On Friday, a Somali militia group called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) captured two towns in central Somalia from Somali federal forces. Previously, ASWJ had been allied with federal forces in the fight against al Shabaab, but this past week, conflict broke out between the two groups. On Thursday, federal forces attacked ASWJ, claiming that it was doing so preemptively to prevent ASWJ from attacking its troops. In response, ASWJ ousted federal troops from the towns of Mataban and Guriceel. ASWJ claimed that it did this because of the government’s failure to eliminate al Shabaab in those areas. ASWJ has been fighting al Shabaab unilaterally, so it belives that it can do a better job of fighting al Shabaab than the Somali government can. ASWJ indicated that it wants to control more towns and reigons to better protect them from and fight al Sahbaab.

In a previous post, I mentioned that it was not sustainable for the Somali government to rely on militia forces in their fight against al Shabaab, and this conflict supports that claim. While militia groups and the Somali government have a common enemy in al Shabaab, the militia groups also have their own interests and goals, so they will not continue aligning themselves with the Somali government forever. ASWJ’s reasoning for turning on Somali federal forces indicates that the militia groups are loosing faith in the government’s ability to effectively elimnate al Shabaab and generate meaningful change in the country. This is a bad sign for the Somali government, as they do not actually weild that much power in the country – if the militia groups turn on the government, it could lead to increased reigonal instability or a state failure.

Anna Bedal