Key decisions evoke doubt on Somalia's anti-Shabaab drive

Saturday August 31 2019

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed attends the first joint European Union and Arab League summit at the International Congress Centre in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on February 24, 2019. His administration was recently faced with claims of infiltration by Al-Shabaab elements. PHOTO | MOHAMED EL-SHAHED | AFP


Critics have questioned the stand of Somalia on the fight against Al-Shabaab after Mogadishu made two decisions against Kenya, as a new report detailed continued revenue collection by the group under the nose of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s - alias Farmaajo- government.

The federal government on Thursday directed planes heading to Jubaland capital of Kismayu to first land in Mogadishu for “clearance”.

With Kenyan forces, part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), stationed and guarding Kismayu airport as well as Dhobley, the order was seen as targeting Nairobi.

The Notice to Airmen issued by the Somali Federal Civil Aviation Authority did not specify if only civilian aircraft were affected.


The move could essentially curtail operations of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). “It targets Kenya and may well be intended to slow down Kenya’s supplies and logistical support to its Amisom camps in Dhobley and Kismayu,” Idd Bedel Mohammed, a former Somali diplomat, told the Sunday Nation.


“It is targeting Jubaland in the wake of defiance. But it is discriminatory and may backfire if clans feel they are being targeted,” he said, referring to the re-election of Jubaland President Ahmed Islam Mohamed, alias Madobe.

Despite Mogadishu annulling the results, Kenya recognised his victory.

In response to the order, Kenya stopped giving entry visas at Wajir airport to passengers from Somalia.

Traditionally, Kenya had required planes from Somalia to Nairobi to first land in Wajir for "security clearance".


But Somalia still had other disagreements on counter-terrorism policy.

On Wednesday, it successfully lobbied the UN Security Council to block Kenya’s proposal to tighten sanctions against Al-Shabaab and place the group in the same league as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

If successful, Kenya’s proposal would have restricted even humanitarian aid to Shabaab strongholds, choking the group off key revenue sources: taxes from relief aid.

Yet Somalia, which has worked with Kenya in the past, lobbied – with help of US activists – Belgium, Poland, Germany, Kuwait and the US - to vote down the proposal.

Opponents of the idea argued that it would have criminalised humanitarian aid, even though Nairobi said limiting Shabaab access to relief could influence defections and weaken the group.


Aid groups say about 2.2 million people in Somalia face starvation, and the UN says it needs about $1.5 billion (Ksh155 billion) to feed them.

Pressed to explain, Somalia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Abubakar Dahir Osman told a radio station that Kenya had sustained Shabaab’s source of revenue by abetting illegal charcoal trade.

“We urge the Kenyan Government to implement Security Council Resolution 751 targeting Al-Shabaab, including the ban on illegal charcoal trade,” he later tweeted.

The KDF has on numerous occasions rejected the accusations of being involved in the trade, insisting it does not control Kismayu port.

But Somalia’s stance could be ironic, critics say, after a report emerged showing Al-Shabaab is in fact raising more revenue in the areas controlled by Farmaajo.


According to "Investigative Dossier", a programme on VoA Somali Service, Al-Shabaab has been extorting traders at Mogadishu port, land and property sales as well as taxing businesspeople at Bakaraha market in Mogadishu.

A thriving Shabaab taxation, argued Abdirizak Mohamed – an MP in the federal parliament – should jolt authorities. “The depth of revenue generation by Al-Shabaab is inconceivable,” he said.

The report came just after Wadajir Party, a political movement in Somalia led by a former Planning Minister, sensationally claimed authorities were either complicit or simply unaware of Shabaab’s thriving taxation in Somalia.

“Why is the government focusing on attempts to close Kismayu airspace while it lets al-Shabaab have its way? Do they work together?” Wadajir leader Abdishakur Abdirahman asked.

President Farmaajo’s administration was also recently faced with claims of infiltration within key departments, indicating a possible placement of Al-Shabaab informers.


It came to the bare on July 24 when Mogadishu mayor Abdirahman ‘Yariisow’ Omar Osman was killed in his office by one of his aides.

The bomber was a blind woman who had served on his team as a coordinator for services to the disabled.

“The government's long-running battle to subdue the al-Qaida-linked militants has been hobbled by Al-Shabaab's infiltration of state agencies, offices and security teams,” VoA said.

In the case of the mayor, it turned out that the bomber – identified as Basira Abdi Mohamed – and her accomplices, had used false identification to secure government jobs. They were still agents of the terror group.