YLF Post No. 2 for Regional Young Leaders Forum


This is the second pre-conference post before our Regional Young Leaders Forum on Regional Security and Local Grievances.  Today, we focus on current regional developments relating to the Al Shabaab group and its operations in Kenya and Somalia. We have compiled three articles dealing with this topic from different angles. read more

In a recent interview with the East African, the deputy head of Amisom, Lydia Mutende, states that  efforts to military defeat Al Shabaab are accompanied by preparations for Somalia’s 2016 elections which will be discussed at a conference in Copenhagen in November this year. Mutende emphasises that the country needs a federal arrangement that is able to accommodate Somalis’ strong clan affiliations as “building blocks for national peace.”

According to other observers, the recent killing of Al Shabaabs radical leader Ahmed Godane could enable a moderate faction within the group to seek a negotiated settlement with the Somali government.  However, it is argued that some powerful external actors like Ethiopia and the US would probably be “quite allergic” to any kind of such a power-sharing deal. Moreover, it is highly unclear whether a Somali peace settlement would also eliminate violent Islamism in Kenya. This assessment comes at a time when a paper on radicalisation in Kenya, published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), finds that recruitment to Al Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has been facilitated by the Kenyan government’s counter-terrorism strategy. For instance, 65 % of the respondents of a survey carried out by ISS researcher Anneli Botha among self-ascribed Al-Shabaab and MRC members, declared the government’s strategy of “collective punishment” to be the single most important factor that drove them to join radical organisations.

Do you think that the Somali government should negotiate on a power sharing agreement with moderate Al Shabaab factions? What  should Somalia’s future federal arrangement look like and do elections really matter in the country’s current situation? What role should external actors like the US play in Somalia’s political restructuring? And to what extent do we have to conceive violent Islamism(s) in Somalia and Kenya as intertwined phenomena?


  1. Somalia like any other nation or state for that matter has the sole prerogative of deciding what to do. If they think negotiating with a moderate Al Shabaab faction will bring about peace in the country then they should proceed with haste. The west might have reservations about this and tied by their laws but we have seen instances in which America has gone to the negotiating table with countries or factions they considered to be enemies or terrorists.

    Reading the first article in which Lydia Mutende is interviewed, it seems the Somalia social-cultural and to some extent political lifestyle is hinged around the clan setting. As such, the clans ought to play a critical role in in the pre and post 2016 election discourse. The clans seem to be the only institution that has survived the war and as such they are trusted by people. Somalia stakeholders should use these institutions to introduce democracy.

    The external actors, such as the US should not meddle in the internal affairs of Somalia in their quest to achieve long lasting peace – if that peace is to be achieved through talking to moderate elements of Al Shabaab. As a matter of fact, the US should see this as a positive development instigated by their military action. The constructive role the external actors should play is to act as a check to the regional actors actions in and around Somalia – AU, EAC and neighboring countries.

    Violent Islamism(s) in Somalia and Kenya can be conceived as an intertwined phenomenon only as far as to the extent of the state actions or inaction’s in both countries.

  2. From Bulo Marer town to Afgoye and so many other towns captured by the AMISON and Somali National Army, the struggle to pacify the failed state continues. This struggle carries multi prong approach. Negations and other maneuvers are chief in this process.

    The AMISON and Somali National Army(SNA) should continue to pursue the terror group with a military campaign. This campaign should target their economic center such as Barawe. Barawe served the Alshabab as economic and capital for coordination and operatioi since 1993 and Somali government had lost this strategic center. The capture of Barawe has been a major blow to the Alshabab group. More such centers should follow.

    The other aspect is the constant training and ideological orientation of the Somali armed forces. This will help the state guard against misuse of the gun after the foreign forces have pulled out. The training should be able to make the SNA to stand on its own, because, no foreign and sovereign country can survive purely on the help of other countries. That is why the military onslaught in Somalia must go hand in hand with capacity enhancements of the SNA.

    The East African countries are being bogged socially and economically due to the Alshabab terror group. The costs of water transport has been hiked for the last 19 years. Tourists are being kidnapped and huge ransom demanded, consequentially. This thitherto has affected business, particularly the tourism industry.
    Leaders of Alshabab must be strategically talked to: Primarily beginning with the moderately terrorist groups of the Alshabab sect.
    Secondly, the need to infiltrate the camp and provide counter intelligence on the modes operandi. This is however tricky. It must be fairly thought out.

    Countries having interests in Somalia should sit down and strike some compromise. Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and others should have their strategic interests catered for. Kenya has her economic interests to protect by ensuring tourists are safe. Probably that’s why they joined AMISON in 2011/12. Uganda is protecting against the Proliferation of arms, and promoting Pan African Ideals envisaged by the likes of Nyerere, Salaise, Nkrumah, Lumumba and others. Ethiopia could be on economic interests but also there is licking of the historical wounds, a score which must be achieved by that entity. Therefore all the support geared toward stability of Somalia must be energized. East African leaders should not be seen to behave like the European Congress men of the 18 hundreds, where British Prime minister then remarked, “every country on its own and God for us all”. Selfish purpose among the regional players cannot help anything, prolong the struggle and create confusion.

    The drugs Barron also are/ could be playing a major role in keeping Somalia unstable. This same group could be behind the some much insecurity in Kenya. The drug dealers have the capacity to pay off desperate officers to let them go Scot free. They also have the capability of buying off poor youth in slams to be recruited into terrorism. That’s why the 7/11 bombing in Kampala.

    For mow negotiations with Alshabab should be put on hold until the is believed to weak. Discussing negotiation would imply defeat to the AMISON and other forces.,,

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