On the early hours of Monday morning, January 13, al Shabab fighters stormed a small town in eastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia, killing three teachers and abducted others.
The al Shabab fighters also set fire to a police station and destroyed a telecommunications mast. According to local reports, the attackers spared the life of a female nurse due to her gender.
Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October 2011 to fight the al Qaeda-linked group after it blamed the group of a series of kidnappings , al Shabab has carried out more than 150 attacks on Kenyan soil, targeting buses, schools, police stations, schools and shopping malls, killing hundreds.
The most brutal were attack s on a Kenyan army camp in El Adde killing 200 soldiers in 2016, a 2015 attack on a Kenyan college campus that killed 148 people, a 2013 attack on a mall in Nairobi that killed at least 67, and a 2019 attack on a hotel in Nairobi that killed 21 people.
Al Shabab has seen the presence of Kenya troops in Somalia as invasion and it singled out the country as a soft target. The government has invested in the army’s operation in Somalia while giving leeway to Shabab attacks inside Kenya.
The al Qaeda-affiliated group has stepped up its attacks both in Kenya and Somalia in the last few months.
The Kenyan security forces are bureaucratic and under-resourced. There have been intelligence failures of Kenyan intelligence agencies, and security forces’ slow and shambolic response, and al Shabab sees these weaknesses and takes advantage.
Al Shabab wants to terrorise Kenyans and mobilise its supporters and turn Kenyans against each other to create religious division. While carrying out attacks in Kenya, al Shabab mainly targets Christians, and in Somalia, they kill fellow Muslims.
Last week, the group attacked a joint US-Kenya military base in Lamu and killed three Americans, a soldier and two contractors. The attack on the Manda Bay Airfield was al Shabab’s first attack against US forces in Kenya.
At least four students have been killed by al Shabab fighters at a school in Garissa county.
On January 2, al Shabab killed four people when it attacked a convoy of buses in Lamu.
In December, the group killed 11 people including 8 police officers after pulling them from a passenger bus along Wajir-Mandera Road. Also, in December, five security forces were killed when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Wajir. In Garissa, two construction workers were killed.
Al-Shabab’s offensive shows it is recovering after suffering high casualties from US drone strikes and pressure form the African Union forces.
Last year, the group carried out an attack on a US-run military base in Baledogle in southern Somalia.
Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, and implement its own version of Islamic law.
Formed in 2006, its initial aim was to fight Ethiopian troops after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union that ruled most of the southern and central parts of the Horn of Africa country.
Since then, it has been fighting successive Somali governments and the African Union troops stationed in the country.
It has been driven out of Mogadishu and other major cities by Somali forces backed by African Union troops, but it is still capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia. It has carried out attacks in several neighbouring countries, but Kenya, its western neighbour, has been the most vulnerable, despite the US significantly increasing airstrikes against the group and broadened its troop presence and involvement in Somalia in 2017.
Somalia’s Al Shabab Executes Man for Homosexuality
Somalia’s al Shabab group has executed a man accused of committing sodomy in the southern province of Lower Shabelle.
The group said the execution took place at a public square in Doon Buraale village of Doon Buraale near Qoryooley town on Saturday.
An al Shabab judge who read the court’s verdict at the site of the execution said the victim whom the group identified as Axmadeey Qaadi Maadeey was ‘found guilty of committing an act that goes against the Islamic law.’ The judge said the accused confessed to his crime.
The al Qaeda-affiliated group often carries out executions, beheadings, floggings, and amputations on individuals it accuses of crimes ranging from adultery to rape and theft. However, victims do not get fair trial and legal representation.
Al Shabab has been forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by Somali forces backed by African Union troops, but it still controls large swathes of land in rural Somalia, where it enforces its own interpretation of Islamic sharia.
It is fighting to overthrow the Somali government and expel foreign forces helping the government to stabilize the country.
The group is also capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside Somalia.
How Somalia Helps Trump Administration Deport Nationals From the US
On December 6, a chartered plane carrying more than 40 Somali nationals landed in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. On arrival, they were removed from the plane and placed on a private jet and flown to Mogadishu.
Some of these individuals have never seen Somalia or they were there when they were young, and have built lives in the US.
The deportees have been languishing under ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention for over a year before they were deported.
A few of them were pulled off the flight at the last minute, according to Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who was leading a group of lawyers trying to keep the Somalis in the US.
Since taking office in January 2017, The Trump administration has devised measures to slow immigration and remove people from the US, and terminated TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for some countries.
“These were 40+ men with their own stories, lives, and experiences. Listening to their families here in the U.S. just breaks you at times. Our system is broken, the whole damn thing,” Ayoub said.
“When we started our work on Somali removals we were told that up to 4,000 Somalis are either in removal proceedings, or could be placed in removal proceedings. This is a significant number. I would not put it past ICE that they increase enforcement efforts in the community.”
What makes this even more troublesome is the role the Somali government played in facilitating the removal of these individuals.
The US pressures foreign governments to sign travel documents and do what they can to facilitate the removal of their nationals from the U.S. This is the way the system works.
The US is engaged in Somalia conflict, using Special Forces and airstrikes against al Shabab militants, and provides assistance to the Somali National Army. The US also provides humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa country, spending 3 billion dollars since 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees.
Two years ago, ICE started raids in the Somali community. The community and the Somali Embassy were very vocal and put a stop to it. With a change in leadership at the Embassy the green light for raids will be given.
Somalis in the US continue to be targeted by ICE. Many of them have been there for decades and it is upsetting to see them rooted and sent to harm’s way.
If the Department of Homeland Security does not renew TPS, this will put hundreds of more Somali nationals in danger of being placed in removal proceedings, Ayoub told The Frontier.
The homeland security department renewed, but did not redesignate TPS for Somalis, allowing hundreds of Somalis to stay until March 2020. TPS protects foreign nationals already in the US when civil unrest, violence or natural disasters erupt in their home country.
TPS helps people to get employed, get drivers’ license as well as open bank accounts.
Somalia is one of the six Muslim-majority countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban. The country is still not safe for Somalis returning from the West.
Although Somalia is recovering from decades of unrest, it is still not safe, especially those returning from abroad. Al Shabab is still a threat and controls swathes of land and continues to target government installations as well as civilians.
US drones targeting al Shabab fighters are killing innocent Somalis in the process.
On March 28, a Somali deportee was among 15 killed when a car bomb exploded outside a hotel in Mogadishu’s Maka al Mukarama Road.
The new deportees could be become targets or get recruited into armed groups.
Somalia’s 2020 Electoral Options Include Direct Polls, But Reality Won’t Allow That
Organising such an election within the remaining eight months of the current parliament is unfeasible
In eight months, the term of the current Somalia parliament will end, and the president and his government will have five more months to leave office and hold an election, but the country still does not know which electoral model to take.
Somalia is in dilemma; it has two electoral options, one person, one vote and the clan system, each with its own risks. But some within the government and its international partners want to gamble and subject the country to universal suffrage although Somalia has not fulfilled any condition to hold this kind of election. Others fear the introduction of universal suffrage may make them lose power, which they enjoy now because of a clan power-sharing formula.
Somali clans share power through a system known as 4.5, where the main four clans share political power equally, and the minority ones share the remaining 0.5. Although major clans are satisfied with the application of this system, smaller clans feel that it does discriminate against them.
A free, fair and credible one person, one vote election is not only difficult to hold in either late 2020 or early 2021, but it is impossible considering the facts on the ground. Organising such an election within the remaining eight months of the current parliament is unfeasible.
For a credible one person, one man vote to take place in Somalia, parliament has to pass election and political parties laws, the constitutional review process must be completed, voters must be registered, a constitutional court to handle electoral dispute should be set up, the federal government and federal member states must reach a political agreement, and most importantly, security must be improved. None of these is in place right now.
Democratic elections require a peaceful environment. Al-Shabab remains a threat to Somalia’s democratisation process. Some parts of Somalia are still under al Shabab control, and people living there cannot participate in an election. The al-Qaeda-linked group, without doubt, will try to disrupt any form of an election the country pursues, but a direct poll is very risky. Civilians in urban areas where the government and the African Union mission control may fear to take part because of al Shabab threats that they will target polling centres and anyone who participates in the election.
Until today, al Shabab continues to target clan elders who participated in the 2016 elections, killing dozens of them.
Insecurity will also affect the operations of political parties that aim to take part in the next elections. The law requires them to open offices in half of the country’s provinces, some of which have significant al-Shabab presence.
The government may try to extend its term in office to ‘buy time to organise an election’ which will be a reputational risk for Somali’s statehood, and it could plunge the country back into crisis, jeopardizing gains made in the last few years. Opposition political parties have expressed their concern about a poll delay for another year or two.
In the absence of a universal suffrage election, the 4.5 model which is currently in place offers by far the most predictable path towards inclusivity in Somalia’s fragile post-conflict society.
Until an enabling environment suitable for a credible election is created, and an alternative election model, agreeable to all Somalis, is placed on the table, the clan system remains the stability factor for the country.
Somalia and its international partners must direct all efforts to secure the country and create effective public institutions to enable universal suffrage in 2024.
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