Al-Shabaab militants have been driven out of certain southern cities, but their absence has created political power vacuums and given rise to stability “spoilers.”
By LUKE VARGAS
UNITED NATIONS (Somalilandsun) – The latest U.N. assessment of Somalia has identified unsteady political leadership as a primary source of continuing violence in the country.
Although 2012 witnessed a national leadership change in the capital of Mogadishu, the U.N. report acknowledged that the conclusion of the eight-year transition process “was at times characterized by reports of intimidation and undue interference to influence its outcome.”
In recent months, U.N. troops (AMISOM) and Somalian security forces have restored various locales previously controlled by the militant group Al-Shabaab to government control, but that hasn’t necessarily resulted in greater security.
In Mogadishu, “Al-Shaabab attacks [have] occurred frequently, including targeted killings and hand grenade attacks,” while Marka and the city of Baidoa have also experienced attacks on a weekly basis.
While the report identified scattered security improvements across the southern and central regions of the country – particularly in the Shabelle Dhexe province — the autonomous northern regions of Somaliland, Galmudug, and Puntland continue to play home to the greatest instability.
Those regions have served as strongholds for Al-Shabaab militants, who have engaged in violent clashes with Somalia’s transitional government and U.N. personnel since 2006.
In Galmudug, health problems recently derailed the governance of the region’s president, Mohamed Ahmed Alin, and in his absence spawned “rival claimants to the presidency” that the central government in Mogadishu has struggled to resolve.
Further north in Puntland, a number of factors including “undisciplined troops” have allowed Al-Shabaab to strengthen its control over the region and multiply troop strength.
Scavenging for conclusions to make about the perpetually volatile nation, the U.N. report posited that, “statebuilding itself may drive conflict as well as peace, as stakeholders struggle to build new institutions and clarify federal relations between Somalia’s centre and regions.”
Power vacuums across the country have given rise to individuals and groups seeking a slice of political power, the report concluded. “These spoilers will seize any opportunity to reverse the gains made so painstakingly in the peace process. We must continue to stay alert and deny them the space they seek.”
As of January 2013 upwards of 1,100 United Nations personnel were stationed in Somalia.
The next U.N. report on Somalia is expected in late May.