In part two of our interview with Roland Marchal, find out why the war in southern Somalia is changing but not ending, and why the road map process may soon run into trouble. For part one of the interview, click here.
It seems that you are quite cautious about the current TFG offensive, and the prospects that it will be over soon. So military victories and territorial gains are not the only story there is to tell?
The question is, and we see that everywhere, what kind of political answer you give to the population after having beaten Shabaab. In Beledweyne and Baidoa, two big cities that have been taken from Shabaab, the Ethiopians promoted their friends, their allies. That makes a lot of sense. But if you don’t have local reconciliation with clans that explicitly supported Shabaab – because they had some good interest to do that, some very real interest beyond the jihaadi rhetorics – if you don’t do that, then sooner or later you create tensions and new problems come up.
That’s what happened in Beledweyne. Beledweyne is an unsettled city because of the very old problem of who should rule the place, the Galjaal or the Hawadle clan. This problem has not been resolved by the Ethiopians; they basically gave power to the Hawadle, and as a consequence you now have a whole clan that shifted its support to Shabaab again. Now people don’t care very much about Beledweyne because it’s not the capital city, but the situation there is not quite as the postal card would tell you.
Baidoa is the same. It’s a complicated story because the dominant clans of the area had different agendas, but the simple fact that you give priority to one section of the clan against another means that tensions are growing. You have of course some terrorist attacks that will kill one, two, three people, but that is not the key issue. The key issue is that socially there is a discontent that is growing, and that may express itself at the right time, either by organising new armed groups that will be supported by Shabaab, or by providing new recruits to Shabaab directly. And of course it’s the same question in Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, considering what Ethiopian and Kenyan troops are doing there. Continue reading