Week in Review: Somalia Gets a New Cabinet and Port, Kenyan al-Shabaab Suspect Arrested

PM cabinet announcementSomali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke nominated a new list of cabinet members after he withdrew his initial nominations due to opposition in parliament.

MPs had warned him not to bring in failed ex-leaders and some of the President’s allies.

As a result, four key allies of the President were not nominated. However, other confidantes did make it in:

  • Fahad Yasiin Haji Dahir – Minister of Ports & Marine Transport
  • Abdisalam Omar (who denied “slush fund” allegations as Central Bank governor) – Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Abdirahman Mohamed Hussein “Odowaa” – Minister of Interior & Federalism

Abdirizak Omar Mohamed is back as Minister of Petroleum, Water and Natural Resources, which he headed under the cabinet of ex-PM Abdi Farah Shirdon. In the interim period, he maintained influence on the oil/gas sector in the country as a self-described “Senior Advisor” to the petroleum ministry.

Amid the continued scrutiny of energy politics in Somalia, it is interesting to note that Africa Energy Intelligence claimed that Abdirizak was the “nephew of President Hassan Sheikh’s half brother,” making him the fourth ally of the President in PM Sharmarke’s cabinet with a critical portfolio.

Unlike previous cabinets, “security” is not nominally attached to any of the ministries, which is a surprising omission given the role that stabilization plays in Somalia’s statebuilding process. This raises the question of whether security fall simply to the Minister of Interior and Federalism or Minister of Defense.

Lastly, about 80% of the new nominees are said to be from the Diaspora.

New Port Under Construction in Somalia: Implications?

Meanwhile, the Himan and Heeb administration in central Somalia — with permission of the Somali government — is building a new port near Faax village in Harardheere district.

If the port is successfully completed, it could have significant economic implications because it would possibly divert trade of livestock and other commodities away from ports in Somaliland and Puntland, according to one source.

To date, Mogadishu is the only port that yields significant revenue to the Somali government — and the Banaadir administration in the capital has previously demanded more port revenue from the Somali government. Other ports in Kismayo and Bosaso are controlled by regional administrations.

Currently, Himan and Heeb are working with other regional stakeholders to form an interim Central State administration. It remains a big question how revenue from this future port and others will be shared among regional stakeholders and the federal government — though current trends point toward regional control.

Kenyan Terror Suspect Arrested

Salim Abubakar Kitonga

Salim Abubakar Kitonga

A Kenyan man, Salim Abubakar Kitonga, and two Somalis were arrested in connection with the deadly attacks in Mandera last year. He was also suspected of recruiting and transiting an unspecified number of Ugandans, Kenyans, and Tanzanians into al-Shabaab.

Kitonga’s arrest highlights the important role that non-ethnic Somalis on occasion after occasion play throughout extremist networks in East Africa. This fact is often overlooked as ethnic Somali communities often bear the brunt of security crackdowns.

Since Kitonga admitted to living in an un-named Mandera mosque before his arrest, it is unsurprising that there has been an increase in surveillance and security operations around houses of worship in Kenya. In Mombasa, there have been closures and closely monitored re-openings of mosques alleged to be used by extremist elements.

Equally interesting, Kenya is about to roll out a new compliance mandating that religious leaders “obtain certificates of clearance from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC)” and fulfill other requirements.

Though the Kenyan government has not hesitated to close churches associated with violence (like that of the Mungiki gang), many observers will be watching to see if Kenya’s new compliance is primarily aimed at mosques.

Categories: al-Shabaab, Kenya, Somali Government

Tags: , , , ,

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