The new Somali government has, since yesterday, an ex-Shebab in its ranks. A way for the president to open negotiations with the terrorist group?
When he was elected president of Somalia last May, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has a hard time dealing with the terrorist threat, which is illustrated by the strength of the Shebabs. Moreover, after the election, The New York Times was quizzical about the situation there : "Somalia has elected a new president, but the terrorists have the real power", wrote the American newspaper.
Despite US military aid, according to the new Somali president, the violent insurrection of Al-Shabaab requires an appropriate response. At the beginning of July, Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud also affirmed that negotiations with the terrorist group were going to begin, after noticing that the Shebabs had put in place an “adaptation mechanism” to the military response.
But at the time, Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud did not announce any dates for these negotiations and simply kicked in, saying that he was "not currently in a position to negotiate with the Shebabs" and that the talks would begin " at the right time ".
Although the negotiations have not officially started, a first step has been taken: Mukhtar Robow, the former number 2 of the Shebabs, has indeed just been appointed minister of religious affairs in the government. A very symbolic act: Mukhtar Robow co-founded the terrorist group and was its spokesperson for a long time.
This Tuesday, Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre had the heavy task of announcing his new government.
I am honored to release the list of Somalia's new Cabinet which I will lead to deliver on our enabling national priorities. The Cabinet is tasked with delivering key policy priorities to make our country secure, progressive & prosperous for our citizens
— Hamza Abdi Barre (@HamzaAbdiBarre) August 2
He said in a tweet that his goal with his government is to "make (his) country safe, progressive and prosperous".
The arrival of an ex-Shebab to a post of minister remains a first step for Somalia: Mukhtar Robow is a repentant, who had wanted to run for president by claiming to "know how to destroy" the Shebabs. It was in 2018 and the then president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, assured that Robow had in fact "never given up on his extremist ideologies".
It must be said that the past of Mukhtar Robow does not plead in his favor: the man was placed on the list of terrorists by the United States and his head was put on a price of 5 million dollars. His departure from the Shebabs, Robow owes it above all to a war of egos with Ahmed Abdi Godane, the number 1 of the organization.
For Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud, it is a question of sending a strong message to the Shebabs: "Even now, we open the door to all those who want to denounce violence, extremist ideologies and join a normal life in Somalia", he had said in July.