A Somali diplomat has said the combined military efforts launched in the war-torn country have led to the weakening of terrorist group Al-Shabaab by condensing the areas it controls.
Foreign Minister Abdisalam Hadliyeh Omer told the United Nations on Saturday that Somalia’s security services and allied forces, including those of Kenya, have “militarily defeated the evil that is Al-Shabaab”.
He added: “Today, Al-Shabaab controls less than 10 per cent of territory in the country. In recent months many of their key leaders have been killed, others have defected and their violent ideology is truly shunned by the Somali people.”
Mr Omer thanked the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which, he said, have helped stabilise the country.
He cited the “brotherly states” of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti and Nigeria, saying “their valour and distinguished service will never be forgotten”.
He said the war-torn nation aims to have a fully effective military in operation prior to the planned draw-down in 2018 of Amisom’s 22,000-member force.
Five years ago, Al-Shabaab was engaged in “open warfare” with Amisom and Somali forces, Mr Omer recounted.
The militants are now limited to “infrequently and opportunistically undertaking desperate suicide attacks on mosques, hotels, restaurants, businesses and carrying out assassinations against innocent citizens”.
“This is the best evidence of their moral bankruptcy, ideological falsehood and diminished capabilities.”
However, Mr Omer’s depiction of Somalia as a country moving steadily toward peace and democratic development is not fully shared by independent monitors.
While most agree that Shabaab has suffered major losses in recent years, many outside experts say the Islamist insurgents still threaten the security of neighbouring countries, especially Kenya, as well as Somalia itself.
More than 30 civilians have died as a result of bomb attacks in Mogadishu, the capital, in the past month.
For example on September 18, a Somalia army commander and four of his guards were killed in an explosion claimed by Al-Shabaab.
Read: Top Somali officer killed in bombing
The group has also continued to carry out deadly attacks on targets across the border in Kenya.
“Contrary to some suggestions that the group is on the decline, this upsurge in attacks suggests Al-Shabaab is still highly capable and determined to destabilise an electoral process that would see state institutions strengthened,” Somali analyst Muhyadin Ahmed Roble wrote on September 19 in a commentary on the African Arguments website.
Somalia is holding presidential and parliamentary elections this month and next, but only about 14,000 clan delegates are eligible to cast ballots in the country of 11 million people.
Insecurity and disputes among government leaders thwarted hopes for a broadly representative election this year.
More than one million Somalis are internally displaced, and some 250,000 refugees remain in camps in Kenya.
About 40 per cent of the population faces “food insecurity”, according to the United Nations.
- Ugandan soldiers patrol a backstreet in the southern town of Merka, 90kms north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, on July 17, 2016, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). The country’s foreign minister has said that Amisom has contributed to the declining dominance of Al-Shabaab.