The wholesale daily bombardment of the Bakara market by the AMISOM forces compelled the business community to move most of their merchandise to the IDP home in the Afgoi corridor - the Bakara market is currently reduced to deal-making market. Al Shabab has laid its hands on a booming business that include telecommunications companies, power generators, merchandise warehouses and the likes that has the potential to build up their war coffers massively and as a token of good gesture they instantly wrapped up the check points hitherto manned by Hizbul Islam.
The popular assumption that Al Shabaab's takeover of Hizbul Islam came in an easy way runs contrary to the facts the two movement’s history preserved. The merger was delivered by lengthy negotiations often coupled at times by arm twists that started soon after the birth of Hizbul Islam in January 2009. Al Shabab movement has all along deemed that the Islamist Mujahidin’s strategic objective (creation of an Islamic state) could only be achieved rapidly by a unified front and hence never accepted the birth of a rival Islamist movement.
The merger of the two Islamists into one was the ultimate goal the insurgency was craving for and is a priceless victory for them and probably a welcome development for the communities who bore the brunt of the Islamist rivalry, as the alternative scenario of inter-Islamist bloodshed is a scenario no sane person would wish to imagine. The minimum would have been a war in Afgoi’s humanitarian corridor which would have uprooted over a million people.
Regardless of their archaic and strict interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sharia, the Islamists managed to institute one single movement to replace yester years’ countless warlords that destroyed the fabric of the Somali nation. The Al Shabab movement has more soldiers and firearms under one command which will be tested shortly at the battle fields – AMISOM forces are finalizing the details of over ambitious offensive war aimed to taking back the important southern port city Kismayo port.
Hizbul Islam – ruined by irreconcilable ideologies (clan and Islam)
Sheikh Ahmed Madobe
When Al Shabab forces, on 1st Oct 2009, ousted Hizbul Islam from the control of Kismayo, they exposed that Sheikh Ahmed Madoobe, the central pillar of Hizbul Islam in the Juba valley, was executing an agenda backed by Ethiopia, the TFG and Kenya. In the end, this scandal shattered the thin trust that held together the smaller factions that united under the umbrella of Hizbul Islam - The undoing of Hizbul Islam started back then. Despite repeated reiterations, Sheikh Aweys failed to convince the top officials of Hizbul Islam in Gedo, let alone the Ras Kamboni Brigade (an essential and organized faction, headed by Sheikh Hassan Turki), that Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Madoobe is still part of his group.
Sheikh Hassan Al –Turki, who is on the hit list of the US government and is specialized in the training of the deadliest units of the Jihadists, severed his faction’s ties with Hizbul Islam. Sheikh Turki’s close associates allege poor health and shrewd machinations of Sheikh Madoobe compelled him to let Al Shabab swallow the Ras Kamboni Brigade. The ceremony of the merger of Al Shabab and Ras Kamboni Brigade was held in Baidabo on January 27, 2010 in the presence of Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed "Godane", the reclusive Al shabab spiritual and operational leader whose nom de guerre is Abu Zubair. Ever since, Sheikh Al-Turki is assumed to be enjoying retirement, albeit in poor health, in a safe care home somewhere around Kismayo.
Inside the executive committee of Al shabab: - leadership shake up is in the offing
Sh. Mukhtar Robow " Abu Mansoor" (top) & Sh. Fu'ad Shangole (bottom)
The attack might have triggered mistrust and suspicions within the group and might have obliged them to suspend the talks prematurely. To dampen the report of leadership feud within Al Shabab, Sheikh Mukhtar Roobow delivered a speech in Mogadishu, on October 8, 2010, aimed at clearing the air and buying vital time for the movement to put its house in order. He termed the reports baseless and groundless, accusing the Transitional Federal Government of disseminating propaganda against what he called the “Mujahidin”.
Can Al Shabab digest the absorption of Hizbul Islam?
Conclusion: - Al Shabab may get a new lease of life with human face
The disagreements within the movement could have stemmed out of standard internal appraisal in which the leaders are made to take stock of their performance, their tactics, their relations with external parties and their shortcomings which is essential for the long-term success of the movement. It is also the case that historically rebel movement fractures when they are cornered militarily and politically – any venue short from dismantling the movements is bound to be explored even if it is the assassination of some of the executive committee. Al Shabab’s division might have been caused by either of the two, or a combination of the said factors. However, optimistic Somalis hope that the growing voice of the elements seen as nationalists within Alshabab augurs hope of reconciliation.
What is indisputable is that Alshabab’s extremist policies and vision - internationalization of the national question, the agenda of the foreign Jihadists to make Somalia pan – Islamic caliphate that became the hallmark of current Al shabab leadership - has earned disaffection from many quarters of its supporters. It is unlikely that the proponents of the internationalist agenda will emerge winners out of this duel because people see the futility of their vision, which is a perpetual misguided Jihadist war with no end – Somalia now, Kenya and Ethiopia tomorrow and so on and on is becoming more of a pipeline dream.
Al shabab’s threat to attack America or Europe can’t be taken lightly because they can activate their sleeping cells to bomb soft civilian targets. The internationalist group who are under pressure from within and outside might resort to creating havoc intended to either divert the trajectory of the inside struggle or else to take the ultimate revenge on Al Shabab’s future restructuring process by blowing away the bridges to modernity and moderation.
The sad reality is - the war in Somalia will go on in the foreseeable future because whichever group emerges as the winner has no intention or incentive to go into reconciliation talks with what they see as weak foreign owned entity (TFG). The presence of Sheikh Sharif, a man equally reviled by both Alshabab and HI, makes deal between TFG and whoever comes out as the winner in the ongoing Alshabab internal power struggle very unlikely. Most leaders of the Islamists are rumoured to have said that they will never sit and discuss with the man who betrayed them during the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia –Sheikh Sharif.
It is also unlikely that any number of foreign troops pumped into Somalia by the international community could defeat and silence Alshabab guns. In this regard, there is little that the amalgamation of Alshabab and HI would change in the political and security situation of Somalia. However the emergence of quasi-nationalist Islamist leadership in Alshabab may bring tangible changes in the areas of civil liberties and humanitarian work as restrictions are bound to be eased.
Political analyst and WardheerNews and terrorfree somalia contributor