Somalia. In January, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre
appealed to the country's aid donors to write off Somalia's
extensive foreign debt, which amounts to about US $ 4
billion. According to
Countryaah.com, the money was borrowed before the Somali state
collapsed in 1991 and the debt has gradually increased with
the penalties imposed as no repayments have been made.
Therefore, the opportunities for Somalia to obtain new loans
granted are small, and according to the government, more
money is needed to build a functioning state apparatus and
fight the threat of terrorists.
According to a Human Rights Watch report released in
January, thousands of children, both boys and girls, had
been forcibly recruited by the militant Islamist movement
al-Shabab since the fall of 2017. The children had been
abducted from both their homes and schools. In villages
where they refused to surrender their children, al-Shabab
had instead kidnapped older people.
al-Shabab also committed a series of terrorist attacks
during the year. In February, for example, nearly 40 people
were killed when two car bombs detonated in the capital
Mogadishu, partly at the presidential palace and partly
outside a hotel nearby. In October, at least 20 people were
killed in two different suicide attacks in the city of
Baydhabo in the southwestern part of the country and in
November over 40 people lost their lives and about a hundred
were injured in a similar act near the Mogadishu Criminal
Police Office. At the end of the month, a religious center
in Gaalkacyo in central Somalia suffered a suicide attack. A
Muslim Sufi preacher and 17 other people were killed.
Al-Shabab, who took on this and the above-mentioned
assaults, had earlier accused the preacher of having
blasphemed Prophet Muhammad by playing music in connection
with religious ceremonies.
During the year, the United States conducted a large
number of unmanned aerial attacks against al-Shabab, and the
number increased since the requirement for approval from the
White House for such efforts was removed. According to US
military sources, in October approximately 60 Islamists were
killed in the coastal Harare district and in November at
least 37 al-Shabab members were killed in two drone attacks.
The continued poor security situation in the country led
the UN Security Council to decide in July that the AMISOM
peacekeeping force should not be reduced as previously
planned. At the same time, AMISOM's mandate was extended to
May 31, 2019.
The political changes in neighboring Ethiopia, which took
place since Abiy Ahmed took office as new prime minister,
also affected Somalia. In September, Somalia, Ethiopia and
Eritrea signed an agreement on cooperation between the
countries. The tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea raised
hopes of a more peaceful development on the Horn of Africa.
In October, an aircraft belonging to Ethiopia National
Airways arrived in Mogadishu. Thus, the first commercial
airline between the countries started in 41 years.
In January, a law banning rape was introduced in the
outbreak republic of Somaliland. Unlike before, when rape
victims were often forced to marry the perpetrator, the
person being convicted of rape now risks up to 30 years in
prison. A month later, the Somaliland government and Muslim
ministers issued a fatwa banning all forms of genital
mutilation (female circumcision). Anyone who violates the
ban risks punishment (although legislation in this area was
not yet in place) and victims should be able to receive
Less liberal was the Somali authorities' strike against
media representatives in June. Then several journalists were
arrested and two TV stations were closed since they reported
fighting between Somaliland soldiers and the autonomous
Somali region of Puntland. The fighting, which in May cost
at least 40 people their lives, was part of an ongoing
conflict over the Sool region, which both Somaliland and
Puntland claim. They also dispute Sanaag, where the clans
signed a peace treaty in March after at least 15 people were
killed since the turn of the year in violent land and water
conflicts. In another disputed area in October, more than 50
people were killed in fighting between different clans.