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East African States see rising threat from Militant Group al-Shabab

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers

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Maleeshiyada Al-shabaab. Image source: VOA
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Once a threat primarily in Somalia, the militant group al-Shabab has grown and expanded its aspirations, operations, and aims, and is preparing to wage a long war in East Africa, according to analysts and experts on the region.

East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which works for peace, prosperity and regional integration among its eight member states, declared this week that al-Shabab is now a “transnational” organization projecting threats of extremist violence far beyond Somalia.

“Even if al-Shabab were to be defeated tomorrow I think it has inspired a generation of jihadists from across the region, from different countries, who are likely to continue,” says Matt Bryden, a director and senior analyst for the Sahan Foundation, which conducted IGAD’s regional study on al-Shabab.

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“Al-Shabab is clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem, and requires a concerted international response,” the IGAD report said, noting that al-Shabab is active is six countries of the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers.

Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“In East Africa, among Swahili-speaking populations, this goes beyond al-Shabab as a Somali organization sending agents to operate in neighboring countries,” says Bryden. “Al-Shabab’s propaganda is now heavily populated with radio, video, and articles in Kiswahili. It’s clearly targeting recruits in East Africa.”

Abdirahman Sahal, director of a Mogadishu-based center on extremism, agrees with Bryden that al-Shabab laid the foundation for this regional struggle a long time ago. But he says what helped most is that the organization controlled territory in Somalia where it was able to attract foreign fighters, prepare them and send them back to their countries of origin.

“They rule land, they collect tax, they have roots. Therefore they are in a position to invite others [and] open institutions to train them,” he said.

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Al-Shabab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti and made at least two attempts to strike inside Ethiopia. And the IGAD report emphasizes that the scope of the threat the group poses throughout East Africa has only increased.

Sahal says al-Shabab’s operational capabilities are a key factor. “They only need one or two people to attack a key place, to blow themselves up,” he noted.

If the threat from al-Shabab is to be countered, Sahal said, regional countries have to attack the group’s bases inside Somalia, where plots are orchestrated.

“Seizing their bases disrupts their administration and sources of revenue. They will be busy as fugitives, hiding, and cannot execute all the plots inside and outside the country,” he said.

“But as long as they have space where they can drive their cars, live normally and administer their organizational functions, it will be easy for them to attack.”

IGAD came to the same conclusion, that it needs to counter al-Shabab both inside and outside Somalia. But whether the countries of the region can exert more pressure on al-Shabab inside Somalia, by cooperating at a level they have not achieved during the past nine years, remains to be seen.

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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    The Al-Shabab militant group is now no longer a small terror organisation operating from Somalia. It has also fixed its roots in neighbouring countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and other such East-African states. If it is not kept under check it would become the new ISIS.

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U.N. Climate Talks Pit Countries Against One Another

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

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A wind turbine overlooks the coal-fired power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. VOA

Divisions deepened at the U.N. climate talks Thursday, pitting rich nations against poor ones, oil exporters against vulnerable island nations, and those governments prepared to act on global warming against those who want to wait and see.

The stakes were raised by a scientific report that warned achieving the most ambitious target in the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit emissions is getting increasingly difficult. Fresh figures released this week showed that emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped the highest in seven years, making the task of cutting those emissions one day to zero even more challenging.

Negotiators at the climate talks in Katowice, Poland, still disagree on the way forward but have just a few days to finish their technical talks before ministers take over.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” said Amjad Abdulla, the chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States. “We are going to forward the sticky issues to next week.”

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Among the splits that need to be overcome before the conference ends on Dec. 14 are:

* The question of what kind of flexibility developing countries will have when it comes to reporting their emissions and efforts to curb them.

The issue is central to the Paris rulebook, which countries have committed to finalizing this year. Environmental activists insist that countries such as Brazil, with its vast Amazon rainforest, and China, the world’s biggest polluter, should have to provide hard data on emissions and not be treated like poorer nations who don’t have the ability to do a precise greenhouse tally.

Complicating matters, a group of rich countries that includes the United States and Australia is seeking similar leeway as developing nations.

 

Climate Change, hurricane michael, Storms
In this photograph released by the Sri Lankan Air Force media division on May 29, 2017, flooding is seen in the country’s Matara district. VOA

 

* Several oil-exporting countries have objected to the idea of explicitly mentioning ways in which global warming can be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body made up of scientists from around the world, recently proposed “policy pathways” that would achieve this goal, which foresee phasing out almost all use of coal, oil and gas by 2050.

But Saudi Arabia and some of its allies say it would be wrong to cite those pathways in a text about future ambitions.

* Developing countries are frustrated that rich nations won’t commit themselves to providing greater assurances on financial support for poor nations facing hefty costs to fight the effects of climate change. European governments argue that they are bound by budget rules that limit their ability to allocate money more than a few years in advance.

What’s clear is that few countries are moving in the right direction to halt global warming.

Climate, pollution
Pollution is emitted from steel factories in Hancheng, Shaanxi province. VOA

“The first data for this year point to a strong rise in the global CO2 emissions, almost all countries are contributing to this rise,” said Corinne Le Quere, who led the team that published the emissions study this week.

“In China, it’s boosted by economic stimulation in construction. In the U.S., an unusual year, cold winter and hot summer, both boosting the energy demand. In Europe, the emissions are down but less than they used to be, and that’s because of growing emissions in transport that are offsetting benefits elsewhere,” she told the meeting in Katowice.

Le Quere, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England, noted some positive news.

“We have renewable energy,” she said. “It is displacing coal in the U.S. and in Europe, and it is expanding elsewhere.

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An ice crevasse is seen on the Baishui Glacier No. 1, the world’s fastest melting glacier due to its proximity to the Equator, on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the southern province of Yunnan in China. VOA

“It’s not enough to meet the growing energy demand in developing countries in particular,” she said. “But the industry is growing.”

Host nation Poland, which depends on coal for 80 percent of its energy needs, is among those demanding help for workers in coal and gas industries who could lose their jobs as nations shift to cleaner energy.

Also Read: AIIMS Prepare Research Project On Air Pollution’s Impact on Health

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

“It very much remains a possibility,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday. “If he feels his presence will be useful, he will go back. But no decision has yet been made.” (VOA)