You must enable JavaScript to view this site.
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our legal notice and privacy policy for more details.


The following text forms part of Crisis Group’s Early Warning Watch List for December 2015, compiled for the European Union (EU) and its member states to provide analysis and updates on conflicts, and on opportunities for preventive action. Each Watch List identifies up to ten countries or conflicts which are particularly vulnerable to an outbreak or intensification of conflict or crisis – or which in some cases offer an opportunity for prevention or resolution – in the following six to twelve months.

Each country or conflict is chosen from the 70 crisis situations monitored by Crisis Group and regularly reported on in CrisisWatch; the choice of countries is representative of a range of conflicts and is not meant to be all-inclusive or a ranking of deadly violence. Each country summary contains an outline of recent developments and forthcoming events that may increase risks, and lays out opportunities for action for national, regional and international actors, in particular the EU and its member states.


Although there is now broad national and international donor consensus that direct elections will not take place in 2016, alternative election systems have yet to be agreed on. The raised stakes – a four-year term with the prospect of sustained international funding – means an agreement satisfying the current executive, parliament and Interim Federal Administrations (IFA) will be difficult to achieve. Complicating matters is that Somalia’s IFA’s are not yet fully constituted, and competition between them is rife and risks spilling over into armed conflict at particular flashpoints on or near their as yet undetermined boundaries. In Somaliland, the fallout of the split in the ruling party risks increasing as early preparations for elections in March 2017 – especially voter registration – get under way. Meanwhile, the defeat of Al-Shabaab remains elusive despite military operations against them and divisions within the group. Though its activity could reduce in the short term as it deals with the current challenge from the Islamic State (IS), the tempo and scale of attacks will likely increase as a process for selecting a new government unfolds.

The EU, its member states and the wider international community should:
  • Support a transparent and accountable selection process for a new government in August 2016 by encouraging the establishment of two clan-based committees along the 4.5 system: one representing the traditional hereditary leaders (Ugaas, Suldaans, Boqors), and another representing the much larger tier of “active” clan elders to ensure greater local relevance and connection with constituencies. A two-tier process may also ensure that smaller sub-clans who have been overlooked in favour of larger lineages from the same clans for parliamentary seats and government positions are given more consideration (and reduce the support Al-Shabaab gains from marginalised groups).
  • Reduce the risk of further conflict over the formation of IFAs by affording more attention and support toward regional and local reconciliation processes; the pressure to complete the (long-delayed) formation of interim federal states has led to and may further fuel serious violence locally with potential to reverse longstanding peace, power and resource sharing agreements. Again prioritising local reconciliation not only has the advantage of binding in local groups to the federalisation process, it also challenges Al-Shabaab’s claims to provision of local conflict mediation.
  • Provide political support and extra resources to the policing and justice sector in newly liberated areas to sustain pressure on Al-Shabaab and consolidate territorial gains. The lack of public trust and cooperation with security agencies and police is proving an obstacle to clearing out the Al-Shabaab operatives who remain after formal liberation. Further, the poorly resourced justice system, not yet working to uniform standards and codes, is hampered in its prosecution of Al-Shabaab suspects – many are set free, leaving the population vulnerable to reprisals.

National consultations on the process for Somalia’s next elections are well underway, and will culminate in a national conference expected in mid-December 2015. However, the timelines are tight, with little clarity on the legal/constitutional basis for whichever process is decided, and without improved safeguards in place there is a danger that whatever process is chosen could, like the 2012 selection process, be undermined by manipulation.

Though direct elections are not feasible in 2016, there is no consensus on what kind of system should be used to elect the new president and legislature. The most efficient option appears to be the longstanding “4.5 formula” (one apportionment to each of Somalia’s four major clans, and 0.5 apportionment to a group of minority clans), though to work well this would require extensive consultations with clans both to secure “legitimate” representatives and to decide how non-clan interest groups such as civil society, women, youth, diaspora and businesses can be included. This option is likely to meet some resistance, particularly from the IFAs who fear that this will favour the current executive and parliament as, in contrast to a district-based system, they will not have a direct influence over selection.

But diverging from the “4.5 formula” to a system that reflects existing regions and districts carries challenges, not least that it would not represent the demographic and political changes of the last two decades, but instead hark back to territorial divisions that helped fuel the early 1990s civil war. The selection of a district and regional system would also amount to the Somali Federal Government’s (SFG) de facto recognition of Somaliland’s independent status since representation of Somaliland’s interests in the SFG parliament through clan-based seats would be lost. A third option – direct selection of members of parliament and regional representatives by the IFAs – risks serious resistance from groups who feel excluded in the interim federal state formation process and within the new administrations. The majority of the four existing IFAs – except for Puntland – are still for the most part inchoate entities, and are likely to remain contested internally by clan and sub-regional interests.

The ongoing IFA formation process has been fraught and is likely to continue to be a source of tensions, particularly in relation to boundaries, as political competition rises ahead of 2016’s transfer of power. This process is particularly threatening to the only pre-existing and functioning federal entity Puntland, already struggling to protect its internal stability, and evident in its sensitivity toward its disputed “boundaries” with Somaliland and the Galmudug Interim Administration (GIA). The clashes in Galkayo town – the worst in years – demonstrates the dangers of pushing for IFAs without the prerequisite or at least parallel processes of local reconciliation.

In Somaliland, political tensions, exacerbated by internal divisions in its ruling Kulmiye party, risk rising in coming months. Though elections are not due until March 2017, aggrieved politicians – including those who lost out in the overwhelming victory of the Musa Bixi faction in the recent Kulmiye party’s uncontested presidential candidate nomination – may look to undermine poll preparations. The growing links between Somaliland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – including cooperation with the UAE as part of its involvement in the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen and the likely award of a concession to run Berbera port – will bolster the ruling party’s new leadership and financially benefit their presidential campaign.

Military action against Al-Shabaab continues, but the preparations and focus on the 2016 transfer of power may deflect attention from the militant group which has continued to hold or retake strategic towns and launch attacks against the political class in Mogadishu and the IFA capitals in recent months. Local tensions reflecting incomplete or contested interim federal state formation processes may also bolster the group by creating space for local alliances, especially as political competition increases throughout 2016. The weakness of post-liberation policing and a justice system not fit for purpose also leaves populations feeling insecure and unwilling to assist in ongoing Al-Shabaab activity prevention and prosecution of suspects.

Though AMISOM, and particularly the individual troop contributing countries, have and will continue to attack the group’s strongholds, in particular in Middle Juba and Bakool, the lack of effective coordination and cooperation between AMISOM contingents, and between AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) has stalled progress, which is unlikely to be resolved in the short term.

While Al-Shabaab remains resilient and active, it is struggling with internal tensions as IS increasingly courts its leadership and ranks. The chances of IS succeeding, however, are slim. Breaking the longstanding partnership between al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab – encompassing ideological, financial and technical resources – will be difficult, not least since al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen is strong, and Al-Shabaab’s internal intelligence group al-Aminiyat will likely succeed in isolating any pro-IS factions fairly rapidly. Al-Shabaab has also developed extensive networks in East Africa that IS has yet to demonstrate.

Read the full Watch List for December 2015 (pdf).

Learn more about the Watch List.

Note: The Watch List is produced as part of the project “Strengthening Early Warning and Mobilising Early Action”, co-funded by the European Union. The project aims to strengthen the links between early warning, conflict analysis and early response, and to build civil society’s capacity for early warning.

The Crisis Group EU Early Warning Watch List is one of many products the organisation produces to alert policy makers and the general public on unfolding crisis or conflicts, and which offers them solutions to support conflict prevention, management and resolution initiatives.

This page in: