The Somali-based Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) organization has been dramatically expanding its activities in Kenya since the start of the year. In January the group attacked a US airbase, and in April it killed six soldiers in the northeast of the country. Despite continued US strikes against the group’s strongholds, Al-Shabaab has continued to step up its operations, especially in northeastern Kenya.
On 13 March 2020, Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of South Sudan, issued a presidential decree to appoint members of the Transitional Government of National Unity in accordance with the terms of the peace deal. This development paved the way for the debate between those who see it as a real step towards the implementation of the peace deal and the restoration of security and stability and those who consider it a mere response to external pressures, an attempt to buy time, and the deferral of an imminent clash because of which the country could relapse into overall civil war.
In July 2020, Taiwan and Somaliland announced their intention to establish reciprocal representative offices to broaden their communication with the outside world. A diplomatic victory for both sides, it also represents a paradigm shift that will have repercussions for the Horn of Africa and Somaliland and for major world powers, especially China, which has rejected the move. Meanwhile, the USA has welcomed diplomatic engagement between Taiwan and Somaliland, leading some observers to think that the offices will be established under the auspices of the USA, which is potentially risky for all parties in the region, given the divergent stances on the agreement. The move could result in a transformation in Chinese policy toward the Horn of Africa in particular, and toward Africa in general, during the coming period.
In recent years, there have been increasing signs that Iran and Al-Shabaab have been growing closer. Iran is aspiring to expand its influence and its activities throughout the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region by strengthening its ties to emerging movements and organizations, such as the Houthis in Yemen and Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and using these groups to achieve its strategic goals and create a new balance between the regional and international powers active in the region. This poses a clear threat to security and stability in the region and to these powers’ strategic interests; they have therefore been forced to work together to attempt to sever the ties between Tehran and Al-Shabaab and prevent further instability in the region.
Somalia is on tenterhooks following the approval by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of a new elections law, based on the principle of “one person, one vote”. Views among the country’s political forces vary, with the law already having faced a wave of criticism and calls for its reconsideration on the grounds that it is not suited to the current political, economic, and security conditions. The government and the political opposition in Somalia are highly polarized at a time when the country is preparing to hold its first direct elections at the end of 2020. Such polarization has led to further speculation about the future of the elections and of the president’s regime in the coming period.
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