Heavy fighting in Somalia – including mortar fire – took place (July 19th) at Ethiopian military camps in Aato and Yeed (Bakool) and in the nearby Washaqo centre in the south-west along the border with Ethiopia. The Al Shabaab movement claimed the killing of 87 Ethiopian ‘Liyu’ police officers; other sources report a total of more than 180 victims. For the first time since 2014, terrorist violence touches the border with Ethiopia, another focus of the insurgency beyond Kenya. The militants did not hesitate to pursue the opponent even across the porous border.
The targeted Ethiopian ‘Liyu’ forces have repeatedly been criticised for their ‘counter-terrorism’ actions on Somali soil, carried out especially in 2017-2018 after disputes between Somali and Oromo clans on Ethiopian soil in December 2016 had cost several hundred lives. The violence was repeated in waves, with responsibility on both sides. The militants may have taken advantage of a less solid Ethiopian presence at this stage.
However, Somali Prime Minister Barre reiterated (July 20th) his commitment to counter the threat. A meeting between Somali and Kenyan intelligence Heads took place on the same date. News also surfaced that AFRICOM (US Military Command for Africa) had carried out a raid (July 17th) and killed two militants in Libikus near Kismayo (Jubaland), after Somali forces had been attacked by them. Air raids in the border regions are also conducted by Kenyan forces; the numerous collateral casualties from these events may reduce popular support for the counter-insurgency efforts. Better cooperation would therefore help to reduce the areal threat.
On the domestic political level, there is criticism of Somaliland where the channels of dialogue between the local government headed by Bihi and the opposition leaders Hirsi (Waddani party) and Warabe (Ucid) broke down (July 19th). Positions continue to harden and there is a bad press devoted to its leadership, even from English speaking sources hitherto more benevolent towards the secessionist cause. Remarkable in this regard is the ban on the BBC from operating in the region and the condemnations expressed by a member of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. The situation remains under scrutiny in anticipation of a possible reversal of roles in the now imminent local elections – but which Bihi may wish to postpone.
On the international front, President Mohamud travelled to Tanzania to take part in the EAC (East African Community) summit – the Organisation includes Burundi, Congo DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Somalia has been asking to join since 2012 to benefit from the single market and facilitation of the movement of people; the request had been reiterated in 2016 but is stalled.
For his part, PM Barre met with Italian Ambassador Vecchi, for discussions on bilateral relations and support to Somali institutions and security forces. Lower House Speaker Madobe returned instead from his week-long trip to Saudi Arabia, which in addition to the Hajj pilgrimage had included institutional meetings; the large Somali delegation included former PM Roble.
Good news in Mogadishu is the absence of casualties in the crash of a Jubba plane that overturned during landing. All 36 people on board were unharmed. The airport’s emergency services, assisted by African Union peacekeepers and US military personnel, quickly dealt with the fire enveloping the nacelle and rescued passengers and crew.