Legislators in Somalia vote president at an airport amidst tension

Somalia’s MPs are electing the country’s president in a heavily guarded aircraft hangar in Mogadishu, as the rest of the country is not safe.
Traffic has been banned, schools have been shut and a no-fly zone imposed over the capital to prevent attacks.

Despite this, suspected militant Islamists fired mortar rounds close to the venue on Tuesday night.
Somalia, marred by religious and clan conflict, has not had a one-person one-vote democratic election since 1969.
That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.

Somalia’s rocky road to democracy
The elections are part of a lengthy and complex process to help the East African state rebuild its democracy and achieve stability.
More than 20,000 African Union (AU) troops are stationed in Somalia to prevent militant Islamist group al-Shabab from overthrowing the weak government.
How safe is the airport?
The election hall, a converted aircraft hangar packed with MPs, is at the Mogadishu international airport complex.

It is viewed as the most secure site in Somalia, as the main AU base is there.
The vote was moved to the airport complex from a police academy because of growing fears that al-Shabab could strike.
The 2012 presidential vote was held at the academy, and the 2007 and 2004 vote in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti respectively.
Who is running?
About 20 men ran for the presidency, but the number has been reduced to four after the first round of voting. The second round is under way, and the top two will battle it out in a third and final vote.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is standing for re-election and he has gone through to the second round.
At least 16 of the original candidates have dual citizenship – nine of them hold US passports, four UK passports and three Canadian passports, according to a leading Somali private radio station.

It means that if US President Donald Trump’s ban on Somali citizens entering the US comes into force again, some of them could be affected.
Many Somalis obtained dual nationality after fleeing the decades-long conflict. The US, UK, Kenya and South Africa are among countries where many Somalis have settled.




Over 100 KDF soldiers feared dead following Al Shabaab attack on their base

Al Shabaab militants have overrun a Kenya Defence Force military base at Kulbiyow, Somalia.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for al Shabaab said its fighters killed at least 57 Kenyans at the base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.

The spokesperson was quoted by both Reuters News Agency and the Star in Kenya saying that two mujahedeen rammed suicide car bombs into the base in Kulbiyow town before storming it.

We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters about Friday’s attack. “After hand-to-hand fighting, we have taken over the base,” he is quoted.

But Kenyan military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna dismissed the claim.

Today’s attack comes a year after Al Shabaab ambushed a Kenyan base at El Adde. According to soldiers who survived the attack then, Al Shabaab was armed with heavy and sophisticated weapons which gave KDF soldiers very little time to organize and return fire.

However, they say they fought for close to 10 hours with the militants before they were overpowered.  over 100 soldiers were lost in the battle.




Al-Shabaab to join top Somalia soccer league

In a surprise move that has shocked the sports fraternity in Somalia, the chairman of the country’s Football Federation (SFF), Abdiqani Said Arab, has extended an invitation to the Al-Shabaab militant group to join the country’s top soccer league, “should they desire to do so”.

“We are not against them and they are not against us,” Arab told the BBC in an interview. Arab is a respected sports figure on the continent. Early this month he was appointed vice chairman of the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (Cecafa). And last Friday (Jan. 7) he was named African football leader of the year at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) awards that took place in Abuja, Nigeria, for his efforts to revive the game in Somalia.

The call to Al-Shabaab may be his way to communicate to the group that it can be a part of Somali society rather than “an enemy within”: “Not only Al-Shabaab, but also those fighting for the warlords, the moderate Islamists or anyone else involved in Somalia conflict is welcome to our football,” Shafi’i Mohyaddin Abokar, a spokesman for SFF, explained to Quartz.:“If they show interest in playing football it means they accept peace and football is all about peace and integration. So we are welcoming anyone who embraces peace and wants to play football.”

War-torn Somalia and its UN-backed government has been battling the al-Qaeda-affiliated group for almost a decade, with the help of African Union (AU) forces. While the Al-Shabaab group has been driven out of most of areas of the country it once controlled, the group still remains a threat by  periodically staging deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu and neighboring countries.

But the AU force has helped the Somali government establish some semblance of stability. This increasing sense of security has created the space for cultural life to return—the re-establishment of the country’s football league being one example. The eight-team league saw one of its matches broadcast live on TV for the first time ever last month. And according to Arab, due to better security, foreign players are also flocking to Somalia to ply their trade in the country’s domestic league. “More than 20 foreign players are now playing in our Premier League in about six clubs,” Arab told the BBC.