Somalian Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre appointed the former deputy leader and co-founder of the Islamist militant group al- Shabab as the new minister of religious affairs on August 2.
Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre has appointed former deputy leader and co-founder of the Al-Shabab militant Mukhtar Robow as Minister for Endowment and Religious Affairs.#Somali #Somalia #Somalis pic.twitter.com/2z3BLK496t
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Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and later co-founded al-Shabaab. He then went on to serve as the group’s spokesman. In 2012, the U.S. offered a 5 million dollar reward for any information that would lead to his arrest. In 2018, he was detained by Somali government forces when he campaigned for the regional presidency of South West State, a semi-autonomous federal state.
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for many bombings and suicide attacks in Mogadishu and central and northern Somalia. The militant group typically targets government officials, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and perceived allies of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). It also claimed guilty of assassinating Somali peace activists, international aid workers, civil society figures, and journalists and for blocking the delivery of aid in 2011, which led to famine that killed tens of thousands of Somalis.
Due to Robow’s preceding affiliation, his appointment stirred a discussion on whether it will strengthen the fight against an insurgency or provoke clan clashes. His selection is apparently an attempt to put him against his former group. His cabinet post will put him in charge of the ideological confrontation against al-Shabaab.
Robow withdrew from the group in 2013 and publicly denounced his affiliation when he resorted to politics and came to the government's side in 2017. Since then, his political power has grown because many observers believe he will be in a unique position to confront Al-Shabaab when he gets the post.
However, the Somali government blocked his candidacy at that time, claiming that he did not meet all the preconditions for running for office. It was related to his sanctions by members of the international community for his prior membership with al-Shabaab, and he was initially detained at NISA’s headquarters.
In 2019, he was moved from prison to house arrest for three years. He had been held under house arrest until recently, and the president’s announcement, naming him the next religious minister flared hashtags on Twitter, contesting that he made it #FromPrisonertoMinister.
Before announcing the cabinet appointees, Prime Minister Barre said, “After much deliberation with the president and the public, I have named cabinet ministers who have education and experience, and they will fulfill their duties,”
Some analysts have speculated that Robow’s designation could help reinforce government forces in his native Bakool region or ignite conflict with the region’s president, who sees him as a political rival.
The political analyst Mohamed Mohamud said, "We welcome his appointment. The move will advance reconciliation and serve as a good example for more high-level al-Shabab defections".
On the other hand, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, the new president lawmakers electedin May, promised to fight the insurgents after three years in which his predecessor took little action against al-Shabaab. The group has been attacking civilians, and early this year, six bystanders were killed after they attacked election delegates in Mogadishu.