critical asset in countering Ahmed Madobe.

Farmajos’ administration could also be planning to advance troops in the near future in order to capture Buale town with the help of Janan and his men and make it Jubbaland’s capital city. Middle Jubba is made up of four districts: Buaale, Sakow, Salagle, and Jilib, all of which are now under the rule of Al Shabaab. Planting an alternate regional government here would undermine the Madobe administration, which is headquartered in the port of Kismayu.

The talks between the two could follow a separate path, yielding a myriad of other possible outcomes that would undoubtedly have a significant effect on Jubbaland politics in the coming months.

Siyad is a security analyst with an emphasis on the Horn of Africa.

 

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Maritime Dispute

ICJ to hear Somalia, Kenya maritime case despite Nairobi withdrawal

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The International Court of Justice is scheduled to begin hearing the oral arguments in the maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya, despite the latter pulling out of the proceedings in protest after being denied a fourth extension to postpone the case.

In a rare move, Kenya informed the court earlier this week that it would not be participating in the oral arguments, citing its unpreparedness brought on by the global pandemic and the presence of Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, a Somali national, on the international court’s bench.

Somalia’s legal team will present its oral arguments first, between 3 PM and 6 PM on Monday and will continue its presentation on Tuesday between 3 PM and 4:30 PM.

The ICJ will hold the hearings in a hybrid format – another feature Kenya objected to – in light of the COVID pandemic. The hearings will be aired on a Livestream on the court’s website and UN Web TV.

Somalia launched legal proceedings against Kenya at the international court based in The Hague in August 2014 after failing to settle the issue through diplomatic channels. Kenya questioned whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the case, pointing to the 2009 MOU signed with Somalia’s then Minister for National Planning and International Cooperation, Abdirahman Abdishakur. The court rejected that claim and ruled in June 2019 that the court was within its legal rights to adjudicate the case. Since then, the issue has been delayed and postponed several times at Kenya’s request.

At stake is a potentially lucrative, triangular stretch of 100,000 square kilometres of offshore territory believed rich in hydrocarbons and fish.

Despite Kenya’s withdrawal, the ICJ can still proceed with the case and render a verdict since Kenya has already submitted its written arguments to the court. The ruling cannot be appealed, but its enforcement relies on the UN Security Council, of which Kenya is a non-permanent member.

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Maritime Dispute

Kenya withdraws from ICJ maritime case with Somalia

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Kenya has notified the International Court of Justice that it will not participate in the maritime case against Somalia just a day before it is scheduled to begin. Kenya has cited the court’s perceived bias and its unwillingness to delay the case – for a fourth time – due to the pandemic as the main reason for withdrawing from the legal proceedings.

Kenya’s Attorney General, Paul Kihara Kariuki, notified the ICJ of the decision to pull out in a letter written on March 11 to Phillippe Gautier, the court’s registrar.

“Kenya wishes to inform the court, through the Registrar, that it shall not be participating in the hearings in the case herein, should the same proceed from March 15, 2021, as presently scheduled,” the letter from Kenya’s attorney general states.”

Despite Kenya’s withdrawal, the ICJ can still proceed with the case and render a verdict since Kenya has already submitted its written arguments to the court.

Kenya, who referred to the move as “unprecedented in its history in relation to any international adjudication mechanism,” told the court that its latest legal team did not have adequate time to prepare for the case. Various Kenyan media outlets reported that top-level international lawyers were brought in to lead the maritime case in late February 2021, just weeks after the court rejected Kenya’s request to have the maritime delimitation case with Somalia postponed for the fourth time. Kenya added that the global pandemic had stripped it of financial resources to fund the case.

“The consequence of this is that Kenya and its legal team were deprived of the opportunity of having necessary preparatory meetings and engagements, ” Mr. Kariuki states.

In addition to the refusal to postpone the proceedings further, the letter to the ICJ cited further causes to justify its withdrawal from the international court.

Kenya objects to the hybrid format the hearings will be held in due to the current COVID pandemic, although some members of the court will attend the oral proceedings in person. Kenya argued that since its defence is based on demonstrations, the current format is “unsuitable for the hearing of a case as complex and as important as the present one.” The court said that the representatives of the parties involved in the case would participate either in person or by video link.

“Since the case is not urgent for any reason, Kenya least expected that the court would make this into the first cause to heard on its merits via video link, despite one party’s sustained, well-grounded objections, Kenya stated.

In building its case for withdrawal, Kenya wrote to the ICJ that one of its jurists, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, could potentially curry favour in support of Somalia. Yusuf, a Somali national was President of the Court until February this year .

“Kenya’s concerns and perception of unfairness and injustice in this matter are exacerbated by the inexplicable rejection of Kenya’s preliminary objections to this court’s jurisdiction and the dismissal of the request for the recusal of Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, given his past exposure, on behalf of Somalia, o the issues in this case. This is notwithstanding the fact that Kenya has taken extensive measures that are illustrative of its good faith and seriousness in defending this case, including by filing pleadings within the timelines directed by the court.”

Somalia launched legal proceedings against Kenya at the international court based in The Hague in August 2014 after talks with Kenya failed to settle the dispute. The case has fuelled the diplomatic fallout between the two East African neighbours.

Somalia dispatched its team led by Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Guled last week. Guled expressed confidence that his country was winning the case.

“Our duty is to unite and defend our land and our real estate, which is a historic responsibility and the most precious legacy we will leave to future generations of Somalis,” said the deputy prime Minister before departing from Mogadishu.

The ICJ is tasked with deciding who has jurisdiction over the 62,000 square-mile triangle in the Indian Ocean, which is believed to be rich in hydrocarbons. Neither party can appeal the decision. The court will then rely on the UN Security Council, of which Kenya is a non-permanent member, to enforce the ruling

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