Somalia may be at a turning point for the better.
For years, a stalemate prevailed between the internationally-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and al-Shabab, the Islamist insurgent group and al-Qaeda ally. The TFG was a federal government in name only, battling al-Shabab for control of the capital, Mogadishu. Lacking any kind of central authority, many parts of Somalia formed unrecognized regional governments, which provide a modicum of security and services despite an absence of support from the international community.
But in recent months, the central government has made significant advances against al-Shabab. Little by little, government and aligned forces are expanding the territory under the TFG's control. Another boost to the TFG came earlier this month, when a federal soldier killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of al-Shabab's top military commanders and the head of al-Qaeda's operations in East Africa.
However, the TFG's success is tenuous. Much of the credit for pushing back al-Shabab belongs to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the AU force of some 8,000 that does most of the actual fighting. And political infighting and corruption at the highest ranks of the Transitional Federal Government may shrink its ability to capitalize on the opportunity that AMISOM has provided.
The latest casualty of the TFG's internal power struggle was the country's Prime Minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, who announced his resignation on June 19. Farmajo was essentially ousted in a deal between rivals President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. But rather than reconciling the President and Speaker, the Prime Minister's resignation will likely only undermine efforts to stabilize Mogadishu. The Transitional Federal Government will need systemic reform if it is to govern effectively.
I spoke with EJ Hogendoorn, Horn of Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group, about what can be done to move Somalia into a more stable future. Listen to our conversation below.