Somalia famine could cause militant Al Shabab group to splinter
The Somalia famine has exacerbated divisions within the Islamist militant group Al Shabab, whose more pragmatic leaders want to allow Western food aid into the areas they control.
(Page 2 of 2)
“Without that, what’s the point of being in Mogadishu?” Mr. Middleton asks. “It’s just a very expensive and dangerous place to be for the kudos of saying you’re controlling the capital. It makes sense to leave if you’ve lost the markets.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But Sheikh Mohamed Rage, Al Shabab’s spokesman, said the withdrawal from Mogadishu was part of a “change in tactics.”
One aid worker with long experience in Somalia said he feared Mogadishu would now become “more dangerous than ever.”
“They’ll sit outside the city and start sending in small groups to plant IEDs or blow themselves up randomly,” he said, refusing to be named for fear of jeopardizing the security of his staff in Somalia.
“When there was a front line, we knew where we were, to an extent. Now, it’s potentially just chaos.”
A recipe for acclerating Shabab's split
Matt Bryden, a veteran Somalia analyst and co-author of the Monitoring Group report, says the current situation does provide “an opportunity,” however.
The mandate of the transitional federal government (TFG), which is accused of deep corruption and is not popular in Somalia, expires in 11 months.
Several smaller armed groups have successfully repulsed Al Shabab and are beginning to run their territories with some level of success and peace, Mr. Bryden says. While the international community may be tempted to reinforce the unpopular TFG, that's not the right course, he says.
“What they should be doing is distancing themselves from the TFG, and working with other armed groups, and any more moderate split-off from Al Shabab, to create an open political framework ahead of next year.”
This would “accelerate” the separation of Al Shabab’s radical commanders from its more “pragmatic” leaders, he says.
There were some signs Tuesday that the TFG had in fact begun working towards that "open political framework."
The government said it was offering a "general amnesty to insurgent fighters remaining in Mogadishu who give themselves up and renounce violence," according to a statement reported by the French news agency Agence-France Presse.
"We offer an amnesty – put down your weapons and your guns, and come and join the people and your society," government spokesman Abdirahman Osman reportedly said. It was not immediately possible to verify the report.