Somalia is a country located in the region of Eastern Africa. Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since the dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has lost ground since 2011, but continues to fight the government in Mogadishu by force. In Northern Somaliland and to some extent Puntland, which more or less functions as independent units, is relatively calm. In the fall of 2016, parliamentary elections were held, where 14,000 clan elders and others appointed a new parliament. This, after many delays, elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”, in February 2017.
2012: Sheikh Mohamud takes over as president
When Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected President in 2012, there were high hopes that it would mean a fresh start for Somalia. The new president did not belong to the traditional elite in the country. In the presidential election, he not only succeeded in capturing the protest votes against Representative Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but also built alliances across the sound borders. Not least, optimism was great among the most important donors.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Somalia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
At first it seemed to be going well. The new president followed an action plan that would lay the foundations for sustainable development, where security issues, economic reconstruction and work to create reconciliation were given much room.
In addition, since al-Shabaab left Mogadishu in 2011, security in the capital had improved and, step by step, Amisom and the government forces began to take control of an increasing number of cities. In 2012, Amisom, under Kenyan command, Kismayo, who for many years was one of al-Shabaab’s strongest holdings (see also Finance). At the same time, the Islamist group was weakened by internal contradictions.
But government work soon stopped. Like its representatives on the transition boards, the president ended up in crippling power struggles with his head of government. At the end of 2014, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke became Somalia’s third prime minister in just over two years.
The process of merging old regions into new states also created friction. In the south, clashes broke out between rival clan militia in 2013, when both Adan Barre Hiiraale and Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe) declared themselves Presidents of Jubbaland (sometimes spelled Jubaland). The conflict was resolved after a few months through an interim agreement between the government and the “Land”. Madobe could remain, but could not retain the title of president. The election of Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni militia was accused of assaulting civilians, triggered demonstrations in several cities.
The more pressured the president became, the more influence he gave to people from his own clan hawiye. And like the previous transition boards, the government was accused of corruption.
New wave of violence
From 2013, violence rose again. Almost daily attacks occurred, not least in Mogadishu, and although some of the killings were committed by others, al-Shabaab often took on the blame for them. The Islamist group was also better armed than before and the death demanded more and more human lives. A series of assaults were carried out near the presidential palace and the hotel where both government ministries and foreign diplomats resided.
In addition, al-Shabaab carried out several terrorist attacks in Kenya. One of the most spectacular was targeted in September 2013 at a shopping mall in a prosperous area in Nairobi, demanding 67 deaths. Another attack was carried out in 2015 against a university in Kenyan Garissa in northeastern Kenya, when 148 Christian Kenyans were killed.
Amisom and the government forces continued to take over cities and villages previously controlled by al-Shabaab in 2014 and 2015. But it was unclear if they could really guarantee the safety of the people in these areas. It seemed as though al-Shabaab often just left without a fight as the troops advanced, and then returned and committed new acts of violence.
A cloud of concern was that the EU from 2015 reduced its funding for the AU force. In the spring of 2016, Kenya threatened to leave Amisom unless another actor pushed for more money, and to close two large camps for Somali refugees (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).
In 2016, the military attacks against people in high positions within al-Shabaab increased. According to the American analysis company Stratfor, this was partly due to the fact that some Somali defense units had been professionalized and could offer better intelligence material than before. Among other things, three of the Islamist group’s leaders were killed in a Somali / US raid in early September 2016. However, this had not led to any significant reduction in al-Shabaab’s attacks, which often target the civilian population.
Parliamentary elections 2016
The lack of democratic progress led from 2014 to an increasingly harsh domestic criticism of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. In July 2015, however, the government and Parliament agreed that the general elections that would have been held in 2016 were not possible because of the poor security situation. Hard discussions were held on how to choose a new political leadership. The Darod clan advocated a solution in which district representatives would appoint MPs and presidents. However, the district subdivision that was made under Siad Barre’s rule is considered to benefit therefrom in a way that other clans cannot accept. Hawiye and several smaller clans pleaded instead to do so through a large meeting with clan elders, which would be better organized than what was held in 2012. Finally, it was agreed that 14,000 clan elders and regional leaders would appoint a parliament with 275 members. This, in turn, would elect the president.
According to the schedule, parliamentary elections would be held in August 2016 and presidential elections a month later. However, the parliamentary elections were postponed twice, partly because of conflicts over which candidates would be allowed to stand. At the end of September, it was decided that it would be held between October 23 and November 10. Most observers, however, seemed to agree that the election would not change much, and that it would not be the important step towards increased democracy that had been promised. But the hope is that the new upper house to be appointed by representatives from the regions will be better at linking the government of Mogadishu with the various regional governments abroad.
However, the entire process was delayed and laced with accusations of vote buying, harassment and threats (money should also have been invested so that a candidate could not be elected). According to the magazine Africa Confidential, the group around the president had tried to get rid of candidates from the former parliament who were not bribed by supporting their counter-candidates.
By November 29, only about half of the lower house’s 275 members had been appointed, and 43 of the 54 in the higher chamber. One reason why members are missing is that Somaliland has chosen not to participate, so the 45 seats reserved for Somali nationals have not been added. However, it looked as if it would meet the goal that 30 percent of MPs would be women. This was largely done by more influential clans paying sub-clans or others with less power to elect women as their representatives.
Change of presidential post
The new parliament would elect the president on November 30, but the election was postponed several times. The UN and various international donors tried to speed up the process. Most judges believed that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would be re-elected, but when the election was last held in February, he was defeated with clear numbers by former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”. Farmaajo is both Somali and American citizen and was Somalia’s Prime Minister in 2010–2011.
During his tenure as prime minister, Farmaajo created, among other things, a commission to combat corruption and banned all unnecessary trips abroad for ministers. After leaving the government, Farmaajo and several other former ministers formed a political party Quality (Tayo). After his victory in the presidential election, he now promised to try to persuade Somalis abroad to return to their home country to assist in the reconstruction of the country.
He is considered to be more free from foreign interests than his representative, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who probably lost votes because of the support he received from Ethiopia. Farmaajo is popular with many Somalis and is considered to have military support. During his time as prime minister, he made sharp statements against the corruption in the country. He was forced to leave the government after a power struggle. His departure then triggered protests in Mogadishu.
But even though Farmaajo is believed to have been less corrupt than many other Somali ministers during his time in government, he was accused, according to the magazine Africa Confidential, of bringing over $ 9,000 a week to a US account.
The choice of Farmaajo is considered to be the result of nationalist movements in Somalia and a hope that one can solve their problems without foreign intervention. At the same time, the government continues to depend on foreign aid, both military and economic.
At the same time, warnings that Somalia again appeared to suffer severe famine due to the lack of rain. The situation was exacerbated, just like 2011, by the threat from al-Shabaab. The new president said after taking office that he would place great priority on measures to prevent famine. The conflict means that Somalia lacks the social protection network that, after all, exists in other drought-stricken countries in the region. According to the UN, nearly 3 million people are at risk of starvation.
At a conference in London, May 2017, the government signed a security agreement, the New Partnership Pact, with several of the countries supporting the reconstruction of the country. According to the government, until October of that year, the government pledged to merge the country’s various defense and police forces into a uniform army of 18,000 men (however, there are no official figures on the size of the army today), to build up national and local police forces in total 32,000 men and a coastguard force. The president also urged the outside world to lift arms embargo on Somalia in order for the government forces to defeat al-Shabaab. He promised that they would be able to defeat the Islamist militia within two years, but did not appear to be hearing their demands. A roadmap was also made to allow elections to be held in 2021. Then the own defense forces should also be able to take over from Amisom.
As it is now, several of the regional and local forces that have been reluctant to submit to a national army. Somaliland has made it clear that you do not intend to participate. And just days after the president’s return from London, SNA soldiers occupied the Department of Defense buildings in Mogadishu to demand payment (they claimed they had received no pay for several months). Few progresses had been made until the fall of 2017, when al-Shabaab had quickly managed to advance its positions, including taking control of the strategically located city of Barire, three, four miles from the capital since it was abandoned by government soldiers in what appears to be a protest that some of them had not received any salary for several months.
However, after two attacks in Mogadishu in October, which claimed more than 350 lives, people in the capital, dressed in red headbands and shawls, gathered to protest the terrorist group in a way that had not occurred before. However, al-Shabaab had not taken up the deed. The first bomb exploded near the Ministry of Education and Foreign Affairs, but it was also speculated that a new military base, built by Turkey, a little further afield, or several large hotels could have been the main target.
According to a report by the International Crisis Group in October 2017, it was not primarily that al-Shabaab was strong but that the government side was weak, not least because of tensions between clans, between the new states and the central government, and a great dissatisfaction with the widespread corruption that could be exploited by the Islamists. The situation was exacerbated by the conflict between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other, which among other things resulted in the latter suspending its budget support to the Somali government (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).
In December 2017, the United States also withdrew wage and fuel support for 10,000 Somali army soldiers to persuade the government to intervene in widespread corruption in the military. It is likely to further undermine the President’s control over the SNA. Farmaajo, who belongs to a subclan to darod, needs the money to make sure that the SNA soldiers continue to be loyal to him despite the fact that most of them belong to the hawiie clan.
Read more about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Head of State
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire (2017–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
a new parliament, appointed by a group of elders, took office in August 2012
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
no general elections have been held since 1969
no general elections are held
no general elections are planned
Pirates hijacking vessels off the Somali coast became a major problem from 2005. The first Somali pirates were often fishermen who armed themselves and demanded some kind of tax from foreign fishing fleets illegally fishing in the area. In retrospect, the pirates acquired increasingly heavy weapons and hijacked vessels of all kinds to demand the owners for ransom. Since 2012, the number of acts of piracy has decreased significantly, thanks in large part to the fact that foreign warships have begun to patrol the vulnerable area.
It was after four vessels were hijacked in 2005 that the piracy business took off. Although ransom was not paid for all four, the pirates received a total of $ 1 million for two of them. The problems were most severe in 2010–2011, when several hundred incidents (and 47 and 25 vessel creations, respectively) were reported from the waters outside the Horn of Africa, according to figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Often the whole crew was taken hostage and for a period the pirates held a total of 750 people. Most of them have been released later.
The World Bank has estimated that the pirates earned more than $ 400 million in ransom payments between 2005 and 2012.
Initially, the pirates started from bases in Puntland or the Mudug region in the northeast, but gradually more and more people were also involved from other parts of the coast, with the exception of Somaliland. Many of the pirates were young and uneducated and had few other opportunities to earn a few large sums. According to some sources, for a period of time, there were about 1,500 pirates who worked primarily for seven to ten syndicates.
About 12 percent of all freight traffic at sea and 30 percent of all oil transports pass the waters outside the Horn of Africa. This has made ship shipments a costly history. According to a report from the organization Oceans Beyond Piracy, efforts against the piracy cost $ 6 billion in 2012 and just over $ 3 billion in 2013.
How much has been paid out in ransom is unclear, but according to a study from consulting firm Geopolicy, it was between $ 75 million and $ 238 million in 2010. The revenue allowed the pirates to invest in new equipment. In retrospect, they acquired more and more weapons, and at the same time became more violent.
One reason for the decline in piracy is that the EU, NATO, the US, India, Russia, China, Japan and the Persian Gulf countries have sent warships to patrol the waters off the Somali coast. It has also become more common for shipping companies to use private security companies to protect their vessels. The shipping companies have also changed their routes to avoid being hit.
In 2012, the EU force for the first time scared the pirates’ bases inside Somalia and destroyed a number of racing boats.
The presence of the warships in the region initially seemed to lead the Somali pirates to attack ships in the Red Sea or further out into the Indian Ocean. They also used “motherships” which served as a platform for the smaller boats that are often used in hijacking attempts.
The military operations also meant that more suspected pirates were arrested and brought to trial, both in various African countries, but also in Europe and the United States. Among other things, the Seychelles and Kenya have an agreement with Somalia which means that suspected pirates can be deported to their home country.
At the same time, efforts were made to find alternative employment for the groups where the pirates recruit their crew.
In 2012, the number of hijackings and attempts had been reduced to 75 and to 15 in 2013 (two vessels were hijacked that year, but the pirates left them after military intervention). In 2018, not a single vessel was hijacked according to IMB, but several tankers were fired that year.