Al-Shabaab continues to rally clan support in key areas of South Central Somalia that help the group maintain its resilience–even as forces from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community exert pressure on the group.
Since January 2012, al-Shabaab has been negotiating support from the Gaaljecel clan, among other groups, in the Hiiran region.
This past week, on July 1 2012, Gaaljecel clan elder Maxamed Osman Baroore met with al-Shabaab officials in the Nasruddin village of Hiiraan to finalize an agreement for the clan to provide support to the terrorist group.
Baroore, who serves as one of the clan’s peacemakers, agreed to send 20 youths with accompanying weapons, as well as 25 camels to al-Shabaab.
He also pledged the Gaaljecel clan would support the group’s causes in the country.
Baroore was broadcast over Radio Andalus, stating:
We inform the world that Galje’el clan is a member of Al-Qa’ida. The clan has made a clear decision to take part in the ongoing jihad to drive out infidels who have invaded the country and the religion.
In the Radio Andalus message, Baroore also encouraged other clans to follow the Gaaljecel’s lead in supporting al-Shabaab.
Why Would a Clan Support al-Shabaab?
Many Somali communities see a relationship with al-Shabaab as more predictable than one with TFG, Ethiopian, and Ahlu Sunna Waljamaa (ASWJ) troops. As a recent BBC report stated, Mogadishu residents thought life under al-Shabaab was strict, and often brutal, but was “less corrupt and more secure, so long as you stayed out of politics.”
(In a broader context, this says more about the incompetence and corruption of the TFG than al-Shabaab’s capabilities as a legitimate authority.)
Although al-Shabaab attacks in Hiiraan often result in civilian deaths, the group has tried to maintain civilian support through initiating service projects such as the construction of water wells in Buulo Barde.
Contrastingly, after forcing al-Shabaab to withdraw from several towns in Hiiraan and Galguduud, TFG-allied forces have come under the scrutiny for implementing curfews that are harmful to local businesses and arresting and abusing journalists.
While the international community takes a military approach to stabilizing Somalia, its operations lack a social component that involves engagement–and often reconciliation–between and within Somali clans.
As long as this grassroots effort eludes international and domestic actors involved in Somalia, groups like al-Shabaab will influence significantly the social, political, and security landscape in the country.
Fortunately, TFG-allied forces are making some grounds in providing social services in Bakool region, and ASWJ seems to recognize that it needs to dialogue more vigorously with Somali clans–especially those outside of its constituent parts–in order to hold territory it wrests from al-Shabaab.
If the TFG, international forces, and its associated warlords cannot agree collectively on how to play the clan chess game that defines Somalia, it will have a difficult time creating a stable, peaceful, and Shabaab-free environment in places such as Kismayo, which has a long and complicated history of clan competition.