On Tuesday, Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre appointed a co-founder and spokesman of the Islamist al Shabaab as minister for religious affairs, a move that could either strengthen the war against the terrorists or spark additional clan conflicts.
The United States placed a $5 million bounty on Mukhtar Robow’s head after he co-founded al Shabaab and functioned as the group’s spokesman.
Al Shabaab terrorists have killed tens of thousands of people through bombings in their effort to destroy Somalia’s central government, which is supported by the West, and establish their vision of Islamic rule.
Robow left the group in 2013 and denounced al Shabaab publicly when he joined the government in 2017.
However, the relationship deteriorated as he gained excessive political power. In December 2018, the former government of Somalia arrested Robow while he campaigned for the regional presidency of southwest state.
During the subsequent protests, security forces killed at least eleven individuals, prompting concern from the United Nations.
Robow’s new position inspired a flood of tweets with the hashtag #FromPrisonertoMinister. He was under house arrest until just lately.
His appointment might bolster government forces in his home Bakool region, where militants control significant territory but Robow commands support. Alternatively, it could inflame tensions with the region’s president, who views him as a political adversary.
“We applaud his promotion. This would promote reconciliation and serve as a model for further high-level al-Shabab defections “political expert Mohamed Mohamud said thus.
“Members of Al Shabaab who are contemplating surrender can dream of serving their country at the highest levels”
After three years during which his predecessor, preoccupied by political infighting, took little action against al Shabaab, the newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has pledged to take the fight to the rebels.
This allowed the militants to amass enormous cash reserves and launch attacks throughout a large portion of Somalia. Hundreds of al Shabaab fighters and Ethiopian security personnel were killed in confrontations along the common border between the two nations last week.