Somali PM appoints former al-Shabab deputy leader as minister of religions

Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre on Tuesday appointed Mukhtar Robow, the former deputy leader and spokesman of the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab, as the country’s religious affairs minister.

Linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, al-Shabab has been in conflict with the Somali Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2006, describing itself as waging jihad against ‘enemies of Islam’. .

Muktar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, is not new to regional politics. With a resume that includes a failed bid in the 2018 regional elections, a four-year house arrest, and a $5 million bounty offered by the US government for his capture, this is certainly a turning point in Robow’s destiny. .

Robow’s appointment comes after recently elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signaled his government’s willingness to negotiate with al-Shabab.

Fighting an insurgency against the Somali government for 15 years, al-Shabab remains strong in the country despite an African Union operation against the group.

Al-Shabab fighters were expelled from the capital Mogadishu in 2011 but continued to launch attacks targeting the army, government and civilians.

Extreme drought in the Horn of Africa has left 7.1 million Somalis struggling, with more than 200,000 on the brink of starvation, according to the UN.

President Mohamud’s new government faces the challenges of an emerging famine and a violent Islamist insurgency that military means alone have failed to contain.

Minnie J. Leonard