Analysis & Opinions - War on the Rocks

The Saga of Mukhtar Robow and Somalia's Fractious Politics

| Jan. 30, 2019

Summary

Much has changed for Mukhtar "Abu Mansur" Robow, a key founding member of the Somali jihadist organization al-Shabaab, over the past decade.  In November 2008, al-Shabaab was sweeping across southern and central Somalia toward the capital city of Mogadishu. Robow led the jihadists not only in their fight against the Somali government and allied international forces but also in their enactment of territorial governance and implementation of a harsh form of Islamic law. 

Ten years later, in October 2018, Robow, who once condemned democracy as "unbelief," announced his candidacy for the presidency of Somalia's South West State. South West State is one of the five semi-autonomous member states that make up the often-fractious Somali federal republic (excluding Somaliland, which doesn't see itself as a part of Somalia). The country's federal government maintains ever-fluctuating, often combative relations with the administrations of regional states. Robow's announcement set off an intense debate about the prospects of an ex-jihadist gaining a leadership position through democratic elections.

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For Academic Citation: Anzalone, Christopher and Stig Jarle Hansen.“The Saga of Mukhtar Robow and Somalia's Fractious Politics.” War on the Rocks, January 30, 2019.