Al-Shabaab and the Politics of Mogadishu: Part 1

The re-opened National Theater of Somalia

Al-Shabaab has decreased its public presence in Mogadishu in recent months, but still operates just outside the city. Nevertheless, many commentators see al-Shabaab’s capacity to carry out attacks in the capital as a result of inside help in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

These suspicions have grown in the aftermath of al-Shabaab’s suicide bombing at the re-opened National Theater on April 4, 2012, after which the sympathetic and independent news sources have insisted operatives within the TFG played a part in the attack.

So, how is the TFG directly or indirectly responsible for this circumstance?

In part 1 of this analysis, I will look briefly at the role of al-Shabaab “defectors” and two high-level TFG officials.

Part 2 (forthcoming) will look at the alleged role of Cali Yare, head of PM Abdiweli Maxamed Ali’s security and brother-in-law of Mogadishu mayor Maxamed Nur (Tarzan). The TFG recently arrested Cabdi Yare after it was discovered he was seen speaking with the suicide bomber multiple times before the attack.  He has not been seen since Tarzan posted his bail.

“Defectors” or “Infiltrators” ?

The TFG reportedly has recruited close to 1,000 youth who have “defected” from al-Shabaab and integrated into Somalia’s security apparatus. However, the TFG has not been able to discern between genuine defectors and infiltrators who have been strategically sent by al-Shabaab to collect sensitive security information, which has proven an effective strategy.

The same funds that the TFG uses regularly (or irregularly) to pay defectors as security guards alternatively should continue to be used for educational opportunities and other forms of employment to prevent potential infiltrators from having access to sensitive security information.

A long-term question still remains over how long amnesty programs–as opposed to punitive ones–should exist.

“All Politics is Local”

Debate still continues in Mogadishu on who should take responsibility for the lack of security at the National Theater event.

Some blame Minister of Information Abdulkadir Hussein (Jahweyn) for publicizing the event too early (giving al-Shabaab time to prepare) and making inadequate security measures.  Others are looking at President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed–who considers it perfectly safe to stroll Mogadishu at midnight–while avoiding some public events such as the one hosted at the National Theater.

If President Sharif thought the event security was inadequate, he should have taken appropriate measures to fill the gap or cancel the event. In fact, President Sharif’s insufficiently explained or spotty attendance at public events may fuel suspicions among some Somalis that he knows more than he’s willing to share about al-Shabaab’s imminent attacks in the capital–even though Sharif continues to be a target, according to pro-Shabaab site Somali Memo.

More importantly, if no one in the TFG takes responsibility for the larger trend in inadequate safety measures, no meaningful attempts at security sector reform can be made.

For Part 2, see here.

Categories: al-Shabaab, Somali Government

2 replies


  1. Al-Shabaab Deploys “Hit Squads” in Mogadishu | Somalia Newsroom

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