Yesterday, government forces, in collaboration with the local Ma’awisley militia, successfully captured the Ruun-Nirgood district from the control of the extremist group al-Shabaab. The district had been under al-Shabaab’s control since August, following the withdrawal of the Somali National Army (SNA) and Ma’awisley due to a sense of isolation from the local population.
Ruun-Nirgood, Middle Shabelle region, HirShabelle, SOMALIA.
What sets this operation apart is the involvement of a significant number of Ma’awisley members who registered in Mogadishu but originally hail from Ruun-Nirgood. They joined the government forces to assist in the recapture of the district. However, there remains a pressing concern regarding the potential reemergence of isolation and the challenge of gaining support from locals who may be hesitant to collaborate with the government forces.
The success and sustainability of the government forces’ hold on the district will depend on how these issues are addressed. Mitigating the potential isolation of troops and fostering a positive relationship with the local population will be crucial for maintaining control over Ruun-Nirgood. It remains uncertain how this situation will evolve, as past experiences have seen the government forces withdraw from the district on multiple occasions.
Al-Shabaab’s seizure of Ruun-Nirgood
Al-Shabaab seized the strategic district from the SNA and Ma’awisley militia, who reportedly withdrew without putting up a fight on 23 August. The government held the Ruun-Nirgood and the Hilowle Gaab districts for less than two weeks.
The government presented the initial takeover victory as a crucial step in the ongoing anti-al-Shabaab campaign that has been gripping Somalia. However, it has become clear that the government forces were unable to hold and govern the captured area. Many experts repeatedly warned against this, underlining that the losses of (not only) Ruun-Nirgood will prevent residents from collaborating with the government.
One of the challenges – locals
Indeed, this has proven true. Well-informed sources described to the Somali Digest that the soldiers stationed in Ruun-Nirgood lacked basic needs, such as drinking water. The locals were unwilling to sell it to them nor interact with them. Our source said most locals either sympathise with al-Shabaab or directly cooperate with them.