Clan Tensions in Kismayo Simmer a Year after Violent Battles

kism-620x330Kismayo continues to be the site of contentious clan dynamics almost a year after violent battles among clan militias supporting or contesting Ras Kamboni leader Ahmed Madobe and the formation of his “Jubaland” administration.

It has also been more than six months after the Somali government struck a deal with the former al-Shabaab ally to form an Interim Jubba Administration (IJA)–which misguidedly was thought to address key issues that caused the crisis by only engaging two parties of a multi-party conflict.

Madobe “Targeting” Non-Ogaden Clans

In a recent audio statement, Sheikhaal clan leader Sultan Abdirashiid Macalin Gaas blamed IJA head Ahmed Madobe for fomenting violence against non-Darod/Ogaden clans–including violent house raids and day-time killings by Ras Kamboni troops.

When fellow Sheikhaal clan leader Sultan Amir Abdirashid was gunned down in the Shaqaalaha neighborhood on 21 April 2014, Sultan Abdirashid Macalin blamed Madobe’s troops for trying to silence outspoken opponents to Ras Kamboni’s alleged abuses.

He also reportedly highlighted that his cadre was filled with ONLF rebels from Ethiopia.

With other elders having been assassinated in recent weeks, the IJA has often blamed al-Shabaab for the killings–though this has not prevented the wider community from suspecting the Kismayo administration was responsible.

Al-Shabaab Continuing to Play Clan Dynamics

To be sure, al-Shabaab has continued its violent operations in Kismayo by killing several IJA officials in assassinations and car bombs–despite its “withdrawal” from the port town.

IJA’s responding crackdown–often resulting in mass arrests–has at times targeted clans perceived as hostile to Madobe, and this could in part be driving clan tensions.

Though al-Shabaab likes to think itself as fighting for the ummah (and Somalis) rather than any particular clan, the group and sympathetic media sources have been eager to promote the allegiance and support of Jubba clans to al-Shabaab.

In one recent article, pro-Shabaab media highlighted an attack specifically by Dir clan fighters targeting Kismayo University, and claimed that the clan staunchly supported al-Shabaab.

Another report claimed an attack in Afmadow against Kenyan and Ras Kamboni forces was carried out by fighters from the Absame clan–to which Madobe’s Ogaden is one sub-clan.

Overall, pro-Shabaab media continues to highlight that fighters from Madobe’s own clan and other clans are fighting against him in Lower Juba.

In the near-term, al-Shabaab will continue to highlight Madobe’s inability to meet the expectations of clans in the region–which is something that al-Shabaab did (through pragmatism, supporting the underdog, and force) more successfully than others who tried to rule the town in recent decades.


The recent visit to Kismayo by Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed was meant to forge progress on unfilled points of the Addis Ababa agreement between the IJA and Somali government, as well as to urge reconciliation in the Jubba community.

However, actual progress on reconciling bad blood has been sporadic and not very comprehensive.

From time to time, different clans will meet to discuss disagreements–such as what happened between Sade and Kablalax representatives earlier this week.


However, these brief gatherings will likely not be able to produce the needed consensus on core issues among broader communities, including:

  • How to share port revenue among clans and districts in the region (as well as defining the role of the Somali government in control of the port)
  • How to create a security apparatus that is diverse regionally and to some degree linked to the federal government
  • How to encourage the administration in Kismayo to be responsive to the social needs of those beyond the port city (i.e., one of the basic tenets and functions of federalism

In addition to the pressure from al-Shabaab and the absence of a social/political/economic vision for Jubba, potential spoilers such as Barre Hirale reportedly are refusing to disarm militiamen just outside Kismayo.

All these factors could at the least contribute to simmering violence that makes UNHCR’s idea of returning refugees to Kismayo ill-conceived. At the most, this could lead to a build-up of arms by clans who feel a continued assault against them–or motivate them to form strategic alliances with al-Shabaab.

Relatedly, many in Jubba will be wondering to what ends new military equipment recently purchased by the IJA will be used.

IJA trucks

Moving forward, much of the responsibility will fall on Ahmed Madobe to create more goodwill among clans in order to reduce the perception that he is a pawn of Kenya (which both al-Shabaab and other opponents like to point out) or that he simply seeks control of the lucrative Kismayo port rather than serve as a legitimate regional political leader.


Categories: Kismayo

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