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Politics

Somalia: Facts and Timeline

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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

Capital: Mogadishu

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.)

Other Facts:

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.

Timeline:

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.

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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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