Clan dominance, politics and infighting within the Al-Shabaab in Somalia are fuelling the unrest, tensions and attacks currently being witnessed in the North Eastern region. The conflict pitting the Marehan Clan in Al-Shabaab against other clans based in Somalia and along the Kenyan border has led to an increase in Al-Shabaab activities in the area.
A source within the Gedo region who is a former member of the Al-Shabaab terror group has indicated that the Marehans, who hold the majority membership of Al-Shabaab in Gedo region, are fuelling the tensions. The offensive is being spearheaded by Abdirahman Fillow who is the Al-Shabaab head in Gedo region.
The conflict has played out specifically in the Gedo region leading to the increase in attacks by the Al-Shabaab targeting clans living in the Kenyan side. On Saturday 15th June 2019, an administration police land cruiser carrying thirteen officers on patrol from Khorof Harar ran over an improvised explosive between Khorof Harar and Konton. Among the slain officers, four were locals from the area.
The attack on the policemen is said to be a deliberate attack planned by the Marehan faction of Al-Shabaab in Somalia to destabilise the security situation and put pressure on Kenyan Somali clans living along the border with Somalia, especially the Degodia and the Garre.
Further, there has been a rise in the number of kidnappings of herders in the North Eastern Region by the Al-Shabaab. This is part of the plan by the Marehan faction to arm twist the other clans into submission in order to attain prominence in the terror group.
The conflict in Al-Shabaab in linked to the border trade in contraband goods that has threatened to destabilise peace in the region. The Kenyan government has cracked down on the illicit trade in the porous North eastern region and has intensified efforts to curb movement of goods and people.
Gedo region is a hub for a lucrative illegal business in contraband goods and human smuggling. There is existence of several clan cartels doing the illegal business with the major player being the Al-Shabaab terror group.
The militant group has capitalised on the clan dynamics and the porosity of the border to run numerous illegal businesses dealing in contraband goods, trade in weapons and human smuggling. The Kenyan government is continuing its plan to build the border wall and the Al-Shabaab has seen this as putting an end to their business.
The recent destruction of the wall by residents from the Marehan clan in Somalia under the direction of Al-Shabaab is a clear indicator of the influence that Al-Shabaab wields over the Somali clan in Gedo region of Somalia. The group is said to have incited the Marehan Community in Somalia to destroy the wall in order to continue with the illegal business.
Further, Al-Shabaab is said to be receiving Zakat from business people in the region and has been over-taxing the Kenyan clans and the Kenyan herders, sometimes forcefully taking their livestock leading to displeasure by the Kenyan Somalis. The increasing attacks are therefore meant to create insecurity and coerce the clans into agreeing to the terms of the Al-Shabaab clans.
The politics being played out are also tied to the upcoming Jubaland elections in August and the desire of the Marehans to dominate from Gedo to Kismayo. The Marehans in Al-Shabaab therefore want to dominate the resources being collected in Gedo at the expense of other clans in the militant group. The conflict has also seen a deliberate crackdown by Abdirahman Fillow on alleged spies with the group accusing the Kenyan Somali clans of being spies.
Abdirahman Fillow is also said to have masterminded the removal of Abdiweli Kamaure, another Al-Shabaab leader, from Gedo and his subsequent transfer to Puntland in order to execute his grand plan. Additionally, the conflict is said to be the source of the diplomatic spat between Kenya and Somalia over the maritime Boundary.