Marking the Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan, al-Shabaab organized games for youth in the town of Jilib in Middle Juba region.
Similar to other fun days the group has organized, the events involved egg-and-spoon races, sack racing, and tug-of-war exclusively among young men. Women remained spectators on the sidelines.
Notably, Kenya airstrikes have targeted al-Shabaab areas near Jilib in recent weeks, and the group has tried to counter reports that these strikes ever hit their intended targets by releasing pictures of nearby residents standing in open craters in empty fields or displaying allegedly injured children.
These photos are also intended to argue that life under al-Shabaab is “fun” and that Kenya and other forces are out to disrupt this “peaceful” existence.
“Fun Days” can help reinforce support to al-Shabaab even though it is responsible for actions that may disgust communities under its control–such as the execution of a teenage girl who was accused of being a spy in Dinsoor or the murder of beloved musician and MP Saado Ali Warsame.
The broader narrative that al-Shabaab tries to convey through these pictures is: “You will be safer and happier in al-Shabaab areas. If you live outside al-Shabaab areas, you risk harm from undisciplined government soldiers, clan militias, and al-Shabaab attacks and blockades.”
For these reasons, the (stalled) offensive against al-Shabaab makes a single question linger: can AMISOM and Somali forces quickly provide the same or better level of social services and security in recovered towns without falling victim to political bickering, clan fighting, and al-Shabaab’s blockade of humanitarian and commercial trucks?
Perhaps, this is a question being discussed at Halane Camp and Villa Somalia at this very moment.