Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre has appointed the former co-founder of the Islamic extremist organization al-Shabaab, Mukhtar Robow, as a member of his cabinet. Mr. Robow was named a “minister of religion”, in the hope that his position in the government will encourage current members of al-Shabaab to disarm and recognize the government. Al-Shabaab took control of many parts of southern Somalia and carried out numerous bombings that killed thousands of citizens, with the aim of seizing control of the Somali government and imposing a stricter interpretation of Sharia. Al-Shabaab has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States government. Mr Robow left the organization in 2013 over disagreements with the organization’s former co-leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a US-sponsored drone strike in 2014. In 2018, after publicly declaring his support for the Somali government, Robow was arrested after campaigning for the regional presidency of Somalia’s South West State. He was placed under house arrest until recently as he is now able to serve in government.
Reactions to Robow’s appointment remain divided between Somalis and the international community, with many seeing the appointment as a step towards eventual peace in the country and others fearing that the appointment could provoke further violence. Political analyst Mohamed Mohamud said Reuters, “We welcome his appointment. This decision will advance reconciliation and serve as a good example for other high-level al-Shabaab defections. It remains to be seen whether this appointment will succeed in removing the power of al-Shabaab and creating more peace throughout the country, but many see it as an important step in the unification of the country.
Many believe that recognizing a former member of a terrorist group as Mr Robow by giving him a government post is an outrage and will have serious political consequences. The continuing violence and severe famine that have been exacerbated by the presence of al-Shabaab in many parts of Somalia, however, requires immediate action to be taken in order to save lives, which is a problem far greater than anything. type of potential political misstep. While the potentially positive or negative effects of Mr. Robow’s appointment to Cabinet have yet to materialize, Prime Minister Barre’s decision to put political repercussions aside and do what is best for the people of Somalia who are affected daily by the horrific acts of al-Shabaab is an important step in bringing peace to the country and helping innocent civilians, as the appointment of Mr. Robow may very well encourage other members of al -Shabaab to defect and disarm and could remove blockage of needed aid shipments.
Al-Shabaab controls a significant portion of territory in Somalia’s Bakool region, where Mukhtar Robow is from. Prime Minister Barre hopes Mr Robow’s appointment will encourage the insurgents to defect and garner more support for the government, as Mr Robow is highly influential and respected in this region. Bakool and many other parts of Somalia are currently experiencing historic famine, with 40% of the Somali population (around 7 million people) estimated to be food insecure. While Somalia is heavily dependent on grain exports from Ukraine and has therefore been heavily affected by the delay in food exports from the Russian-Ukrainian war, humanitarian organizations have also been unable to deliver shipments of food due to al-Shabaab insurgents blocking many shipping routes. . In many cases, aid organizations were forced to hand over cash payments to insurgents in order to distribute food to those who needed it most. This has caused many organizations to lose critical funding, as many major donors do not want to be seen as “traitors” to al-Shabaab.
Although the appointment of Mukhtar Robow to the post of ‘minister of religion’ in the Somali government may be controversial, it is a necessary action in order to obtain immediate help for the millions of Somalis who are in great danger. due to the powerful presence of al-Shabaab. in some areas and can be an important step in bringing peace to the whole country.