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SOMALI MILITARY COURT SENTENCES ISLAMIST FIGHTERS FOR IS AFFILIATION AND FIVE CHIEFS OF GENERAL STAFF ANNOUNCE OPERATION THIBA AGAINST M23 REBELLION IN DRC

February 29 - March 6, 2024 | Issue 9 - Weapons & Tactics (W/T)

Léonard Vacelet-Revolio, Zara Price, Leon Kille, Mateo Maya, Agathe Labadi, Nicholas Novak

Alya Fathia Fitri, Editor; Christina Valdez, Senior Editor


Somalia[1]


Date: February 29, 2024

Location: Bossaso, Somalia

Parties involved: Somalia; Somali authorities; Somali National Army (SNA); Somali Special Forces Danab Brigade; Morocco; Moroccan government; Ethiopia; Ethiopian fighter in Somalia; IS-Somalia (ISS); Deputy Chairman of the Bossaso military court, Colonel Ali Ibrahim Osman; foreign Islamist terrorist fighters in Somalia; African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) forces; US; US troops in Somalia; Western countries allied with Somalia

The event: A Somali military court sentenced eight Islamist fighters, accusing them of training with ISS at their base in the Cal-Miskaat Mountains in the northeastern region of Somalia. Osman said, “Six Moroccans, convicted of being members of IS militants, will face the death penalty,”[2] after admitting to the court to being members of IS for two years. The court gave one Ethiopian fighter and one Somali fighter 10-year jail sentences and found another Somali fighter not guilty. The accused foreigners said ISS misled them about training and are seeking deportation instead.[3] The Somali government introduced a new Anti-Terrorism Law in March 2023, which facilitates a stricter legal approach to convicted terrorists.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Somalia will very likely bolster counterterrorism operations against Islamist groups, likely by increasing cooperation, training exercises, and using high-tech weapons from the US and its allies. The US troops in Somalia will likely conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations to secure civilians, border regions, and Somalia authorities' positions. The SNA will very likely disrupt ISS military organization and recruitment networks through Somali Danab Brigade raids on ISS leadership in the Cal-Miskaat Mountains coinciding with US ISTAR intelligence.

  • Somalia’s long-term strategy against ISS will very likely rely on international support. The gradual exit of ATMIS from Somalia will likely demand increased support from partner countries. Somali authorities will likely strengthen their counter-terrorism structure by installing an intergovernmental cooperation agenda with Morocco and neighboring countries. Somali authorities will likely renew multilateral security and defense agreements with Western countries, likely through military training, weapons systems supply, and air support for troops on the ground.

  • Somalia’s strict judicial system and Anti-Terrorism Act laws will likely be ineffective in combating foreign terrorist fighters and have a roughly even chance of serving as a deterrent to potential foreign fighters. The application of the death penalty will unlikely hinder ISS's recruitment strategies and the flow of foreign fighters to the region, and will unlikely lead to a reassessment of the group's operational strengths in Somalia. In an attempt to strengthen counterterrorism strategies, Somalia will likely enhance its border control measures to prevent ISS activities, support, and the recruitment of external fighters.


Date: March 2, 2024

Location: Goma, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Parties involved: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC); FARDC military spokesperson Major General Sylvain Ekenge; militant rebel group M23; DRC civilians; South Africa; Malawi; Tanzania; Burundi; General Chiefs of Staff of South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, and Burundi; Southern African Development Community (SADC); Southern African Development Community Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC); Rwanda; Rwandan government; UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); NGOs operating in eastern DRC; international community

The event: Five Chiefs of General Staff from South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, DRC, and Burundi announced their intent to reinforce the troops of the SADC mission alongside Burundian troops and the FARDC under the name Operation Thiba against the M23 rebellion. The countries have been collaborating, intending to bring peace to the region. Ekenge said, “It was a question of evaluating the evolution of operations on the ground and refining strategies to strengthen them.”[5] Their visit to the rebel-surrounded city of Goma underlines their determination to support the DRC and restore security in the region.[6] 

Analysis & Implications:

  • The security situation in northeastern DRC is likely to become more unstable, as the hostilities in North Kivu between SAMIDRC forces and M23 will very likely increase. The withdrawal of MONUSCO troops from defensive positions will very likely increase the security instability and tensions in North Kivu, likely allowing M23 rebels to gain territories and military capabilities. The SAMIDRC forces will likely intensify retaliation airstrikes and artillery shellings and deploy ground troops to push rebels northeast near the Rwandan border. Although it is unlikely that the DRC will seek a ceasefire and a political agreement with the M23 rebels, the international community will likely pressure the DRC authorities to engage in negotiations with the rebels and the Rwandan government.

  • Regional tensions between the SADC countries and Rwanda are very likely to intensify as military operations against Rwandan-backed rebels like M23 will almost certainly escalate as part of the new SAMIDRC military strategies. Rwanda will likely continue supporting M23 to keep access to natural resources in the DCR, likely deteriorating diplomatic relations in the region. The exploitation of natural resources such as gold and other minerals will likely ensure the militia groups' power and Rwandan military expenditure in the region. There is a roughly even chance that further tensions and displacements will escalate into direct confrontations between Rwanda and DRC, likely supported by militia groups' power, ethnic conflict, hate speech, and human rights abuses.

  • A humanitarian crisis will very likely worsen if the M23 threat remains unresolved within the next months. Increasing SADC troops in the region will very likely lead to larger military confrontations with M23 rebels, likely displacing more civilians. Rebels will likely attack refugees and humanitarian workers by placing IEDs on the roads and by ambushing teams in strategic locations, likely leading the SADC to use the additional troops to create corridors and allow NGOs access to civilians in need. The increasing fear will likely drive civilians to collaborate with the M23 rebels as informants or lower-level militants, likely boosting M23's strength and recruitment capabilities.


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[1] Somalia by Google Maps

[2] Somali Military Court Sentences Six Moroccans to Death for Terrorism, Voice of America, February 2024, https://www.voanews.com/a/somali-military-court-sentences-six-moroccans-to-death-for-terrorism/7508355.html

[3] Ibid

[4] Somalia’s Lower House Passes Historic Anti-Terrorism Law, Voice of America, March 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/somalia-s-lower-house-passes-historic-anti-terrorism-law/6996295.html

[5] SADC wants to strengthen its troops in eastern DRC, Radio Okapi, March 2024, https://www.radiookapi.net/2024/03/03/actualite/securite/la-sadc-veut-renforcer-ses-troupes-dans-lest-de-la-rdc (Translated by Google)

[6] Ibid

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