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Ex-spy chief links Al-Shabaab to plot to influence Somalia's elections

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants could be planning to influence upcoming elections, a former spy chief has claimed, in a statement which could raise questions about the credibility of the Horn of Africa nation's electoral model, which has greatly divided opinions of stakeholders.

Currently, politicians in Somalia are fighting over the suitable electoral model and to date, only three regional leaders; those from HirShabelle, Galmadug, and Southwest along with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish have settled on a model, which would see 301 electors per constituency participating.

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni and his Jubaland counterpart Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe boycotted the Dhusamareb III conference but the two are set to visit Mogadishu this week where they are expected to endorse the Constituency Caucus model.

But former National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA] director Abdullahi Mohamed Ali alias Sanbalolshe claimed over the weekend that the Al-Shabaab militants are keen to have their members and sympathizers installed in various constituencies, where they will represent people in the legislature.

According to him, a number of elders who have been listed as electors, swore allegiance to Al-Shabaab militants in 2019, a move which risks the credibility of elections. The elders were coerced to join the group after threats from the militants, he added.

"Al-Shabaab is hell-bent to influence Somalia elections. They are likely to have lawmakers subscribing to their ideologies joining the group because the elders who participated in elections in 2017 joined the group. The elders are now members of the group," he claimed.

Last year, a number of elders conceded that Al-Shabaab was putting pressure on them to support their ideologies. The current 4.5 electoral model gives elders a huge say on matters elections and despite the fact that the country's leadership pushed for the inclusion of more stakeholders, the elders will still play a major role in the election of MPs.

His assertions come amid claims that Al-Shabaab has already infiltrated government institutions in Somalia. According to the opposition, the current administration is Al-Shabaab-friendly and that most of those working in NISA are sympathizers of the Al-Qaida linked group.

In June, Abdullahi Mohamed Ali alias Sanbalolshe, sensationally linked Qatar to Al-Shabaab ties, drawing the recent release of Italian aid worker, Silvia Romano, who had been under Al-Shabaab for over 18 months after her abduction in Kenya on November 2018.

Without disclosing the role of Qatar in the ransom deal estimated at $3 million, the former spy, however, maintained that Doha "has strong contacts with Al-Shabaab and uses them to help the group generate income" mainly through ransoms obtained from kidnapped individuals.

"Qatar has for far too long had ties with Al-Shabaab which can be traced for the past few years. It funds the group's activities," Abdullahi told Al-Arabia TV, adding that "It's the main sponsor and uses tricks such as in ransom deals to generate finances for them".

Al-Shabaab, Abdullahi claimed, has been carrying attacks in favor of Qatar for the interest of finances, a move which he insisted that is aimed at expanding the gulf nation's grip in Somalia, a country which has struggled with instability for over four decades.

“Ransom is not the only source of funding for Al-Shabaab, but one of many avenues. The group carries out attacks on behalf of Qatar inside Somalia and outside in exchange for significant financial resources," said the former spy chief.

The term for current administration ends in November after which the country is set to go for elections. Once Puntland and Jubaland administrations agree with the recent Dhusamareb conference outcome, the country will adopt the Constituency Caucus which will see elders actively participate in the elections.


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