Somalia’s southern state of Jubaland extended its leader’s rule by four years in an election that will have repercussions extending beyond a region that’s at the forefront of a battle against al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Mohamed Islam Madobe won 56 votes in the state parliament, while his closest rival, Anab Mohamed Dahir, secured 17, Speaker Sheikh Abdi Mohamed announced Thursday. Madobe has ruled the territory for six years and made some headway in a war with al-Shabaab, an extremist group that stages frequent attacks in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and has struck nearby countries, including Kenya and Uganda.
The election in Jubaland was closely watched by a central government that’s seeking regional allies before next year’s national election and is struggling to firm up a federation of states that includes Jubaland, Puntland and Somaliland. The states and are jostling for more autonomy and control over oil, gas and other resources. Jubaland won some political autonomy in 2013.
The central government is wary of Madobe, who leads a powerful militia known as Ras Kamboni that’s previously fought alongside Kenyan troops against al-Shabaab to recapture a port in Kismayo city in 2012. Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 after a spate of kidnappings by the militants in its territory, later joining a multi-national African Union peacekeeping force.
Jubaland was created with Kenya’s blessing, partly “as a buffer zone against al-Shabaab,” said Geoffrey Lugano, a political science lecturer at Kenyatta University in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “It matters who wins the elections” because the actions its leadership takes against al-Shabaab will determine its strength going forward and whether thousands of Somalian refugees who fled to Kenya can return home, he said.
Madobe said his priorities will be to foster unity and ensure security.
“Somalia in in a difficult period that requires cooperation, in order to liberate territories in Jubaland from the enemy” al-Shabaab, he said in his acceptance speech.