Somalia Meet in London, as Ethiopian troops keep Al Shabab on the run; Solution to Somalia problem calls for out of the box thinking

22 Feb

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

On 23 February, fresh attempts would be made to get Somalis together and restore Somalia through international efforts of a kind that has never been tried before. This one-day meeting would be held in London, with the British government as its organizer.

It is reported that this meeting would be attended by about 50 nations and international organizations, the list of which includes Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is riding high in the Western camp on the success of the Ethiopian forces now chasing Al Shabab and the leader of Somalia’s Western-backed transitional government. Other invitees are officials of the breakaway Republic of Somaliland, whose diplomatic status has not yet been determined. The United States would be represented by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would also be on hand, as the Security Council is seized with the situation in Somalia.

Experts do not foresee any breakthrough in this meeting. The UK must have gathered as much, especially after its Africa Minister Henry Bellingham on 9 February organized a meeting of Somalis resident in that country. The reaction was one of wait and see, although other Somalis who are opposed to the process accuse organizers of the meeting as failing to include all Somalis.

On the other hand, while it is not clear on what British Prime Minister David Cameron said the London conference would try to bolster tentative signs of progress, his tone did not sound optimistic at all.

Some are also suspicious of the British efforts in organizing this meeting as an attempt to steal away the show from Turkey that wanted to get something going. After all, it was the Turkish prime minister who first went to visit Mogadishu in August and promised some initiatives. Turkey has also started some reconstruction work, according to news sources.

Last month the British foreign secretary dashed in to Mogadishu, although not much has been said about the outcome of his visit.

It is important to bear in mind that those that want to do something for Somalia must begin to the extent possible by involving all elements, including Al Shabab. The world needs to realize that more than a country Somalia is a composition of clans. It means that peace cannot be achieved by alienating some of them.

Therefore, it is important first to be working on the clan jigsaw puzzle, including alliances and hostilities. That is why the thinking on and about peace-making in Somalia must gather lessons from the resilience of the clans in these past two decades on the remains of a long dead state.

Also, all the more that is the reason for an out of the box thinking to finding solution to the Somalia problem, lest fertile ground is prepared for the new Al Shabab Al Qaida connection.


Ethiopian troops seize key Somali rebel bastion
By Mohamed Ahmed and Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU | Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:19am EST

(Reuters) – Ethiopian and Somali troops captured a key Islamist militant stronghold in Somalia on Wednesday, as the rebels left their positions, a regional government official and residents said.

The loss of Baidoa in central Somalia is a major blow for the al Qaeda-backed al Shabaab rebel group which is also battling Kenyan troops to hold on to territory in southern Somalia and against African peacekeepers in pockets of the capital.

“We have taken Baidoa. There was no resistance from al Shabaab,” said Abdifatah Mohamed Gesey, a senior commander of the advancing Somali government soldiers.

Al Shabaab said its withdrawal from the city had been a tactical once aimed at avoiding casualties.

“Our fighters left town this morning without fighting. Now we are surrounding the town,” said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations.

“Baidoa will be a cemetery for the Ethiopians.”

Earlier on Wednesday, a Baidoa resident who gave his name as Farah told Reuters no al Shabaab fighters were visible in the streets.

“Al Shabaab have run away to the Idaale jungle. Other residents tell me Ethiopian troops have reached the corners of the city,” Farah told Reuters by telephone.

Ethiopia’s forces launched a push south towards Baidoa through the neighboring Bay and Bakool regions on Tuesday, making swift progress with the insurgents offering minimal resistance, said officials.

Located about 250 km north west of Mogadishu, Baidoa is considered the most important rebel base after the southern port city of Kismayu.

Baidoa hosted Somalia’s interim government from early 2006, when another Islamist administration was battling warlords for control of Mogadishu, until the turn of 2008/2009 when al Shabaab seized the city and expelled the transitional government.

Ethiopia moved troops across the border into Somalia in November to open up a third front against the militants already suffering financial constraints after pulling most of their fighters out of Mogadishu and internal divisions.

On Wednesday morning, witnesses said al Shabaab had also surrendered the town of Berdale about 60 km for Baidoa.

Berdale resident Ali Mohamed Abukar said a “huge number” of heavily armed footsoldiers and columns of armored vehicles and tanks had rolled into Berdale, a day after wresting control of the town of Yurkud about 50 km away.

“They were so many. They ordered as to remain calm and they headed towards Baidoa,” Abukar told Reuters by telephone.

(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Somalia: Ethiopian troops take Somali town from al Shabaab

By Feisal Omar and Mohamed Ahmed,

Ethiopian troops backed by tanks wrested control of a town in southern Somalia on Tuesday from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, officials said.
Addis Ababa sent troops into neighbouring Somalia in November as part of a wider campaign to crush al Shabaab rebels who control swathes of central and southern Somalia.

Residents said Ethiopian tanks, supported by Somali government soldiers, rolled into Yurkud town after a brief gunbattle with members of al Shabaab who are fighting to topple the Western-backed government of the Horn of Africa country.

Yurkud, a strategic town that links Bakool, Bay and Gedo regions of the lawless country, is about 110 km (70 km) northwest of Baidoa, a stronghold of the rebel group.

“We have captured Yurkud town, our objective is to secure Bay and Bakool regions,” Abdifatah Mohamed, a commander of the Somali government forces told Reuters by phone from Yurkud.

“With the help of Ethiopian troops we are determined to oust al Shabaab. They attacked us and we repulsed them. Now we have advanced from Yurkud, Baidoa is now only 85 km away.”

Al Shabaab confirmed the capture of Yurkud.

“Ethiopian troops are now at Yurkud after fierce fighting this morning. We burnt two of their military lorries,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al Shabaab’s military operation told Reuters from a location in southern Somalia.

“We attacked them this afternoon again – we shall continue fighting until we oust Ethiopians from our country.”

On New Year’s Eve, Ethiopian troops captured the Somali border town of Baladwayne from al Shabaab, who Kenyan troops have also been battling since last October.

At the time, Ethiopia said it was willing to expand its operation beyond Baladwayne if Somalia’s government asked for backing.


Residents of Yarkud said they fled after the Ethiopian tanks approached their town. “Most of the people have fled to Mogadishu or other remote areas. I have nine children and aged parents,” mother Safia Nur told Reuters from Baidoa.

Ethiopia and Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight al Shabaab following a wave of cross-border attacks and kidnappings Nairobi blamed on the group.

Britain hopes to build on the modest security gains in Mogadishu and in southern Somalia when it hosts a conference in London on Thursday.

Al Shabaab, which wants to impose its harsh interpretation of sharia, the Islamic moral and legal code, relinquished control of the coastal capital of Mogadishu in August, under pressure from the U.N. peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, which is made up of Ugandan and Burundian troops.

The U.N. Security Council may vote this week to bolster AMISOM’s numbers, with Kenya hoping to integrate its forces.

AMISOM has been in Somalia since 2007 and confined to fighting al Shabaab in Mogadishu . Having Kenya on board would mean it would spread its mandate to the south.

“AMISOM now has the opportunity to contribute to a multi-front operation to stabilise the situation in Somalia,” the United States Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador James Swan, said in a statement.

“To this end, we support in principle an expansion of AMISOM’s mandate and a commensurate increase in its force levels, along with force enablers.”

Somalia plunged into chaos in 1991 after dictator Siad Barre was toppled by warlords. (Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Alison Williams).

Source: Reuters

Shabaab abandons western city as Ethiopian troops advance
By BILL ROGGIO February 22, 2012

As Ethiopian forces continue to press their offensive in Somalia, Shabaab forces have relinquished control of a key southern city that has been under the terror group’s control for three years.

Fighters from Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in eastern Africa, today abandoned Baidoa, the provincial capital of Bay, as large numbers of Ethiopian troops backed by Somali forces advanced on the city from the west. Shabaab is also reported to have withdrawn from Bardere, which is southwest of Baidoa. A Shabaab spokesman confirmed that Shabaab withdrew from Baidoa but claimed the terror group would fight to retake it.

“Our fighters left town this morning without fighting. Now we are surrounding the town,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters. “Baidoa will be a cemetery for the Ethiopians.”

Shabaab seized Baidoa in January 2009 after Ethiopian troops withdrew from the country. One month later, Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, praised Shabaab for taking control of Baidoa. Prior to their withdrawal, Ethiopian forces had occupied much of southern and central Somalia after ousting the Islamic Courts Union from power in early 2007. And Baidoa had served as the capital of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, from 2006 until the Shabaab takeover in January 2009.

The recent loss of Baidoa has put Shabaab on the defensive. The terror group is being pressed by African Union and Ethiopian forces on three fronts. In addition to Ethiopia’s advance from the west, Burundian and Ugandan forces have taken control of Mogadishu after Shabaab abandoned much of the city last summer, and are slowly pressing westward to Afgoye, a Shabaab stronghold just 15 miles outside of the capital.

In the south, Kenyan forces are slowly moving northward toward the Shabaab strongholds of Afmadow and the port city of Kismayo. Kenyan troops have been fighting in Somalia since mid-October, and have only advanced to about 40 miles inside the country.

Shabaab still controls other major towns and cities along the coast between Kismayo and Mogadishu, including Jilib, Baraawe, and Merca. Shabaab recently held parades and celebrations in many of these towns after announcing its official merger with al Qaeda on Feb. 9. One day later, Shabaab’s affiliate in Kenya, the Muslim Youth Center, also said it has become “part of al Qaeda East Africa.”

Despite Shabaab’s recent setbacks in Somalia, US intelligence officials who follow the terror group closely said that even if it loses many of the cities and towns it currently controls, the group still will remain a threat and will be capable of retaking lost ground after the African Union forces leave.

“Shabaab has been in this situation before when it was part of the Islamic Courts back in 2007 up until when the group fractured in 2009,” one official told The Long War Journal. “As soon as Ethiopian troops left, the TFG [Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government] couldn’t hold its ground.”

The officials cited a lack of unity among Somali factions, corruption, poorly trained security forces, and sympathetic elements within the government as reasons to be pessimistic about the government’s chances to hold the ground seized by the foreign forces. One official also said that Shabaab has staying power and is committed to the cause of jihad at all costs.

“Ultimately Shabaab is committed to its cause, and it won’t give up easily,” the official said. “To them, these setbacks are temporary. They’ll switch from an active insurgency to a guerrilla campaign of terror attacks and assassinations when they need to, and they’ll ride out the ‘Christian occupiers’ to take on the weak government,” the official said, referring to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti, whose troops have been battling Shabaab.

(Source: The Long War Journal)

Ethiopia, Somali troops seize rebel bastion of Baidoa, AFP

Truckloads of Ethiopian and Somali troops on Wednesday captured the strategic Somali city of Baidoa from Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab insurgents, who vowed to avenge their biggest loss in several months.
The blow to the insurgency coincided with the UN Security Council boosting the strength of an African Union force in Mogadishu by more than 5,000 troops and came on the eve of conference in London aimed at reviving peace efforts.
“We have taken control of Baidoa without a single shot, it is a great day for the people who are now welcoming us warmly,” said Muhidin Ali, a Somali government military commander in the city 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Baidoa was the seat of Somalia’s transitional parliament until the hardline Shebab captured it three years ago.
It had since been one of the Shebab’s main bases and its capture leaves the group’s fighters in central Somalia increasingly isolated, with the African Union mission (AMISOM) also chasing them out of the capital.

The insurgents still control large parts of southern Somalia, but a months-old Kenyan land and air offensive there is also making some progress.

Facing major offensives on three fronts, the Shebab reverted to guerrilla attacks including suicide bombings and remained defiant Wednesday.

“The takeover does not mean that the enemy will enjoy the city, there will be more bloodshed,” said Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, a Shebab commander.

“The areas they took will only be the graveyards of the Christian invading forces and their apostate Somali militia.”
Shebab fighters claimed they made a tactical retreat as “Ethiopian troops numbering thousands armed with heavy weapons and tanks” poured into the city, Ibrahim said.

The pullback follows the Shebab’s abandoning of most fixed positions in Mogadishu last August after failing to oust the transitional government in four years of bloody battles.

Sporadic shooting was reported late Wednesday on the outskirts of the town, but residents said Baidoa was largely calm.
“We are at the centre now and moving towards every corners of the town, to ensure that we are in full control,” Ali added.

Ethiopian troops, who moved into southern and western Somalia in November, began a major push towards Baidoa on Tuesday.

The Shebab are now “on the run,” Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon said. “We are committed to supporting the Somali people… for the demise of Al-Shebab and the liberation of Somalia.”

Baidoa resident Abdulahi Hassan said Somali and Ethiopian forces had begun establishing a base at “the police station and the main crossroads in town.”

“People are out in the streets watching the soldiers who are gradually moving into the different parts of the city,” Hassan said.

The rebels are already struggling financially and face increasing pressure from regional armies and pro-government forces. The rebels still control the southern port town of Kismayo, a major source of income.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali called Baidoa “one of the most important cities” in southwestern Somalia, confirming its fall to reporters in London ahead of Thursday’s conference.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that Britain and other EU countries were considering military air strikes on Shebab training camps.

Ali said he would welcome such action against Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents in Somalia, as long as it did not hurt civilians.

“I have had no discussions of that with the European governments. But targeted Al-Shebab airstrikes are a welcome opportunity,” he said.

Witnesses had said earlier that Shebab fighters and their families were seen fleeing Baidoa towards rebel-held Afgoye, where AMISOM and its allies have vowed to launch a major operation.

“Many people, most of them Al-Shebab families and supporters, are fleeing Baidoa,” said Hussein Ali, a resident. “They are heading towards Afgoye.”

Even as officials and commanders confirmed the fall of Baidoa, the UN Security Council in New York approved increasing AMISOM’s capacity to 17,731 from its current maximum of 12,000.

The force currently consists of around 10,000 troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. Kenyan troops are expected to now come under AMISOM command, but not Ethiopian forces.

A resolution passed by the 15-nation council also gave the AU force a tougher mandate to attack the Shebab and to substantially increase international funding for the military operation.

The AU force was “authorised to take all necessary measures” with Somali security forces “to reduce the threat posed by Shebab and other armed opposition groups in order to establish conditions for effective and legitimate governance,” the resolution said.

One Response to “Somalia Meet in London, as Ethiopian troops keep Al Shabab on the run; Solution to Somalia problem calls for out of the box thinking”

  1. Yeantenw Nengh at 09:30 #

    The world shouldn’t allow regional players to take hold of the problem of Somalis hostage to their goal. There is no democracy or its semblance in any of the countries in the horn except in Somaliand, so all of the leaders in the regions, except may be for Kenya, who have troops on the ground have a stake in keeping Al-Sheba alive in one or other form. The fact they are pounding on Shebab sometime is a staged show to the west to indicate that they really mean business, while their goals are different. The reason for that they know that the west will never raise any questions regarding human right and political repressions for as long as the despots are willing to send troops to Somlia to keep the Shibab in the corner. Besides keeping their military commanders at bay is one more additional advantage to the despots, because the generals will be focused making money in the war and running the show. Disposts sleep better when they know the generals, who are not siting at camp well-fed and conspiring on deposing them, are terribly busy responding Shebeba’s counterattack. For example, the Ethiopians troops in Somalia are chasing Al sehbab now just because Zenawi wanted to raise his profile at the conference as the leader of a country who can in real term deal a serious blow to shebab. He knows well from his experience that the west will never raise with him the issue of the plight of imprisoned Ethiopians, Swedish journalist and opposition leaders and forcefully relocated people with the help of western-aid money, as they think he is the only one who has the will and the muscle power to do away with Shebab. MZ needs Al-shenab more than the most devoted al-shbabian. Any solution that doesn’t take into account this precarious relationship of matters is doomed to be another failed attempt.



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