We look at Somalia, a country that has been at war with itself, clans fighting for power for close to three decades and extremist group al Shabab fighting to topple the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.
Although political crisis and terrorism still hinder the much needed progress, the country is now recovering from 30 years of anarchy. The government with the backing of African Union troops are gaining grounds against al Shabab.
Somalia borders the Gulf of Aden in the north, the Indian Ocean in the east, Kenya to the west, Ethiopia and Djibouti in the northwest.
Here are FACTS about Somalia:
Area: 637,657 sq km (slightly smaller than Texas)
Population: 15,000,000 (July 2018 est.)
Median age: 18.2 years
Ethnic groups: Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including 30,000 Arabs)
Religion: Sunni Muslim (Islam)
GDP (purchasing power parity): $20.44 billion (2017 est.)
Somalia is part of the Horn of Africa in the region of eastern Africa. Other countries include Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. This region is subject to repetitive cycles of drought and famine.
July 1, 1960 – The new country of Somalia is formed through the union of newly independent territories British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland.
1969 – Mohamed Siyad Barre leads a bloodless coup and becomes dictator.
1977-1978 – Somalia invades the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Ethiopia rebels and weakens Somalia’s forces. The two countries have fought on and off since 1960.
1988 – Somalia and Ethiopia sign a peace treaty.
January 1991 – President Barre is forced into exile after the United Somali Congress overthrows his military regime in Mogadishu.
December 1992 – Faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohammed and warlord General Mohammed Farah Aidid sign a cease-fire brokered by US envoy Robert Oakley.
December 1992 – Operation Restore Hope is launched by UN coalition forces and led by the United States in an attempt to restore enough order to ensure food distribution to the Somali people.
June 5, 1993 – General Aidid’s forces attack and kill 24 UN troops from Pakistan.
September 25, 1993 – An American Black Hawk UH-60 helicopter is shot down over Mogadishu, and three soldiers on board are killed.
October 3-4, 1993 – The Battle of Mogadishu: Two Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters are shot down during a raid on Aidid’s high-level staff at Mogadishu’s Olympic Hotel. Eighteen US soldiers and hundreds of Somalis are killed. Pilot Michael Durant is captured.
October 9, 1993 – Aidid calls for a cease-fire with UN forces.
October 14, 1993 – Pilot Michael Durant is freed.
January 1994 – Elder clansmen agree to a new cease-fire. Aidid and Mohammed do not attend the talks.
March 25, 1994 – US troops complete their withdrawal after a 15-month mission.
March 2, 1995 – The last of the UN peacekeepers are evacuated.
June 27, 2005 – Pirates hijack the MV Semlow, a ship carrying UN food aid, and hold the vessel for 100 days.
October 12, 2005 – Another UN ship carrying aid, the MV Miltzow, is hijacked and held for more than 30 hours.
October 2005 – Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi calls on neighboring countries to send warships to patrol Somalia’s coast.
November 27, 2005 – Pirates free a Ukrainian cargo ship seized 40 days prior off the coast of Somalia.
April 4, 2006 – The South Korean ship Dongwon-ho 628 is seized off the coast of Somalia. Four months later, the crew is released after a ransom is allegedly paid.
April 2006 – Somalia grants the US Navy permission to patrol coastal waters.
February 25, 2007 – Pirates hijack the MV Rozen, a cargo ship delivering UN food aid to Somalia. The ship and crew are released after 40 days.
2008 – The United States designates Al-Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia linked to al Qaeda, as a foreign terrorist organization.
June 2008 – The UN Security Council unanimously votes to allow countries to send warships into Somalia’s waters to combat piracy.
September 25, 2008 – The Ukrainian ship, the MV Faina, is attacked. Its cargo consists of 33 T-72 tanks, rocket launchers and small arms. The ship is released in February after pirates claim they have received a $3.2 million ransom payment.
November 2008 – The Saudi supertanker Sirius Star is hijacked. The ship is released in January 2009 after pirates claim to have received three million dollars in ransom.
April 8, 2009 – Somali pirates hijack the US-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama. The captain, Richard Phillips, offers himself as a hostage in order to protect his crew.
April 12, 2009 – Phillips is rescued when US Navy SEAL snipers fatally shoot three pirates and take the fourth into custody.
June 19, 2011 – Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo resigns. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is appointed as an interim leader until a new prime minister can be appointed.
July 20, 2011 – The United Nations declares a famine in the southern Somalia regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle.
July 22, 2011 – Terrorist group Al-Shabaab reverses an earlier pledge to allow aid agencies to provide food in famine-stricken areas of southern Somalia.
August 2, 2011 – The United States updates guidance so humanitarian organizations will not be penalized for aid inadvertently falling into the hands of terrorist group Al-Shabaab.
August 8, 2011 – US President Barack Obama announces $105 million in emergency funding for Somalia.
August 11, 2011 – The United States announces another $17 million in emergency aid for Somalia.
September 5, 2011 – The UN Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit releases a report saying a total of four million people in Somalia need humanitarian aid and 750,000 people are in danger of “imminent starvation.”
October 4, 2011 – More than 70 people are killed and 150 injured when a truck filled with explosives drives into a government complex in Mogadishu. Most of the victims are students, who were registering for a Turkish education program, and their parents. Al-Shabaab claims responsibility.
February 2, 2012 – UK Foreign Secretary William Hague visits Mogadishu becoming the first top UK official to visit Somalia in 20 years.
September 10, 2012 – Somali parliament members select Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new president. The vote marks a milestone for the nation, which has not had a stable central government since Dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown 21 years ago.
January 11, 2013 – French forces attempt to rescue a French intelligence commando held hostage in Somalia by Al-Shabaab. The raid leaves a French soldier dead, another soldier missing and 17 Islamist fighters dead. French President Francois Hollande later acknowledges that the operation “did not succeed” and resulted in the “sacrifice” of two French soldiers and “maybe the assassination” of hostage Denis Allex. Al-Shabaab later declares that it has killed the hostage in retribution for the raid.
January 17, 2013 – For the first time in more than two decades, the United States grants official recognition to the Somali government.
May 2, 2013 – A report, jointly commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, shows that 258,000 Somalis died in the famine between October 2010 and April 2012. Half of the famine victims were children younger than five.
June 19, 2013 – An attack on the UN headquarters in Mogadishu leaves at least 14 people dead and 15 others wounded. Al Shabab claims responsibility for the attack.
March 5, 2016 – A US strike in Somalia kills as many as 150 suspected al Shabab fighters, according to the Pentagon. Both manned and unmanned aircraft are used.
February 8, 2017 – Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who resigned as prime minister in 2011, is elected president.
February 23, 2017 – President Mohamed names Hassan Ali Kheyre prime minister.
March 2017 – US President Donald Trump authorizes the military to carry out precision strikes targeting al-Shabab. Prior, the US military was authorized to carry out airstrikes only in self-defence of advisers on the ground.
October 14, 2017 – At least 300 people are confirmed dead after a double car bombing in Mogadishu. Less than two months later, authorities announce that the death toll has climbed to 512.
November 3, 2017 – For the first time, the United States conducts airstrikes targeting ISIS militants in northeastern Somalia. Unmanned drones make the two airstrikes.
July 25, 2018 – Somalia announces it will pursue its first prosecution for female genital mutilation, after a 10-year-old dies following the procedure.
December 4, 2018 – The US State Department announces that the United States has re-established a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia more than two decades after closing its embassy in Mogadishu.
July 24, 2019 – A suicide bomb attack on a government building kills at least six people and leaves six others injured, including Mogadishu’s mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman. Osman dies from his injuries on August 1.
December 2019: 80 people were killed when al Shabab struck a car suicide bomber at a security checkpoint in the outskirts of Mogadishu targeting Turkish construction workers. Most of the dead were civilians.
What does Kenya want in Jubbaland?
A row between Somalia and Kenya over Jubbaland region in Somalia is threatening the security situation on both sides of the border.
Earlier this month, fighting between forces loyal to Jubbaland regional administration and Somali National Army spilled over into Mandera town that borders Somalia’s Bulla Hawa. Somali forces say they were pursuing a fugitive local minister in Jubbaland wanted for crimes in Mogadishu. Somalia accused Kenya of harbouring the minister, Abdirashid Janan.
Jubbaland consists of three provinces; Gedo, Middle Jubba and Lower Jubba, but control of Lower Jubba and Kismayu port is the biggest prize. Jubbaland is a potentially rich region, with good seasonal rainfall, year-round rivers, forests, and lush farm- and range-lands, as well as potential offshore oil and gas deposits.
The domestic stakes are high, as clan factions fight over the division of resources.
In October 2011, Kenya entered Somalia to fight al Shabab group, which it accused of abducting foreign tourists inside its territory. Later, it became part of the African Union mission to help Somali government defeat al Shabab.
For long, Nairobi wanted to establish a buffer zone in Jubbaland to prevent al Shabab militants from crossing into Kenya. If it can prevent al Shabab attacks because of the buffer zone, its tourism sector will flourish and a massive project on Lamu Port will go on, as investors will have no fear of attacks coming from Somalia.
Ten years later, Jubbaland remains one of Somalia’s most-unstable regions and it failed to act as a buffer zone to stop al Shabab from carrying out attacks inside Kenya. Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia, the al Qaeda-linked group carried out dozens of attacks in Kenya, killing hundreds of Kenyan citizens in the process.
Kenya’s interest in Jubbaland goes beyond creating a buffer zone and stopping al Shabab from entering Kenya. It sees economic interest in Jubbaland. Some influential Kenyan politicians and well-connected businesspeople want access to Kismayu port to avoid paying taxes at the port of Mombasa.
Though banned by the United Nations Security Council, the harvesting and export of charcoal has become a particularly lucrative industry, and continues to flourish with the help of Kenyan troops who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, commonly known as Amisom. Moreover, some within the Kenyan government are benefitting from this illegal trade, according to a United Nations report.
With a weak central government in place, whoever controls Kismayu can have influence over oil deposits in a contested maritime zone. Kenya supported the re-election of Ahmed Mohamed Islam, also known as Madobe, in August 2019, despite opposition from Mogadishu.
Both Kenya and Somalia claim ownership of 100,000 square kilometres triangle in the Indian Ocean believed to have large deposits of oil and gas. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Nairobi of encroaching part of its territory. Kenya tried to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case from the ICJ and settle the dispute of the court, but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.
“There is nothing ideological that ties Kenya to Madobe, except the fact that he is the best person to guarantee security which is in our interest. It is about the stability of the region, prosperity and security,” says Peter Kagwanja, a University of Nairobi lecturer told Kenya’s second-largest newspaper, The Standard.
Kenya also wants to get rid of Somali refugees, but before it does that, it may want to create some resemblance of stability in Jubbaland so that it could repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees living in camps in northeastern Kenya, and convince the international community that the region is safe and refugees can return. The Kenyan government says al Shabab elements hide in refugee camps where they plan attacks in the country.
Kenya’s action in Jubbaland may result in a clan warfare not only within Somalia but also in Ethiopia and Kenya, where clans in Jubbaland dispute also live.
The disagreement between Somalia and Kenya could jeopardise the security cooperation between the two – a big boon for al-Shabab – which is a pain in the neck for both countries.
Presidents Mohamed Farmajo and Uhuru Kenyatta are meeting in Nairobi this week to try to resolve their differences. Mogadishu and Nairobi can ill afford to take their eyes off the ball – al- Shabab, their common enemy, and waste their energy on resolvable diplomatic disputes.
Al Shabab has been driven out of major towns in Somalia but it is still capable of conducting high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia, Kenya being the most vulnerable.
The top 10 Twitter accounts to follow in Somali politics
Twitter is so stuffed full of political news, opinion and analysis that are hard to pick out the worthwhile comments from the rest.
But, if you follow the right accounts, you will enjoy a feed which is insightful, informative, and witty in its coverage of Somalia politics.
The Frontier has compiled the top 10 Twitter accounts to follow if you are interested in Somali politics, so you can keep up with all the latest news, analysis, controversy, surprises, and the latest development as they happen. The list includes journalists, analysts, academics, and others.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the biggest or best known accounts. This is the Twitter accounts that we judged to be the most influential and smartest on all shades of the political spectrum, based on best use of Twitter through frequency, aggregation, interaction, and how useful we felt their content is.
We did not consider the number of followers they have.
Do you think we missed a brilliant Twitter account that should be on this list? Make your case in the comments below.
The list below is in no particular order of rank.
Harun is a VOA journalists and host for Investigative Dossier, a VOA radio program and the first-of-its-kind by Somali media. He tweets breaking news on politics, security, and anything else on Somalia. He is a must-follow for Somalia breaking news.
Rashid is a researcher and an analyst. He tweets on security, migration, stabilisation, political, and geopolitical developments. He is an essential follow for anyone interested in Somalia political analysis. He is a researcher at Research and Evidence Facility. He is a former Horn of Africa project director at International Crisis Group, and a former analyst at BBC Monitoring.
Afyare is an assistant professor of international politics at the Qatar University’s International Affairs Department. He is the author of “Understanding the Somalia Conflagration: Identity, Political Islam and Peacebuilding.” He tweets on Somalia politics, and could be of help if you are interested.
Adam Aw Hirsi
Adam is a former minister in Jubbaland, a regional admnistartion in southern Somalia. He also served as policy advisor to Somalia prime minister. He tweets on politics, and also acts as fact-checker for those he finds tweeting or writing false information on Somalia.
Abdimalik is a researcher and an analyst. His tweets mainly focus on politics, governance, and geo-politics. He was recently appointed as a lead researcher communications officer at Somali Public Agenda. He provides world-class analysis on Somali politics, and sometimes offers recommendations. He is an essential follow if you need to understand Somali politics, both at federal and state levels.
Abdirashid is the director of Heritage Institute, a think-tank based in Mogadishu. He is also former government minister, an analyst at International Crisis Group, and a communications director at Villa Somalia. He is an expert on Somali issues, and would be helpful if you follow him. He provides recommendations in his tweets.
Farah is a former Deputy Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly, and served as a member of parliament for 10 years. He advocates for a stronger, effective Somali central government.
He backs the federal government irrespective of who is in charge of Villa Somalia. He tweets against foreign interference in Somalia and is a vocal defender of the current administration. If you are interested in how foreign countries do interfere with Somalia’s internal affairs, Farah is an ideal follow.
Abdulaziz Bilow Ali
Abdulaziz is a journalist working for China Global Television based in Mogadishu. He tweets everything-Somalia, including breaking news. If you need to catch up with the latest news and development, he is a nice follow.
Sahra Abdi Ahmed
Sahra is a VOA journalist. She has more than 15 years’ experience in journalism, and she previously worked with Reuters. Her tweets focus on politics and social issues.
Hassan is a freelance journalist based in Mogadishu. He tweets breaking news and news reports on Somalia, and other Somalia-related stories. He is an ideal follow.
Somalia, Kenya row: What is at stake?
The relationship between Somalia and Kenya continues to deteriorate, each feeling undermined by the other.
Somalia accuses Kenya of meddling in its internal affairs and warned Nairobi to stop its encroachment in the border areas. Kenya denied the claims as “baseless and invalid”.
On its part, Kenya has accused Somalia of violating its territorial integrity when fighting between a militia group allied to Abdirashid Janan, minister of security in Jubbaland, a regional administration in southern Somalia and Somali National Army in the border town of Buula Hawa spilled into Mandera town on the Kenyan side last week, forcing hundreds of Mandera residents to flee. Somalia blamed Kenya for backing the militia and harbouring Janan.
President Mohamed Farmajo and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta spoke by phone and agreed to deescalate the situation, work together to improve border security, and form a joint committee to strengthen diplomatic and trade ties.
Here are issues that are threatening ties between the two neighbours.
The two neighbours are engaged in a border dispute in the Indian Ocean, a 100 square kilometres triangle rich in oil and gas.
Kenya has accused Somalia of auctioning part of its oil blocks in the Indian Ocean to Western oil firms during an oil conference in London in February 2019.
Somalia denied Kenya’s allegations, and said the conference was meant to present the results of seismic surveys and showcase possible locations in the country where oil reserves can be extracted in the future.
After the London event, Kenya ordered Somalia’s ambassador in Nairobi to leave the country and recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu.
In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Nairobi of encroaching part of its territory. Kenya tried to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case from the ICJ and settle the dispute of the court, but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.
Somalia wants the maritime boundary to run southeast as an extension of the land border while Kenya says the border should run eastwards following the line of latitude. The ICJ is expected to deliver a judgment later this year.
The case was to be heard in September initially, but was postponed to November following a request by Kenya. The ICJ may also review another request made by Kenya for a 12-month delay of the public hearing.
Kenya has troops in Somalia under the African Union Mission stationed in Jubbaland. Nairobi backs Jubbaland regional government led by Ahmed Mohamed Islam, also known as Madobe, because Kenya wants Jubbaland to acts as a buffer zone against al Shabab militants and for its regional interests. Despite the ‘buffer zone,’ al Shabab carries out deadly attacks inside Kenya.
In August 2019, Jubbaland held a controversial election in which Madobe was declared the winner. President Farmajo’s administration rejected the result, saying the election was not credible. Kenya backed Madobe’s election and sent delegation to Kismayu during his inauguration.
Somalia wants Kenya to stop interfering in its internal affairs, both at state and national levels. Jubbaland is one of Somalia’s federal member states.
Somalia is accusing Kenya of harbouring Jubbaland security minister Abdirashid Janan, who escaped from a Mogadishu prison in January.
Mogadishu accuses Janan of committing grave human rights violations and killing civilians in Gedo province, southwest Somalia. Janan was held for months and was awaiting trial. He is believed to be in Mandera
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