Somalia’s security situation in crisis amid political uncertainty

The political impasse over when and how the next Somalian election will be conducted, coupled with the increasing number of attacks from the Islamist terrorist group, al-Shabaab, has put Somalia on an unpredictable path.

In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, no one seems to know where the next terror attack will come from. On Friday, 25 people were killed and many others injured when al-Shabaab militants targeted a popular restaurant. Before that, suspected al-Shabaab insurgents stormed the central prison in Bosaso city in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region. At least eight soldiers were killed, and more than 400 inmates were released from captivity.

Puntland’s military officials later said they had recaptured 87 of the hundreds of inmates that the armed Islamist extremists had freed.

“When you look at the atrocities perpetrated by terrorist groups in Mogadishu, it is very obvious al-Shabaab is taking advantage of the political unrest and the election impasse, Abdullahi Hashi, a Somali security expert, told DW.

“If this is not addressed urgently, jihadists will continue to launch deadly attacks”

Political standoff continues

Tensions are still running high among the central federal government, two federal member states, and various opposition groups. Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s mandate ended on February 8.

The need for a fresh elections and new leadership is urgent, opposition presidential candidate Omar Abdulkadir said: “The mandate of government institutions, both the executive and the legislative, have expired. What we are witnessing now is uncertainty,” Abdulkadir told DW.

“We all need to know how long the outgoing administration will be in power and when the election will take place.”

No more US drone strikes?

On Monday, the United States military announced that US President Joe Biden had suspended drone strikes in Somalia, stopping military offences in countries where the US is not militarily engaged. Consequently, any such operation outside Afganistan, Iraq, or Syria would now have to get approval from the White House.

Former US President Donald Trump had largely left the decision on drone attacks to commanders on the ground. According to the New America Foundation, during Trump’s four-year-tenure, the US unleashed a total of 208 drone strikes in Somalia. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, had ordered only 43 airstrikes against al-Shabaab.

Human rights organizations have frequently criticized the US, saying the drone attacks had killed many innocent lives in the process.

Searching for solutions

Somali civil society groups and the country’s international partners, including the US and UN, are now pushing for renewed talks between Somalia’s warring clans. “The people of Somalia desperately need peace, prosperity, and development,” Abdi Dahir, a civil society activist, told DW.

“The opposition groups and the government should come together at the soonest and resolve the issues surrounding the national elections through dialogue,” Dahir added.

Since Somalia’s former dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in January 1991, Somali leaders have been warring with various clans in the countryfor more than three decades now. The main issues between the governments and the clans are the distribution of resources, military and political power.

The UN, AU, and other international partners have been seeking to bring stability to the war-torn nation for years — with little success.