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Somalia: Al-Shabaab co-founder appointed as new Minister of Religious Affairs



Back in May, the newly elected Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, promised change for infamously corrupt Somalia; however, Mohamud is nothing more than a recycled corrupt leader himself. He served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017 and managed to recapture the leadership in a highly questionable election. Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre was nominated by Mohamud in the May election. And now he has named former al-Shabaab co-founder and spokesperson Mukhtar Robow as a cabinet minister, a move that “could either help strengthen the fight against the insurgency or provoke clan clashes.” It will likely be the latter.

According to The East African, Robow defected to the government in 2017 after falling out with other Shabaab faction leaders. In 2018, that same publication reported:

A Western-backed push by Somali officials to encourage al Shabaab defections has lured commanders, the former head of intelligence and a major regional warlord, security officials and defectors told Reuters, offering a rare window into secretive efforts to undermine the al Qaeda-linked insurgency from within.

Clan clashes and sectarian violence are nothing new to Somalia. A shift away from al-Shabaab does not necessarily mean the end of terrorism, as the government claims.

Mukhtar Robow’s new job description:

Minister for Endowment, Religious Affairs and Counter-terrorism Ideology. He will mostly be in charge of dissuading the youth from joining al-Shabaab based on religious convictions.

Somalia’s new minister of religious affairs may be a blow to al-Shabaab, but his appointment will have little to no effect on the standard of living of Somalis. The Department of State reported that Somalia was looking to the Sharia to improve its terrorism problem, heedless of the fact that Islamic terrorism is rooted in Sharia imperatives.

The Federal Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education continued to implement its new curriculum, declaring that a secular education with a focus on Islamic values and instruction in Somali was important in order to counter efforts by the terrorist group al-Shabaab to impose a strict version of Islamic law.

“Secular education with a focus on Islamic values and instruction” is an oxymoron, but Robow fits the bill for the Somali government’s attempt to advance the pretense that it is aiming for secularism. All the while, it is merely adding another dimension to sectarian wars. Mukhtar Robow brings with him the same values he had when he co-founded al-Shabaab, but under a new branding.

“Somalia appoints al Shabaab co-founder as minister of religion,” France 24, August 2, 2022:

Somalia’s prime minister has named former al Shabaab group co-founder and spokesperson Mukhtar Robow as a minister in the country’s new cabinet, a move that could either help strengthen the fight against the insurgency or provoke clan clashes.

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said in televised remarks that Robow, who once had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head before he split from al Shabaab in 2013, would serve as the minister in charge of religion.

The previous government arrested him December 2018 in Somalia’s South West region as he campaigned for the regional presidency. The protests that followed were quashed with deadly force with security forces shooting at least 11 people.

“After much deliberation with the president and the public, I have named cabinet ministers who have education and experience and they will fulfill their duties. I ask the parliament to approve the cabinet,” Barre said before announcing the cabinet appointees.

Some analysts have speculated that Robow, who subsequently denounced al Shabaab, could help strengthen government forces in his native Bakool region, where the insurgency holds substantial amounts of territory.

New President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected by lawmakers in May, has promised to take the fight to the insurgency after three years in which his predecessor, consumed by political infighting, took little action against al Shabaab.

That allowed the insurgency to build up substantial reserves of cash and carry out attacks….