Gorfayn Weekly Briefs, Thursday 27 July 2023

Puntland Parliament
Parliament in Puntland votes to amend the constitution | Photo: Puntland Parliament Facebook page

Executive Summary:
This week saw several notable political developments in Somalia. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is planning to attend the Russia-Africa Summit and meet with President Vladimir Putin, seeking to bolster bilateral ties and request weapons to combat Islamist insurgents. Meanwhile, Puntland’s parliament voted unanimously to approve a constitutional amendment allowing universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous state for the first time, while South West State President Laftagareen reshuffled his cabinet amid pressure over the al-Shabaab threat. However, Somalia denied being in talks with Kenya to resolve their maritime border dispute despite reports that President Ruto had asked Djibouti to mediate. In the security sphere, al-Shabaab’s bombing of a Mogadishu military base killed 30 soldiers, its highest toll yet, while the militants also seized the strategic town of Goofgaduud near Baidoa. The group ended its blockade of Baidoa after two weeks, allegedly following negotiations with traders, though the government denied any deal. As Somalia prepares further military operations against al-Shabaab, the US pledged new bases for Somali special forces while Kenya deployed more troops to the border. Overall, Somalia continues to grapple with the al-Shabaab insurgency and builds international military support to counter it.

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Highlights of the week:
     1. Somalia’s president heads to Russia
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is planning to travel to Russia where he is set to attend Russia-Africa Summit amid an escalating standoff between Moscow and the West. The trip was earlier confirmed by the Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs Abshir Omar Huruse, who had travelled to Russia in May, urging Moscow to provide weapons and ammunition to help the fight against the insurgents. President Mohamud is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit, discussing issues, including bilateral ties.
     2. Puntland parliament endorses constitutional amendment motion
The lawmakers of Puntland have voted unanimously to approve a motion which paves the way for an amendment of the state constitution. During Tuesday’s session, 54 MPs out of 60 present voted in favour of the amendment while 6 rejected the motion. No abstentions, per the house leadership. The decision comes as Puntland stakeholders are in a deadlock over the amendment which led to a deadly confrontation between government and pro-opposition forces in Garowe. The parliament supports the current president’s plan to hold universal suffrage in Puntland for the first time in history since the establishment of the state in 1998. Puntland located in north-eastern Somalia is considered to be the most stable regional state in the country when compared to the south where al-Shabaab has a large presence.
     3. South West State president swears in new ministers
The President of the Southwest state Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed (Laftagareen) attended the swearing-in ceremony of the new members of the cabinet in Baidoa on Sunday. The Acting Speaker of the Parliament and other dignitaries were present at the event at the state house, where the new members of the Council of Ministers took the oath. The President, who spoke at the ceremony urged the ministers to shine in the responsibilities they were entrusted with and serve their state efficiently. Laftagareen has reshuffled his cabinet following a decree from his office on July 23, 2023, the first time since his election in late 2018. It came amid pressure over al-Shabaab war. The Somali government has denounced a blockade by al-Shabaab on the southwestern town of Baidoa. The group has reportedly cut off supplies to the area since Tuesday. The Somali authorities say al-Shabaab blockade worsens drought-related hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa nation, where at least 8 million are facing humanitarian catastrophe.
     4. Somalia denies mediation offer with Kenyan over maritime dispute
Somalia says it will not accept mediation over a maritime dispute with Kenya, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided in October 2021. Somalia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali Mohamed Omar told a committee of MPs that Somalia was not in any talks with Kenya to resolve the dispute. The issue had been raised on Saturday by a member of the parliamentary committee who sought clarification from the Federal Government following reports that Kenya’s President William Ruto had asked his Djiboutian counterpart, Omar Ismael Guelleh, to help broker the deal.
     5. Central Bank Directors resign following Governor’s reappointment
Three non-executive directors of the Somali central bank have tendered their resignations following the reappointment of Governor Abdirahman Mohammed Abdullahi for a second four-year term. Sakhawadin Mustafe Mohamed, Osman Salad Gabeyre, and Àbdisamad Nur Hassan, members of the highly praised Independent Board of Directors, noted the reappointment of Governor Abdirahman as the primary reason for their departure. They have lost confidence in the Governor’s leadership of the Bank. Mr Abdirahman was appointed to the post of CBS Governor in a controversial manner by Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre in 2019.

Highlight of the Week:
     1. Death toll hits 30 in Somalia military base bombing
The death toll in al-Shabaab’s suicide bombing at a military training base in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, has hit 30 authorities confirmed, with nine more soldiers succumbing to their injuries in Monday’s deadly attack which has been claimed by the Al-Qaida linked group. On its part, the al-Shabaab militants are claiming that over 70 soldiers who were undergoing training had died, adding that several others were injured in the deadly attack. The al-Shabaab militants are, however, fond of exaggerating figures as they strive to propagate propaganda in the war which they are almost losing.
     2. Al-Shabaab seizes Goofgaduud village
Al-Shabaab militants have seized a strategic village in Somalia, multiple sources have confirmed, in the latest incident which comes at the time the Horn of Africa nation is preparing the second phase of operations against the group. According to sources, al-Shabaab managed to successfully challenge Somali National Army (SNA) at Goofgaduud, a village situated at least 30 kilometres from Baidoa, the regional administrative capital of Southwest state of Somalia.
     3. Al-Shabaab reportedly ends Baidoa blockade, government denies deal
The militant group al-Shabaab has ended the near two-week-long blockade of Baidoa following reports of negotiations with local traders. Sources in Baidoa say the group released trucks to access the town on Friday evening after blocking them since July 11. Sources noted that a group of traders had opened channels of negotiations with al-Shabaab to allow the movement of goods following an escalating crisis in the town as prices shot up amid an already fragile humanitarian situation. However, a spokesman for South West state denied there were any talks with al-Shabaab over the blockade. Sources say the government was planning an operation at Mooda-Moode, where the militants are reported to have erected barriers.
     4. Somali Local government official dies from blast at Jowhar livestock market
A local government official from Jowhar district, Dahir Mohamed Kaanti, succumbed to injuries sustained in a landmine explosion at the livestock market in Jowhar on Saturday. Reports indicate that the explosion also injured several soldiers from the regional government forces. The incident occurred during a bustling time at the livestock market in Jowhar. Security forces conducted investigations at the scene but refrained from immediately commenting on the blast. Furthermore, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack at this time.
     5. US promises to establish new bases for Somalia’s army
US embassy in Somalia said on Friday Washington will establish new military bases for Danab Somali special forces amid an ongoing fight against Islamist militants. In a tweet, US embassy said a meeting with Somali officials focused on “strengthening US support for Somalia’s security by establishing new military bases for SNA Danab.” “Grateful to be working with Somalia in enhancing regional stability,” it added.
     6. Families demand AU to compensate for injuries and loss of lives before troops leave Somalia
The African Union (AU) must compensate families who lost their loved ones in African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops operations, several contacts have told Voice of America’s investigative programme known as the Dossier, just as the peacekeepers start the drawdown process. According to the Dossier, families whose loved ones were either killed or maimed by ATMIS troops now want the AU to immediately compensate them before the forces leave the country. ATMIS recorded over 70 cases where civilians have lost their lives, injured, or had their properties damaged in incidents involving AU peacekeepers.
     7. 60% of Mandera is under al-Shabaab control, claims Mandera Governor
Mandera Governor Mohamed Adan Khalif has revealed that 60 per cent of the county is under the control of al-Shabaab militants. According to Mohamed, the militants’ presence has impacted how services are delivered across the country. He spoke at a security meeting where leaders called for coordinated action to combat the terrorist during an upsurge in the north-eastern region by al-Shabaab. Regional commissioners and members of the county intelligence committees from the four counties that border Kenya and Somalia attended the security meeting. The increased frequency of attacks by al-Shabaab was discussed by leaders from areas affected by terror attacks.
     8. Kenya deploys more soldiers along Somalia’s border
Kenya has deployed more soldiers along the common border with Somalia, with the country now stemming efforts to defeat al-Shabaab militants, who have been encroaching north-eastern region, killing several security officers in the process. Sources from the Ministry of Defence said the soldiers will be stationed at 14 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) along the border, with others expected to be withdrawn from Somalia in compliance with Somali Transition Plan (STP) that will affect peacekeepers.

With our keen focus on accurate, insightful, and comprehensive coverage, Gorfayn Weekly Briefs aims to keep you well-informed on the shifting dynamics of power, policy reform, security measures, and peacekeeping efforts, delivering a clear-eyed understanding of the complexities shaping the nation’s progress.

Copyright: Gorfayn (2023). This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this publication.

The Gorfayn Team
The Gorfayn Teamhttp://gorfayn.org
Gorfayn is your home for fact-based analysis on Somali politics, public policy, and security.

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