• Saturday, 22 June 2024
Somalia appoints a former Al-Shabaab leader as minister of religion.

Somalia appoints a former Al-Shabaab leader as minister of religion.

Somalia's Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre announced the appointment of the former deputy leader and spokesman for the Al-Shabaab Islamist group as religion minister on Tuesday.

Muktar Robow has spent the last four years under house arrest after a falling out with ex-President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmajo.

Robow, 53, publicly defected from Al-Qaeda-linked militants in August 2017, and the US government offered a $5 million reward for his capture at one point.

In a televised address, Barre announced the nominations, noting that the 26 names were chosen in consultation with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

He stated that the nominations were made to align with President Mohamud's agenda of addressing drought, insecurity, economic development, and job creation for Somali youth.

"After much deliberation with the president and the public, I have named cabinet ministers with education and experience who will carry out their responsibilities," Barre said.

The nominated ministers must still be approved by the cabinet before taking office.

The Prime Minister urged Parliamentarians to support their appointments and urged citizens to work with the new administration.

Robow was arrested in late 2018, just days before running in regional elections.

Farmajo's government accused him of "organizing a militia" and attempting to "undermine stability" in Baidoa, the capital of the southwestern Bay region.

His arrest sparked sporadic demonstrations, with demonstrators torching images of Farmajo, whom they accused of meddling in regional affairs.

His promotion comes just weeks after newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud hinted that his government was willing to negotiate with Al-Shabaab, but only when the time was right.

For 15 years, Al-Shabaab has waged a bloody insurgency against Somalia's fragile central government, and it remains a formidable force despite an African Union operation against it.

Its fighters were driven out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in 2011, but they continue to target military, government, and civilian targets.

The new government faces numerous challenges, including an impending famine and a raging Islamist insurgency.

According to UN figures, a crippling drought in the Horn of Africa has left about 7.1 million Somalis – nearly half the population – hungry, with more than 200,000 on the verge of starvation.

Mohamud stated in July that ending the violent insurgency required more than a military approach.

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