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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Civilians Flee Somalia City to Avoid Being Human Shields

Thousands of residents are fleeing the last Somalia city controlled by Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al Shabab, and there are reports that the militants themselves also are leaving Kismayo ahead of an expected military assault. Defeating the hard-line Islamist militants with a reputation for brutally violent enforcement of Sharia law is a necessary step toward returning peace to the troubled nation that has been wracked by inter-clan conflict and without a functioning central government for decades. …

‘They will have lost their final substantial source of income. They will have been relegated from authorities to outlaws in all important urban centers. But they will not disappear. The group’s leaders are still at large and will likely maintain a following,’ said James Smith, Horn of Africa Project Manager at the Rift Valley Institute.

Smith said a far greater challenge than ousting Al Shabab from key cities will be to replace them with good governance, something most Somalis have never experienced. ‘Al Shabab emerged from a vacuum of effective government in Somalia. It or its successor will be quick to re-emerge it the current opportunity to offer a decent alternative is not seized,’ said Smith.

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