Issue 1, Volume 21
Mogadishu (Sunatimes) And when they were up, they were up, and when
they were down, they were down ... oh, hang on, that is the Grand Old Duke of
York's men, not the bewildered forces of al-Shabaab, although they must be
feeling just as confused as the poor souls being callously and pointlessly
marched up and down a hill.
After al-Shabaab pulling out of Mogadishu as
"new tactics" just a few months back, the Islamist group now has new
"new tactics", which involvemarching their men straight
back into Mogadishuto retake all the positions they abandoned.
It's a tactic somewhat akin to unceremoniously
dumping your supermodel, Mensa-member, heiress girlfriend, only to understand
what a horrendous mistake you have made and then spend months trying to woo her
back from the rather more attractive boyfriend who picked her up immediately.
What exactly lay behind this change of heart is hard to say, although it's a
fair bet that al-Shabaab has realized that leaving government and AU troops with
little to do in Mogadishu (apart from robbing internally displaced people,killing each other over
checkpoint controls, and failing to stop trucks packed with
explosives blowing themselves up) may prompt their leaders to get big ideas
about spreading out from the capital.
The meeting of insurgent leaders that decided on
the new direction came after the TFG and AMISOM last weekendtook over more of the small
territory left to al-Shabaabin
Mogadishu. Witnesses say the insurgents then beganbarricading the Afgoye
corridorfor fear attack
There may also be the motivation that moving
forces to other parts of Somalia has not resulted in the territorial gains, or
entrenchment that al-Shabaab hoped for. Yes, the insurgents have been launching
attacks outside the capital, but theyhave only lost more ground.
It will be a tough call for al-Shabaab to claw
back the territory it gave up - if that really is its intention - particularly
since the suicide bombing that claimed over 100 people last week has led to
more problems with the leadership. One senior official said that hundreds of
men loyal to Hassan Dahir Aweys had stopped fighting as theirleader was angered by the
bombing that killed young students.
What it could signal is an end to the relative
calm ("calm" obviously being a word loosely applied) across much of
the capital, as well as the more casual attitude employed by journalists and
aid workers jaunting in for a nose around.
Ever cheerful as we are though, we can point to
some good news: there-opening of Bakara Market
two months after al-Shabaab said bye-bye.Many businesses
relocated during the closure, but the market should soon be restored to all of
its bustling glory.
The other big story, which is even more concerning
for the humanitarian community keeping over 450,000 Somalis alive in Dadaab,
was the kidnap of two Spanish aid workers in the Kenyan refugee complex. The
two women, working for Medecins Sans Frontieres, weretaken by armed gunmenwho shot
their driver and then sped off in the direction of the Somali border.
Security analysts have been warning for weeks of
the dangers of such attacks in the sprawling camp, which Kenyan police find
near impossible to police. Kenya's knee-jerk reaction was to blame al-Shabaab,
although bandits looking for a ransom are just as likely culprits. In response,
aid agencies have scaled back their activities to essential operations only and
restricted the movements of hundreds of workers.
Security is being beefed up and negotiations are
ongoing with local elders, but this is something of a nightmare scenario in
what was seen as the safest place to help victims of Somalia's famine and
conflict. Prior to the kidnapping, several aid workers privately expressed
their concern over kidnaps, and said that they would seriously consider
shipping out if their safety could not be secured. If this attack is the first
of many, even the lure of a large pay-packet and the haute-cuisine on offer in
the staff cafeteria may not be enough to keep operations fully staffed.
Still, aid workers are a hardy bunch and the show
must go on, as evidencedby plans for a mass delivery of mosquito nets and
drugs across Somalia, including al-Shabaab areas,to prevent an outbreak of
malaria.The pattern of deaths due to drought, then more deaths
due to heavy rains - either due to flash floods or disease - is a familiar one
to those working in the Horn of Africa, and UNICEF, along with WHO and other
partners, want to break this cycle as the rainy season, which will otherwise
bring some relief to drought-stricken people, gets underway.
Spare a thought for the poor pirates, who have had
a bit of a crummy week. Their attempts to seize new ships to replenish the
steadily dwindling stocks floundered on the rocks again, when the MV
Montecristo wasfreed by British and US
special operations teamsafter the crew locked themselves in a citadel.
With Vessel Protection Detachments, and nowcitadels,
increasingly proving their worth, the pirate are having a harder time of it -
although worrying signs that navies are preparing for cuts may work in their
favor by reducing the number of foreign warships on the prowl.
Our Publisher Robert Young Pelton, in a moment of
optimism, is seeing signs he believes may signal the end of piracy, at least in
its current lucrative form. To read the full analysis, clickhere, but in a
nutshell Robert argues that the pirates are destroying the business model that
has sustained them by demanding ever-greater sums of money and employing the
dubious tactic of ripping up agreements at the last minute, asthey did with the MV Blidathis week
Of course, the flipside of it being harder to take
merchant vessels and owners being reticent to pay ransoms could be an increase
in attacks on hapless tourists and residents living in Kenya near the Somali
border. Many are closely watching the recent kidnappings of Judith Tebbutt and
Marie Dedieu from the Lamu area of Kenya to see if it becomes a trend. Although
the belief is they were attacks prompted by the monsoon weather and that the
money that can be commanded by individuals is too low (although the $4 million
paid for the Danish yachting family shows big cash can still be secured),
should the source of money dry up elsewhere, Kenya would do well to beef up its
poor maritime security to head off future problems to its vital tourism
For a more long-winded version of the above, plus
other piracy news, please see ourweekly piracy report.
And finally, as I will be leaving Somalia Report
to pursue a career as a novelist, we are looking for a new Managing Editor. The
transition for you, our readers, will be seamless, as we are already hunting
for a replacement and our enormous team of journalists (the people who do the
real work) will remain intact. The job specification isherefor
anybody who is interested in applying. Please share this with anybody you think
may be suitable for the role.