Defeat of Somalia’s Shebab ‘matter of time’: ex-envoy

A former top UN envoy said Wednesday that Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels will be defeated if foreign governments stay the course in backing the fragile government in Mogadishu.


Speaking at Land Forces East Africa, a two-day regional defence conference and military technology exhibition, the former envoy to Somalia played down a recent upsurge in Shebab attacks inside the country and across the border in Kenya.


“It’s really just a matter of time before the Shebab are defeated in Somalia,” said Augustine Mahiga, a Tanzanian diplomat and the United Nations’ special representative in Mogadishu from 2010 to 2013.


“But pressure needs to be sustained and it must be relentless. The moment you relax, the Shebab will recover. So the international community must be ready to continue supporting the mission,” he added.


“There’s a huge need for political reconciliation,” he added. “Even if you exclude the Shebab, there’s still a lot of political work that has to be done.”


Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of Somalia’s government or the security forces, seemingly as part of a bid to discredit claims that the authorities are winning the war against the Islamists. The group has also claimed a string of attacks in Kenya.


While the 22,000-strong African Union force launched a fresh offensive in March against Shebab bases, seizing a series of towns, the insurgents have largely fled in advance and suffered few casualties. Agence France-Presse