Somalia has not had an effective national government for more than 20 years, during which much of the country has been a war zone. Al-Shabab, the terrorist group and de facto rulers in large swaths of Somalia, gained support by promising people security; however its credibility eroded when it rejected Western food aid to combat a 2011 drought and famine. Despite an increase in targeted airstrikes by the U.S. under President Trump, Al-Shabab continues to conduct attacks both within Somalia and in neighboring Kenya. The militants also continue to target the Somali state and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.
Primary Armed Group in Somalia –
Al-Shabaab emerged in 2006 and was designated as a terrorist group by the United States in 2008. The group is responsible for numerous high-profile bombings and shootings throughout Somalia (CIA Factbook). The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) reported 982 civilian casualties by October 2018, over half from Al-Shabaab attacks (HRW).
The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) has various networks in Somalia, primarily directing operations from Puntland (the semi autonomous region in the northeast) and conducting sporadic attacks against African Union and Somali government personnel throughout the country. The group primarily aims to replace the federal government of Somalia with an Islamic state and replace al-Shabaab as the dominant armed opposition (CIA World Factbook).
Other Groups Involved in the Conflict:
The United States provides financial and logistical support to African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and conducts its own counterterrorism operations, including drone strikes and special operations forces raids, against suspected al-Shabab militants.
Human Rights, Humanitarian and Other Crises
Over 870,000 Somalis are registered as refugees in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, while an estimated 2.1 million are displaced within the country itself
In 2012, the Somalia Return Consortium was established to offer comprehensive and standardized support to internally displaced Somalis who wish to voluntarily return home and resume lives in their area of origin. The aim is to ensure that IDPs returns are voluntary and based on informed decisions, and that returning IDPs are guided and supported throughout the process – from decision making to the actual return.
Due to below-average rainfall, 2.7 million people are now in need of emergency water services for drinking and to sustain food security and nutrition.
The U.S. began a bombing campaign against al-Shabab in 2011 under the direction of President Obama and under President Trump, the number of drone strikes has increased sharply, with civilian deaths rising as well.
Other Restrictions on Humanitarian Aid:
“The UN recorded more than 120 violent incidents affecting 65 humanitarian personnel in Somalia in 2018.” (USAID)
Somalia in Recent News
- Somalia War Crimes Trial Starts Monday, as Another Survivor Seeks Justice, Just Security (May 10, 2019)
- U.S. Kills Militant Linked to Deadly Attack on American Troops in Somalia, Wall Street Journal (April 30, 2019)
- Gunmen Storm Somalia Government Building, Killing Minister and Others, New York Times (March 23, 2019)
- US attacks on Somalia’s al-Shabab increase under Trump, BBC (January 7, 2019)