Gorfayn Weekly Briefs, Thursday 31 August 2023

The president of Somaliland, opposition leader, and speaker of House of Representatives speak to the media about the overrun of Gooja’ade base. Photo: Somaliland Govt Spokesperson FB

Executive Summary:
This week saw several key developments in Somali politics and security. Tensions flared in parliament over finalising the constitution without representation from Somaliland, underscoring divisions between the northern regions and the Federal Government. Meanwhile, the National Consultative Council convened to establish a joint command against al-Shabaab, representing rare consensus among federal and regional leaders. However, Puntland rejected the federal government’s ban on social media platforms like TikTok.
       On security, al-Shabaab reclaimed the strategic town of Wabho after government forces unexpectedly withdrew earlier this week, prompting questions. Separately, the African Union continued reducing its peacekeeping presence, announcing plans to withdraw 3,000 more troops in September. A top al-Shabaab commander also defected and surrendered. Economically, the ISIS and al-Shabaab extortion campaign spread to Bosaaso, with construction companies forced to close after failing to meet demands. This nearly paralysed the commercial centre of Puntland. In Kenya, police detained an al-Shabaab suspect near the Somali border as part of efforts to crack down on cross-border attacks. Overall, Somalia continues to grapple with instability amid both political divisions and ongoing terrorist threats.

Click here to download the full brief

Highlights of the week:
       Somali Parliament Grapples with Constitutional Finalisation Amid Regional Tensions
In a session held on Monday, the Somali Parliament aimed to discuss the finalisation of the country’s constitution. However, the meeting was overshadowed by deep divisions among Members of Parliament (MPs), particularly concerning the northern regions known as Somaliland. The absence of Somaliland from the constitutional discussions became a point of contention. Several MPs contended that the constitution could not be debated or finalised without the participation of representatives from Somaliland. Adding to the complexity, there was no consensus among parliamentarians on how to define these northern regions.

Joint command established to intensify war against al-Shabaab in Somalia
       Leaders from the Federal Government and Federal Member States of Somalia have reached a consensus to establish a joint command structure to oversee the ongoing war against the extremist group al-Shabaab. The decision was made during a meeting of the National Consultative Council (NCC), chaired by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Dhusamareb, which concluded yesterday. The NCC, a high-level forum, brings together key stakeholders such as the President, Prime Minister, Federal Member States presidents, and the Banaadir Regional Governor. President Mohamud, who has been stationed in Dhusamareb for the past three weeks, has been personally overseeing the relentless efforts to combat al-Shabaab.

Puntland rejects FGS directives banning TikTok, Telegram, and 1XBet
       On Wednesday, speaking at a press conference in Garowe, Mohamoud Aidid Dirir, the Minister of Information and Technology of Puntland boycotted the Federal Ministry of Technology’s decision to ban the popular social media platforms. TikTok and Telegram, as well as the betting app 1XBet, will not be used from August 24, said the Somali government this week, citing immoral and horrific content on the online sites.

        Puntland VP visits Laas Aanood as Somaliland vows to ‘defend territory’
Puntland Vice President Ahmed Karaash visited the restive town of Laas Aanood and neighbouring areas on Tuesday following the expulsion of Somaliland forces from the conflict-ridden town as Somaliland vows revenge. Mr. Karaash told journalists that the visit was aimed at assessing the situation in the town which has been the scene of deadly violence and war since the beginning of this year. The visit follows a defiant stance by Somaliland after the SCC-Khatumo fighters who are allegedly backed by Puntland took control of the strategic Gooja’adde area which has been hosting Somaliland forces.

SSC-Khatumo forces seize instrumental military bases from Somaliland army
       Following a fierce battle on Friday morning between the Somaliland army and SCC forces, SSC-Khatumo forces have taken control of two vital military bases on the outskirts of Laas Aanood town. Local reporters were informed by a military representative for the SCC-Khatumo administration that the SCC forces had taken over the Gooja’adde and Maraaga bases, where the Somaliland army had previously fired mortar shells toward Laas Aanood town.

UN Calls for Expansion of Civic Space in Somalia
       The United Nations has called upon authorities in Somalia to expand civic space within the country. Officials from the UN issued this call on Friday at the closing ceremony of a 2-day symposium in Mogadishu. The symposium was organised by the Somali Women and Child Care Association (SWCCA) and the UN Somalia Assistance Mission (UNSOM). The symposium ran from August 23-25. Furthermore, participants at the symposium called for enhancement of human rights advocacy.

El Nino Threatens Lives of over 1.2 million Somalis
       The impending El Nino climate is a huge threat to over 1.2 million Somalis in the country. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued this warning recently. FAO added El Nino could land in the country any time soon. Somalia would not be the only country affected by the El Nino phenomenon, though. Horn of Africa countries are all at risk. Consequently, FAO is to implement a raft of measures in anticipation of the arrival of El Nino. Some of these include closing 937 meters of breakage points found along River Shabelle.

International partners call for unconditional ceasefire in Laas Aanood
       The International partners issued a joint statement on Sunday to strongly condemn the escalation of conflict in Laas Aanood, including reports of fighting spreading outside the town. “We urge all sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. We call for an end to the mobilization of fighters and to the provision of supplies and armaments,” they said. The foreign diplomatic missions expressed deep concern about reports of large numbers of detainees and expected those involved to abide by human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Major Inferno Destroys Jowhar Market
       A major inferno has reduced Jowhar market to ashes. The inferno destroyed much of the district market to ruins on Monday. Numerous traders are now counting their losses after the blaze destroyed their shops. Property of unknown value was destroyed.

Highlight of the Week:
       Al-Shabaab Militants Reclaim Wabho District After Somali Government Troops Withdrawal
In a surprising turn of events, militants belonging to the al-Shabaab group have reclaimed the strategically significant Wabho district, which had been recently liberated by Somali nationals, according to local sources. The peaceful recapture took place after the Somali Federal Government troops withdrew on Monday morning, leaving the district vulnerable to the militants’ advance. Just days before, Wabho had been firmly under the control of the federal forces, serving as a vital stronghold in the Galgaduud region. The decision by the government to pull back its troops from Wabho has left many puzzled, as the rationale behind this move remains enigmatic.

Somalia Military Offensive Suffers Setback as Troops Retreat
       Somali government forces Monday retreated from towns and villages captured in recent months after the al-Shabaab militant group carried out a deadly attack on a newly captured base in the village of Owsweyne. Two Somali government officials who did not want to be identified because they are not allowed to comment on sensitive military operations told VOA Somali that government troops retreated from Eel Dheer, Masagawaay, Gal’ad and Budbud. Without naming towns, Somali government commander Major Ismail Abdimalik said troops pulled back from some previously captured areas.

Talks start on second phase of ATMIS troops drawdown from Somalia
       Senior officials of the African Union, Somalia, and the United Nations have started consultative meetings to deliberate on the upcoming second phase of the troop drawdown in September, the AU mission said. The AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is expected to scale down its troop numbers next month by a further 3,000 personnel after successfully withdrawing 2,000 troops and handing over six military bases in June. Mohammed El-Amine Souef, the special representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and head of the ATMIS, said a joint technical committee with its membership from the ATMIS, the government, and the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) has been meeting to map out the military bases where the 3,000 troops will be drawn from.

African Union peacekeeping mission to withdraw 3,000 more troops from Somalia
       The African Union peacekeeping mission will withdraw 3,000 more troops from Somalia, its commander said on Tuesday. “Preparations for the second phase of the withdrawal of 3,000 ATMIS (African Union Transition Mission in Somalia) troops by the end of September are underway,” Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding told journalists in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The first batch of 2,000 peacekeeping troops left the country earlier this year as part of the Somalia Transition Plan (STP), a guide developed by the Somalia government and its partners to transfer security responsibility to Somali armed forces.

Top al-Shabaab leader defects, surrenders to Somali army forces
       A senior leader of al-Shabab has defected from the group and surrendered to Somali army forces in north-central Somalia on Tuesday, as reported by the government. The defector, Nur Abdullahi Maalinguur, known as Nur Deeq, was the top commander of the group’s fighters in the Mudug region. He was presented to the media in the Wisil district. Minister of Interior, Federal Affairs and Reconciliation Ahmed Moallim Fiqi told local media that the defector played a central role in the most intense conflict between government forces and militants in the Mudug region.

ISIS closes commercial centres in Bosaaso over extortion money
       In a chilling development, Bosaaso, the thriving business centre of Puntland, has now succumbed to the control of the notorious terrorist groups, ISIS and al-Shabaab. With a strong foothold in one of the mountainous areas of the Bari region, these extremist factions are relentlessly extorting money from the local businessmen, paralysing the economic heartbeat of the city. Several construction equipment companies, including Omaar, Horseed, and Tawfiiq have been forced to close their doors in recent days following failed negotiations with ISIS. Meanwhile, Garowe Online has obtained information that reveals that businesses complying with the extortion demands continue to operate as usual, but under a shadow of constant fear.

Kenya investigates al-Shabaab suspect over terror activities
       Kenya police said Saturday that they are questioning an al-Shabaab suspect who was apprehended on Friday from his hideaway in Kenya’s Mandera district, near the border with Somalia. The police said that Ibrahim Ali Mursal, 33 was arrested from his house following a tip-off from members of the public. The police said the manhunt for other terror suspects who are still at large has been intensified in the area which borders Somalia. The police have blamed local al-Shabaab sympathizers for the attacks in the region which have always targeted security personnel and civil servants including teachers. The East African nation shares a porous border with Somalia and many times the insurgents have carried out cross-border attacks.

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.

Somalia: Is the Climate Crisis a Hoax?

In the middle of endless debates and opposing opinions on the climate crisis, one question persists: is it all just a hoax?

Foreign Interference Threatens Somalia’s Economic Diversification

In discussions concerning Somalia, it has become cliche to preface with an acknowledgment of the country's enduring struggle with prolonged conflicts spanning the past three decades.

Somali Public Discourse: A Cesspool of Intolerance and Hatred

Since the beginning of the Sool region conflict and the signing of the infamous MoU between Ethiopia and Somaliland, the discourse surrounding Somaliland’s independence has reached unprecedented levels of polarization among Somalis.