NAIROBI: After decades of war, Somalia is taking small steps toward recovery, but breakaway regions, rival clans and the competing interests of neighbouring nations are threatening its fragile progress, analysts warn.
In the past two years, African Union troops have wrested town after town from Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents, hauling down their black Islamist banners and raising Somalia’s flag.
The worst flashpoint is the far southern region dubbed “Jubaland” bordering Kenya and Ethiopia.
Both nations have troops there after invading in late 2011, while this month several rival warlords declared themselves “president”, sparking anger in Mogadishu.
“The effort to create a Jubaland state within Somalia will test the limits of federalism in that country, and threatens to touch off clan warfare not only within Somalia but also in its neighbours,” the International Crisis Group warned in a recent report.
Mogadishu’s government —selected last year by clan elders in a UN-backed process and the first to be recognized internationally in more than two decades— is full of confidence.
But international recognition counts for little within Somalia, and central rule is controversial.
The last to claim control was Siad Barre, toppled in 1991 after a rule marked by repression of opposition and a bloody civil war against Somaliland.
Years of anarchy meant Somalis reverted to age-old systems of autonomy and traditional semi-nomadic camel herding.
While AU troops backing Mogadishu have enjoyed territorial success, Roland Marchal, an analyst with French research institute CNRS, notes the fighting force lacks a “political strategy to go with the military strategy”.
Kenya’s army, which invaded in 2011 alongside Madobe’s allied troops, faces a particularly sticky predicament.
Mogadishu lawmakers have submitted a motion demanding Kenya leave Somalia, while Mohamud said Kenyan troops “misbehaved” when a top level government delegation went to Kismayo and “did not treat the committee well”.
Kenya wants a security buffer zone to protect its valuable tourism industry, a proposed major port and hopes of offshore oil and gas finds.
It also hopes stability would let it send back the half a million Somali refugees it hosts.