When an organization suddenly loses its leader, there are a lot of ripple effects. The initial weight is felt in the organisation’s goals and objectives in cases where the organisation is driven more by personality than by established structure.
A replacement leader more often than not changes the overall goals of the group and will most likely designate new objectives to meet those goals. This will not only change the outlook of the organisation but also the modus operandi.
Changes in goals and objectives in a group would also depend on the influence of the parent organization and could also trigger internal disagreement and conflict as was seen in the case of Al Shabaab after the death of Ahmed Godane.
Criticism came flying from as far as Al Qaeda as to Godane’s disregard for Muslim lives and was reiterated by the infamous Fazul Abdullah Mohammad. Omar Hammami, a foreign fighter also broke rank and launched a scathing video on Al Shabaab and its modus operandi.
Even before his death, differences existed between him and his top commanders over his disregard for Muslim lives.
Under the leadership of Abu Ubaidah, Al-Shabab re-established itself along looser lines of command. By 2011, it became rather decentralized. According to a military source, al-Shabab’s taxation, training and command lines had been severely dented. Over time, as battlefield losses increased and al-Shabab suffered more defeats, old issues of contingency resurfaced, as did the discussion of the treatment of Muslims and disregard for Muslim casualties.
In essence, Al Shabaab at present do not enjoy the type of support that they did from the territories they previously occupied. They have also cut ties with some of their current top commanders due to differences involving the killing of Muslim civilians as was witnessed in a recent bombing in Mogadishu that killed 82 people, mostly students.
It is now believed that the sacking of Mahad Karate and a few of his cronies was caused by this specific bombing, with sources citing an unwillingness by Mahad Karate to continue with the group’s current trajectory.