Somalia – Islamists and Pirates Part III

6: New negotiations

In the autumn of 2008, the transitional government offered negotiations both with the alliance of former members of the sharia courts and secular. But only part of this group agreed to meet the government for negotiations. In early 2009, the sections of the opposition that wanted to negotiate and the old transitional government were merged . One of the former leaders of the Sharia courts, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed , was appointed president. The Ethiopians withdrew from Somalia in early 2009, but the Shebab continued the fighting with undiminished vigor.

The part of the rebels that established the alliance in the autumn of 2007 (the alliance that Shebab did not join), was again split in two. One group supported the new government, while another continued the uprising. This merged with two smaller clan-based Islamist organizations, and the Islamic Front, in a new rebel movement . Also the Islamist, but less radical than the Shebab.

The new Islamic Party (Hizb al-Islam) was allied with Shebab , but two of the member organizations of Hizb clashed with Shebab over the southern port city of Kismayo, and were also driven out of southern Somalia by Shebab. The international community began to increasingly support the new government, partly as a result of unrest over Shebab’s radical profile, and partly as a result of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The EU, US, Philippines, France, Kenya and Djibouti supported the new government with money and training of military forces and police.

But the government’s problems persist , and many soldiers are not paid. There have also been disputes within the government and clashes between various departments of the government army. At the same time, coordination with Shebab’s perhaps most important enemy, the Sufis, has been poor.

7: The Pirates

Far from all over Somalia are base areas for pirates . The pirate bases are few and relatively geographically concentrated in more peaceful parts of the country . Modern piracy began in Somalia shortly after the collapse of the state, but in the early 1990s, for example, piracy was more common in Italy than in Somalia, a country located in Africa according to
The piracy business exploded in two periods:

  • in the period 2002–2006, when the famous pirate leader Afewyeny established a major pirate collaboration in the cities of Haradhere and Hobio in central Somalia. The pirate groups were run as a form of joint stock company where shareholders injected money, and the pirates only received money when an attack was successful. In 2006, this “company” had to go underground when the sharia courts took over the area and ended the piracy.
  • in 2008, piracy exploded further north, in the Puntland region.

In general, we can say that pirates thrive in peaceful areas with weak institutions . Pirates and Islamists also seem to have a problematic relationship , the two groups have little to do with each other and hardly operate in the same areas. In 2009, the EU began effective patrols to end piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and the number of attacks there decreased. But the waters off central Somalia, the so-called Somalia Basin, were too large to patrol, and piracy could continue.

International poaching has been used by pirates to gain legitimacy. They claim to be a form of coastguard guarding Somali resources. They do this despite attacking boats in other countries’ waters and focusing on taking larger tankers and cargo ships instead of smaller fishing boats. Nevertheless, the pirates’ argument has focused on a real problem – poaching in Somali waters. But this started long before the Somali state collapse and also before the piracy.


Muslim majorities and radical subgroups

Sunni Islam and Shia Islam are the two major faiths in Islam. In recent years, the media has focused on a number of smaller directions as well – most often radical – which are partly based on the big ones and are based on these. Some of them are:

  • Salafists- strong believers and strictly practicing Sunni Muslims who try to live as the first generations of Muslims did, before Islam absorbed foreign elements and became more “diluted”. Some (jihadist-holy war) Salafists want armed struggle against unbelievers or corrupt states.
  • Sufists- followers of Sufism, which is a common term for Islamic mysticism and is used by both Shia and Sunni Muslim groups. A majority of Sunni Muslims consider Sufism to be part of Sunni Islam. Sufists generally place greater emphasis on the inner spiritual aspect of religiosity than on the observance of religious rules.
  • Wahhabites- followers of Wahhabism, a radical Islamic movement within Sunni Islam and movement founded in the 18th century by Mohammed Abd al-Wahhab. State ideology in Saudi Arabia.

Clans in Somalia

“There are mainly six large clan families:
• Issaq is the dominant clan family in the northwest.
• The numerically smaller Dir is also located here.
• In the border area between Somaliland and Puntland, there are Darod clan families.
• Hawiye located in the southern part of the river Shabelle and Mogadishu, and is divided into at least 10 during clans.
• Agriculture in the south has traditionally been run by the agropastoralist clan families Rahanwayn and Digil, as well as bantu groups. Since the 1980s, droughts and strife have led to major changes in the settlement pattern in Somalia, affecting local conflicts within and within clans. In Mogadishu today all clans are represented, although the Hawiye clans are the strongest.
• Outside the clan system are Bantu people who mainly live in the agricultural areas of southern and central Somalia. The so-called benadir population lives in urban areas along the coast. These are of mixed descent, including Arabic, and are not part of the Somali clan system. ”

Somalia - Islamists and Pirates 3

About the author