Villa Somalia backtracks on claim of Al-Shabab peace talks request

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The Federal Government of Somalia has backtracked on a claim made by a minister yesterday stating that Al-Shabab, a militant group, had requested peace talks. 

Abdulfatah Kasim Mohamud, a deputy defense minister, said on Saturday in an interview with state media that the militant group had reached out to the government for negotiations.  

However, National Security Adviser Hussein Sheikh Ali later denied receiving such requests and said that the government’s position on Al-Shabab had not changed.

“The group has not made any requests to us,” Ali told Voice of America. “The minister said he was misquoted.”  

“Our policy on talks with Al-Shabab remains unchanged: we will not engage in discussions with them as a group. However, we are open to accepting defectors from the organization and will provide a clear process for individuals who wish to leave and receive government amnesty.” 

Al-Shabab has also denied the existence of any talks with the Somali government.

In a statement from the group’s media outlet, a member from the propaganda office said, “I can assure you that there are no negotiations ongoing or planned between us as Mujahedeen and the government. The statements from government officials are meant to raise morale.” 

Previously, Al-Shabab has voiced skepticism about engaging in dialogue with the Somali government, stating that such negotiations are “more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction.”

The backtracking by the Somali government and denial by Al-Shabab comes after a series of attacks carried out by the group in the country. 

In September, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an “all-out war” against Al-Shabab following two attacks that killed more than 43 people, including senior officers. 

On Friday, the president appealed to young members of the group to surrender and renounce their terrorist ideology.

“I want to tell these boys to return from the wrong path they are taking,” Mohamud said at a mosque in the capital, Mogadishu. “I urge them to return to their government, people, and religion. Every step they take from now on will only increase their guilt.”

Despite the government’s stance on not negotiating with Al-Shabab, Mohamud’s appeal for members to defect and be eligible for government amnesty indicates a potential willingness for reconciliation. 

The president’s call for surrender follows a similar appeal made by the Somali National Army (SNA) in August, which offered a 60-day window for members of the group to lay down their weapons and surrender. 

It needs to be made clear how many members of Al-Shabab took advantage of the offer.

The Somali government has been battling Al-Shabab for over a decade, with the group carrying out numerous attacks on military and civilian targets in the country. 

The group, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has been significantly weakened in recent years, with the SNA and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) making significant gains against the group. 

However, Al-Shabab still maintains a presence in rural areas and continues to carry out attacks, including suicide bombings and ambushes.

Even if they were ultimately denied, the possibility of peace talks between the Somali government and Al-Shabab highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities in resolving the conflict.  

While the government and international community have prioritized military action against the group, some experts believe that a political solution may ultimately be necessary to bring a lasting end to the violence.