Ex-militant tests Somalia’s fledgling democracy

Source: Reuters

By Hereward Holland

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Last year Mukhtar Robow had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head. Now the former Islamist al Shabaab militant has downed his guns and donned the garb of a democrat.

Former al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow attends a news conference in Baidoa
Former al Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow attends a news conference in Baidoa, Somalia November 4, 2018. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

While Robow is not the first ex-militant to enter Somali politics, the momentum behind his bid to become a regional leader has turned his effort into a watershed moment in the stand-off between the federal government and Somali’s seven semi-autonomous regions.

How Mogadishu and those states ultimately find ways to share power – including via elections such as the Dec. 5 vote in the South West state where Robow is running – is critical.

“It’s a pivotal point in the confrontation between the government and federal member states, which is probably a much greater threat to Somalia’s security than al Shabaab itself,” said Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research.

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