Baidoa, South West, Somalia –
Baidoa, the administrative capital of Somalia’s South West State, is entering its second week under siege by al-Shabaab militants, with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) seemingly unresponsive to the crisis. The situation has prompted the city’s business community to step in and negotiate with al-Shabaab in hopes of ending the blockade.
Today, on 16 July 2023, the Chief of Staff of Villa Somalia, Hussein Sheikh Mohamud, took to Twitter to express solidarity with the affected population. “I share the pain with the people of Baidoa City and the entire Somali citizens who are subject to the brutal blockade of Al-Shabab,” he wrote. Despite Mohamud’s appeal for national unity against the extremist group, critics point out that there has been no substantial action taken by the FGS to address the dire situation in Baidoa.
Contrary to the expectations of decisive action to relieve the blockade, the FGS appears to be focusing its resources on “liberation” operations in Galgaduud, neglecting the urgent needs of the beleaguered Bay region. This stance has left many residents and observers questioning the government’s commitment to tackling the crisis in Baidoa, where food prices have soared, and essential supplies are dwindling.
As the FGS maintains its silence, the business community in Baidoa has taken matters into its own hands. Reports indicate that local businessmen have travelled to Buulo Fulay, where al-Shabaab’s command centre is located, to negotiate the lifting of the blockade. Their proposed terms for ending the siege involve the release of the arrested school headmasters, who were seized by Southwest Police after al-Shabaab invited them for a meeting.
It is unclear whether this proposal will find favour with either the militant group or the FGS. Al-Shabaab’s willingness to negotiate and release the educators, or the government’s potential acceptance of this unprecedented citizen-led negotiation, remains uncertain.
The Somali Digest was the first news site to report on the issue last week and will continue to closely follow the developments.
As the blockade enters its second week, Baidoa’s inhabitants are in a state of growing desperation, left largely to their own devices amidst escalating food and fuel prices. The question on everyone’s lips is whether the government or the militant group will act to alleviate the worsening crisis or if Baidoa will continue to bear the brunt of this ongoing stalemate.