Last Sunday saw one of the worst terrorist incidents in Somali history, with at least 300 people dead, and hundreds more that we may never confirm.
Whilst no group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, the Somali government has pointed to the al-Shabaab militant group, who have been trying to take control of the country since 2006.
But the problems in Somalia aren’t limited to the increasingly devastating attacks by the group. That’s just another symptom of the deep political divisions that have devastated the region and its people for more than a century.
From the late 19th century, the resource-rich region was constantly invaded and fought over by the British, Italian and French governments, who did not formally leave Somalia until 1960. After independence, the Socialist government of Siad Barre was established in a military coup, which eventually broke down in 1991. as the deep political and ethnic divides created by the colonial powers led to the ongoing Somali civil war.
The deep political divides created by the colonial powers reignited, and the ongoing, bloody Somali civil war began.
What is going on in Somalia?
In 2006, a group known as the Islamic Courts Union took control of most of southern Somalia, challenging the authority of the weak Transitional Federal Government, who they saw as responsible for the violence and instability of the past 15 years. In order to regain control, Ethiopian troops, as well as peacekeepers from the African Union invaded the country in 2008, defeating the ICU, and re-establishing the Somali government. The broken ICU was shattered along ideological lines, with the chairman, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, actually being elected President of the government he had just been at war with.
Another group in the ICU, however, saw this as the ultimate betrayal. A group is known as al-Shabaab, who were renowned for their violent approach, split off and declared war on the new government, plunging the country into its current phase of violence and instability.
Al-Shabaab is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but are mostly interested in taking control of the region known as the Horn of Africa. They’ve attacked Ethiopia and Kenya, but have focused their efforts on wreaking havoc in Somalia
The country is divided into a number of competing factions, with each controlling sizable areas of the country. This political disunity is a major reason why al-Shabaab can wreak such destruction in the country.
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