The group of Islamist militants fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government of Somalia has become a nuisance not just in Somalia but globally. For years Al-Shabaab has been terrorizing Somaliland and foreign humanitarian aid workers have not been spared either. The group’s outrageous stunts are creepy if not downright silly. They have in the past banned watching football on TV, playing music on radio, outlawed women from wearing brassieres and demanded men to grow beards. A recent ban cautions Muslims against the consumption of samosas.
As drought ravaged Somalia in 2010 and 2011, Al- Shabaab, alleging concealed motives on the part of foreign organizations, put a ban on foreign aid. The move might have been taken as a joke by many but the group has reportedly intimidated, kidnapped and killed aid workers and also African union peace keeping troops leading to a suspension of humanitarian operations. They have also blocked starving people from fleeing the country and as a result the poor Somali citizens in dire need of help have suffered the consequences.
6 August 2011 saw The United Nations envoy for Somalia welcome the news that the Al-Shabaab, which as of summer 2010 is believed to control most of the southern and central parts of Somalia, has decided to leave the capital, Mogadishu. The news came as a relief especially to the starving population. The majority of who were flocking into refugees’ camps in Kenya in desperate situations. “There is no doubt that the departure of Al-Shabaab would be a positive development and a step in the right direction for a city that has seen so much misery and devastation,” said Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia.
Kenyans have not escaped Al-Shabaab’s wrath. “Kenya has constantly disturbed us and now it should face the consequences of allowing Ethiopian troops to attack us from Mandera town,” Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohmud Rage told a news conference. There has been constant tension in the country after the group issued threats of attacking the country, the most recent of which came in April as the Christian population was preparing for the Easter holiday dampening the spirit of the Easter weekend at least in some sections of Nairobi and Mombasa.
A police spokesman Mr Iteere who had got wind of the information that Al-Shabaab was planning to strike asked Kenyans to be on the lookout and advised those responsible for security in shopping malls, hotels, and all other social places where the public is admitted, to be more vigilant.
Al-Shabaab has also left some Muslims worried about the safety of their children as the group has been recruiting young boys. The Kenyan police have on numerous occasions intercepted groups of Kenyan youths on their way to Somalia as recruits for the Al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group. There are numerous stories of young Somalis arriving in Mogadishu on one-way tickets and carrying no luggage and sad tales of parents who only learn of their sons’ fate when they die on the battle fields. The group is said to lure the young men with promises of lump sum cash rewards while making them believe that they are joining a religious cause.
The group has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings including suicide attacks in Mogadishu and in central and northern Somalia. “It was not the strength of al Shabaab that kept them in Mogadishu for so long, it was the incompetence and weakness of the (Somali government),” said Afyare Elmi, a professor at Qatar University’s International Affairs department.
Ugandan officials also pointed accusing fingers at Al-Shabaab blaming the group for the twin suicide bombings in Kampala, on 11 July 2010 that killed more than 70 people.
Al-Shabaab describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam” but since its insurgency in early 2007 it seems to cause more harm than good to the same people whose interests it purports to safeguard.