from SAAD MUSE in Mogadishu, Somalia
MOGADISHU, (CAJ News) – THE long-delayed electoral process is fuelling attacks by the armed extremist group, Al-Shabaab, in Somalia.
In the latest attack, at least 15 people were killed by a suicide bomb in the central Beledweyne.
It targeted a restaurant popular with local officials and politicians.
Al-Shabaab has taken responsibility for the attack.
The attack was the latest in a recent surge of violence led by the group, including attacks on police stations and government checkpoints in the capital of Mogadishu earlier in February.
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) blamed the surge on the divisive electoral process.
Presidential elections are set to be completed by this week.
This month elections were postponed later than initially planned due to political infighting and a volatile security situation.
On February 10, Al-Shabaab targeted a minibus full of electoral delegates in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least six civilians.
Among those killed was a candidate in the parliamentary vote.
James Swan, the United Nations Special Representative on Somalia, warned that political divisions and election delays had allowed insurgent forces to make some recent gains.
The UN Mission in Somalia continues to documenting killings, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment of child soldiers, abductions, rape and sexual violence.
“These acts may amount to war crimes,” Swan said.
Somalia has also not been spared the drought ravaging the Horn of Africa.
GCR2P said the drought had driven civilians to migrate to more densely populated areas, placing them at risk of attacks from Al-Shabaab and other armed groups.
Currently 7,7 million Somali’s require humanitarian assistance. At least 2,9 million people remain displaced by conflict and climate-related factors.
Savita Pawnday, GCR2P Executive Director, said all stakeholders in Somalia must put aside their differences and personal ambitions in order to make progress towards peace.
“Al-Shabaab and other groups will not be defeated until faced by a united front that can give civilians the security and stability they deserve,” Pawnday said.
– CAJ News