Should Somali Government Negotiate with al-shabaab to End the War?

X Space

7th July 2024 8:00PM

Over the last 15 years, the government of Somalia, together with its partners, have been waging protracted war against al-Shabaab. The war has claimed an extraordinary casualty both in human and financial terms. It has left millions of Somalis in catastrophic humanitarian condition, displaced thousands of into IDPs, and deprived the government’s ability to defeat the enemy – or an outright win.

The African Transition Mission is in a gradual, schedule-based drawdown from key military sectors and installations, handing over to Somalia troops. This is the longest running peacekeeping mission in the African continent. It has costed huge casualty both in body-bags and billions of dollars.

Although the government has recently made considerable gains in pushing al-Shabaab out of major towns and districts, yet a full victory remains elusive.

Against this backdrop, Minbar Initiative will host the first virtual X Space series of debate on this topic, and has invited highly respected scholars, analysts, and practitioners to discuss further.

The expert panel will discuss following questions.

1st question to Ashley: Having wrote a book on how to negotiate with insurgents, and given your experience in Afghanistan, can you set the scene for us on the context and the literature of negotiating with militant insurgents, and whether you see we’ve reached a “ripe moment” for any talk or dialogue with al-Shabaab in Somalia?

1st Question to Omar: There’s growing call among the academics, think-tanks including International Crisis Group (ICG) that it's time for the government of Somalia to explore an alternative option other than military. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has recently in Oslo signaled that his government is ready for negotiation with al-Shabaab. Do you think al-Shabaab is ready for talk? And if so, do you think they’re willing to accept the government’s demand to denounce violence, severe ties with international terrorist organizations and accept the federal government as legitimate structure?

1st Question to prof Federico Donelli: You recently mentioned Qatar is meditating dialogue between SFG and al-Shabaab in Doha (although the president of Somalia denied any talks – ongoing or past – with al-Shabaab), but can you talk about the role of externals meditators in Somalia’s conflict? And whether al-Shabaab will trust Qatar as honest broker, given Qatar’s support and recognition of SFG as sole legitimate authority in Somalia?

1st question to Samira Gaid: With looming ATMIS drawdown and the withdrawal from key sectors and installations, how do you assess the capacity and the readiness of Somali National Troops (SNA) to fill in the vacuum left by ATMIS and take full responsibility of the national security? And how do you see any talk with al-Shabaab would impact the current war against them?


Abdulaziz Billow


Dr. Federico Donelli

Assistant Professor at the University of Trieste

Dr. Ashley Jackson

Co-Director of the Centre on Armed Groups

Samira Gaid

Regional Security Analyst, Balqiis Insights

Omar S. Mahmood

Senior Analyst, Eastern Africa, ICG

2024 Minbar Talks. All right reserved.

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