Ceasefire Breaks Down In Drought-Stricken Somalia


 

A ceasefire between two major Somali regional groups broke down violently last Sunday, with clashes killing at least 29 people and wounding over 50. The two regions involved, Galmadug and Puntland, have had a violent history and share a common border in the central Somali city of Galkayo where the fighting broke out.

Despite the introduction of a ceasefire last week, mediated by the United Arab Emirates and endorsed by the Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, the fighting was allegedly triggered over building plans in the city along the regional border.

Civilians as well as militia were killed, with one victim Mahad Ali Mohamed, a civilian presenter for a local radio station being shot and killed while on his way to work.

Schools in the city have been forced to close since violence between the two groups began to escalate close to a month ago.

Despite the differences and conflict between the two groups though, they both share alliances with the United States as they attempt to drive al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab out of the country.

This week however saw a troublesome development in this relationship, as a US drone strike killed Galmadug forces who had been mistaken for members of al-Shabaab. US troops accompanying Puntland forces had called in the strike after coming under fire and had not been able to properly identify the target. This has resulted in strong criticism of the US’s priorities and alliances in the country by senior Galmadug officials.

The Somali government has generally been supportive of US airstrikes, in contrast to other countries like Afghanistan where the strikes have been denounced due to collateral damage.

Though despite the recent success of forces like Puntland and Galmadug in pushing al-Shabaab out of occupied territory with the help of international forces, the past week has seen the terrorist group regain footholds as Ethiopian troops withdraw.

As part of the African Union mission in Somalia, also known as AMISOM, 20,000 troops from various African nations have been deployed in order to counter al-Shabaab. Ethiopia has more than 4,300 soldiers in Somalia as part of AMISOM, as well as thousands of other troops not part of the mission.

Significant amounts of these troops are now withdrawing from their bases in towns in southern Somalia though; ten towns in the last four months, four of them in the past four weeks. Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s former communications affairs minister, claims however that the troops being withdrawn are ones not part of the African Union mission.

All this is happening while the turbulent African country suffers terrible drought conditions. Lack of rain has been seriously impacting the livelihoods of people throughout Somalia, with aid groups calling for “urgent attention from all actors” according to the Somali Review.

Civilians are left living in constant fear of fighting, either between al-Shabaab and other forces in the country, or between rival regional groups vying for power; all while living with the uncertainty of how they will manage to sustain themselves with weather conditions worsening, and food in short supply.

Fraser Lawrance