2019 in Somalia: A look at the key developments that defined the year

Political turmoil, insecurity and sustained efforts for debt relief featured prominently in Somalia during 2019 as the current administration served its second last year ahead of elections in 2020.

HOL correspondents reported extensively on some of these developments and picked a few which not only made headlines locally but also internationally. Here are HOL’s choice of the most prominent and significant developments in Somalia in 2019:

Somalia Expels UN Chief 

January 2, 2019: Somali government began the year with a stern warning to the UN that it would no longer entertain the presence of Special Representative to the UN Secretary General Nicholas Haysom following a demand letter by Haysom to the Federal Government over the Baidoa violence in December 2018. With a stroke of the pen, Haysom was declared persona non-grata and ordered to leave the country.  

Haysom, a South African lawyer had just been at the post since September 2018 after replacing then SRSG Michael Keating.

Said Abdullahi Dani Elected Puntland President

January 8, 2019: Saed Abdullahi Deni was elected president of Puntland state in a heavily contested race that involved 20 candidates. Deni replaced Abdiweli Gaas as the leader of Somalia’s oldest federal member state. 

Somalia-Kenya Relations Falter

February 16, 2019: Relations between Somalia and her neighbour Kenya suffered the most in 2019 leading to suspension of diplomatic ties, economic sanctions and uncertainty. Though the two countries had enjoyed warm relations despite the maritime dispute, relations nosedived following an oil conference by Somalia in London in February in which Kenya accused her neighbour of displaying maps of the contested maritime boundary. Somalia made it clear none of the said maps were displayed leading to a spat which culminated in the expulsion of Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Nur Tarsan 

Al-Shabaab Kills 26 in Kismayo Attack

July 12, 2019: The militant group Al-Shabaab stormed Hotel Madina in Kismayu following years of relative calm in the coastal city. In its wake, the attack left 26 people dead among them Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Naleye and her husband. 

July 24, 2019: Twelve days after the country lost one of its finest journalists-Naleye, another terror attack hit Banaadir Regional Administration Headquarters in Mogadishu. At least seven senior regional officers were killed and others among them city mayor Abdirahman Omar Yarisow were injured. Yarisow succumbed to his injuries August 1 in a hospital in Qatar.

Jubbaland Elections, Madobe Makes Comeback

August 22, 2019: A tussle between the Federal Government and Jubbaland administration over the procedure for election of new parliament and president degenerated into a long running battle roping in Kenya in support of Ahmed Madobe and Ethiopia on FGS’ side. Ultimately Madobe was re-elected The Federal Government vowed it would not recognize Madobe’s election and went ahead to restrict flights to Kismayu, ordered all international flights heading to Kismayu to stop-over at Aden Adde Airport.

Floods Displace Over 300,000 in Beletweyne

Shabelle River breached its banks in late October forcing thousands to flee their homes. By November 1, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said about 300,000 people had been displaced and 85% of Beletweyne town submerged in water. Somalis locally and abroad mobilized resources alongside aid agencies to respond. To date, some of those displaced are yet to settle in their former homes. 

Norway Announces Bridging Loan for Somalia

October 10, 2019: The Norwegian government announces a $350 bridging loan to Somalia which would allow the country clear arrears owed to the World Bank as part of the debt relief process.

US Re-establishes Embassy After 28 years

October 02, 2019: The U.S re-established its embassy in Somalia after three decades hiatus following the closure in 1991. The U.S ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto termed the move ‘Another step forward in the resumption of regular U.S-Somali relations, symbolizing the strengthening of U.S-Somalia relations and advancement of stability, development and peace for Somalia and the region.’

Somalia-Kenya Normalise Relations

November 14, 2019: After about ten months of frosty relations, Kenya and Somalia restored relations following a visit by President Mohamed Farmaajo to Nairobi. The meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta resolved to end direct flights ban to Nairobi, removal of visa restrictions on Somali diplomats and resumption of diplomatic ties.

Peace Activist Almaas Elman Killed in Mogadishu

November 20, 2019: Almaas Elman daughter of fallen peace activist Elman Ali killed in unclear circumstances within the airport area in Mogadishu. AMISOM says preliminary report points to a stray bullet but the Elman family calls for joint probe by Somali and Canadian governments. 

Somalia Exports Bananas to Turkey and Saudi Arabia After 30 years

November 28, 2019: The first consignment of 14 metric tones of bananas left Mogadishu port for Turkey and Saudi Arabia marking a major milestone for Somalia after exports ended following the collapse of government in 1991. 

IMF Sets Plan for Somalia’s Debt Relief

December 18, 2019: The IMF board announced a financing plan to help it cover share of debt relief for Somalia. The plan includes cash grants from member countries and IMF internal resources. The announcement marks a major milestone as Somalia inches closer to debt relief. 

Bomb Attack Kills 89, Injured About 150

December 28, 2019: A truck loaded with explosives blows up at a checkpoint in Ex-Control area killing 89 people and injuring over 150 others. Among the injured are students from Banaadir University. Some of the injured airlifted to Turkey and Qatar. No group claims responsibility.

NISA: Foreign Hand Behind December 28 bombing

December 30: Intelligence agency NISA says a foreign nation was involved in the bombing. Hours later, Al-Shabaab claims responsibility, says it was targeting Turkish engineers constructing Mogadishu-Afgooye Road.

Parliament Endorses $460 Million Budget

December 31, 2019: A joint session of the Federal Parliament approves $459.5 million budget for the financial year 2020.