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.
Kenyan-American Uber driver is challenging Ilhan Omar for US House seat
A Minneapolis Uber driver is launching a campaign to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Haji Yussuf is seeking DFL nomination to challenge Ilhan Omar to represent Minnesota’s 5th District in the US House of Representatives.
The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) is a center-left political party in the US state of Minnesota. It is affiliated with the Democratic Party. Formed by a merger of the Minnesota Democratic Party and the left-wing Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in 1944, the DFL is one of only two state Democratic Party affiliates of a different name, the other being the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.
Haji Yussuf said Ilhan has lost touch with the common people, and accused her of focusing too much on her national profile.
“Most of her ideas are national ideas, the larger progressive movement ideas,” said Haji.
“She’s just repeating those. It’s not something unique that she has come up with,” he said, according to Sahan Journal, a news site that reports on refugees and immigrants issues in Minnesota.
I am running for congress to be a problem-solver and a tribune for all of us individuals and families in the 5th District who have been taken for granted in the larger political game. Life issues, local issues, the spirit of the 5th! #hajiforhouse pic.twitter.com/LL3fWKEaMI
— hajiforhouse (@hajiforhouse) February 16, 2020
Ilhan is a rising in the Democratic Party, and won 78 percent of the total votes in the 2018 election.
He will be more of a presence in the district than Ilhan is now, Haji said.
Haji’s platform includes speaking out on the burden of paying student loans, fixing “a planet on the edge” of environmental catastrophe and raising worker wages.
He said he is still saddled with debt from his time as a student at St. Cloud State University in the mid-2000s.
The 44-year-old worked at the Minnesota Department of Revenue before taking a job with Uber. While driving for the company, he said he’s spoken with more than 250 people from across the city about what’s been affecting their lives.
During his campaign launch this weekend, Haji plans to introduce some of the people he met while driving for Uber.
Haji said some of his passengers were elders in the African diaspora who say Ilhan is not engaging with them.
“Sometimes they have little things that have to be done, like maybe their Social Security check document is missing,” he said.
“The connection with individual people and communities, the representation of everyone in our community — that is what I feel she’s missing.”
Ilhan is the most prominent Somali politician in the US, and the first elected to Congress. Like Ilhan, Haji is a Somali immigrant. He came to the United States from Kenya in 1999, first to Florida and soon to Minnesota.
In the 2018 election, Minnesotans elected first-timers to four of the state’s eight House seats, and confirmed appointed Sen. Tina Smith to continue in the place of Sen. Al Franken. Two years later, all representatives — and Sen. Smith — must run again to hang on to those seats.
Three other candidates are also in the race for Minnesota’s 5th District seat.
Aden Duale is the lonliest man in Kenya
The National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, appears to be isolated and the loneliest politician in Kenya, abandoned by his colleagues from Northeastern region and the government he wholeheartedly served, thrusting him to uncomfortable position I-can-do-it-alone.
Duale is the senior-most politician in the Kenyan parliament courtesy of the prestigious post of Majority Leader of Jubilee – the majority party in the National Assembly. He has been the defecto political leader of Northeastern since 2013.
Duale’s political career sprung from the nationwide popularity of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2007, defeating a long time MP and Minister, Hussein Maalim, to claim Dujis Constituency. In 2013, he sought reelection on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket led by William Ruto which formed a coalition government with Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA).
In 2017, both URP and TNA dissolved to form Jubilee party and Duale was reelected for the third term.
Duale, 51, who is also the Garissa Township MP, is one of the few vocal politicians the country has ever had and has defended the Jubilee administration within and without the parliament, attracting praises from State House and Harambee House Annex.
His critics labeled him as a sycophant who says anything to please President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Now everything – from being the darling of the government to being the political leader of Garissa and other Northeastern counties – has changed.
The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 and the introduction of a Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) meant to change the way Kenya is governed have limited his government engagements and, a growing rebellion from fellow politicians from the region, mostly from young and first time members of parliament, some of whom are calling for his removal as Majority Leader in the National Assembly, has dwindled his influence in Northeastern politics.
Emboldened by the BBI, Wajir County Woman MP Fatuma Gedi and Fafi lawmaker Abdikarim, both first termers, are breathing down on Duale’s neck.
They even called for his removal as Jubilee leader in the National Assembly. They perceive to be political heavyweights courtesy of the BBI.
It is unlikely Jubilee will replace Duale as its parliamentary leader. And if it happens, the position won’t return to Northeastern.
Despite his weaknesses, Northeastern doesn’t have a smart politician as eloquent as Duale who can replace him as Majority Leader in the August House.
Garissa political leadership has abandoned and accused Duale of undermining his colleagues and creating division.
His isolation is seen as the product of his close association with the deputy president, William Ruto. Governors from the region, previously seen as Ruto allies and members of Tangatanga – a political grouping backing Ruto’s 20222 presidential ambition, have now fled his camp, for fear of arrests and prosecution due to mismanagement and theft of county government resources, leaving Duale behind.
Other lawmakers are also backing BBI for selfish gains; most of them do not understand what it entails but believe it will go through because it is backed by the president and Mr. Odinga.
Duale was not seen in recent press conferences by Northeastern politicians, and hasn’t attended a Northern Kenya leaders’ gathering at Kempinski to ‘thank President Kenyatta’ for appointing Ukur Yattani, a fellow northerner, to be the substantive Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning.
Next week, the region is hosting a BBI rally in Garissa town, but Duale isn’t attending. He says until government fixes the education crisis and insecurity, the region will not support BBI.
The education crisis was as a result of Teachers Service Commission – the teachers’ employer – withdrawing thousands of teachers from the region over what it said al Shabab’s target of non-Somali teachers.
Duale’s support for BBI is unclear. He is trying to earn applause from State House and contrast between himself and Tangatanga movement.
He is in a catch-22 situation, he wants BBI because it proposes the creation of a prime minister’s position, which he believes a lawmaker from smaller community can get.
By supporting his position, he said he ‘wasn’t anyone’s title deed,’ referring to media reports that he had dumped Deputy President William Ruto.
It seems his remark was a rebuke to Ruto, who opposes any form of change to Kenya’s constitution.
The Majority Leader is also positioning himself as Northeastern region power broker in the likelihood that the constitution is changed and regional kingpins will have a say in the formation of the next government. He is taking a risk although he cannot influence how northeastern people vote.
He argues that the president’s and Raila’s initiative will cure the political dominance of the presidential seat by the big tribes.
At the same time, he cannot abandon William Ruto, the man who made him and gave him the position he holds in parliament.
Ruto is opposed to any change to current system of governance, believing any change made to the constitution will deny him any chance of him becoming Kenya’s fifth president.
In not making a clear decision on BBI, Duale has weighed the impact it can have on him, at least for the remaining two and half years as parliamentary leader.
For the 13 years he has been in parliament, he has been trying to reshape the Kenyan political landscape in favour of William Ruto. Now, he has to reshape his future.
The hard numbers: Who has troops in Somalia?
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is planning to cut 1,000 troops from its peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa country in February, and later completely withdraw.
Somali National Forces are expected to take over the responsibility of securing the country from al Shabab militants once Amisom complete its withdrawal.
Amisom draws its troops from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Allowances for the troops are paid by the EU, and logistical support – from food to medical supplies – is provided by the UN.
Under a transition plan agreed in 2017, Amisom is required to conduct gradual handover to Somali security forces, secure main supply routes, reduce the threat posed by al Shabab and conduct targeted offensive operations that support the transition plan.
When President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was elected in February 2017, he promised to rebuild and reform the country’s military which has been crippled by corruption and lack of modern equipment. Three years later, a lot has been achieved but much needs to be done.
Amisom troops are in Somalia for 12 years now helping the government battle al Shabab and expand its authority outside Mogadishu.
Amisom plans to withdraw complete from Somalia by December 2020, and, if this happens, there would be security vacuum. The Somali army is not yet ready to take over the responsibility of securing the country.
Security gains by Amisom and the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in late 2020 and early 2021 respectively could be in jeopardy if Amisom goes ahead in its withdrawal plan.
Although the Farmajo administration undertook some reforms within the military, like paying soldiers regularly and increasing their pay, eliminating middlemen and cutting out commanders who siphoned soldiers’ meager salary, lack of capacity and basic supplies and weapons will hinder its performance against al Shabab group which has been weakened but still capable of conducting high-profile attacks against civilians as well as state installations.
When the African Union (AU) troops complete their mission in Somalia, a UN Security Council resolution was that a United Nations peacekeeping mission replaces them. That plan has now been scrapped. The AU troops will hand over the responsibility of securing the country directly to Somali forces. Already, some places like Warsheikh Forward Operating Base, Mogadishu Stadium, Somali National University and Jaale Siyad Military Academy were handed over to Somali forces.
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