Somalia appoints former al-Shabab militant as minister
The prime minister of Somalia, Hamza Abdi Barre, appoints a co-founder and spokesman of the Islamic al Shabaab, Mukhtar Robow, as minister for religious affairs.
The appointment comes months after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected Somalia’s president by lawmakers in May. Recently, Mohamud signaled willingness to negotiate with al-Shabab, saying that more than a military approach will be required to end the insurgency.
Al Shabaab insurgents have killed tens of thousands of people in bombing in their fight to overthrow Somalia’s western-backed central government and implements its interpretation of Islamic law.
Mukhtar Robow had $5 million U.S. bounty on his head after he co-founded al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab and served as the group’s spokesman.
Robow split from the group in 2013 and publicly denounced al Shabaab when it came to government did in 2017.
But the relationship soured after he grew too politically powerful. Somalia’s previous government arrested Robow in December 2018 as he campaigned for the regional presidency of southwest state.
Security forces shot dead at least 11 people in the protests that followed, sparking criticism from the United Nations.
Robow’s new job sparked a flurry of hashtags on twitter crowing he had made it #FromPrisontoMinister. He had been held under house arrest until recently.
His appointment could help strengthen government forces in his native Bakool religion, where insurgents hold substantial amounts of territory but Robow also commands support.
Or it could fan flames with the region’s president, who sees him as a political rival.
“We welcome his appointments. The move will advance reconciliation and will serve as a good example for more high level al-Shabaab defections,”said political analyst Mohamed Mohamed.
“Al Shabaab members who might be thinking of surrendering can dream of serving their country at the highest levels .”
New president Hassan sheikh Mohamud, elected by lawmakers in May, has promised to take the fight to the insurgents after three years in which his predecessor, consumed by political infighting, took little action against Al Shabaab.
That allowed the insurgents to build up substantial reverses of cash and carry out attacks over a wide swathe of Somalia. Last week scores of Al Shabaab fighters and Ethiopian security forces were killed in clashes along the two nations’ shared border