Al-Shabab’s former No. 2 leader runs for office in Somalia
Somalia and supporting countries are expressing mixed opinions and confusion about how to respond to an Al-Shabab founder and former number 2 member who defected last year and is now campaigning for a regional presidency position. The candidate has openly discussed his departure from hardline Islamism, but the state is unsure of how to handle his candidacy. The interior ministry has declared him ineligible to run due to the international sanctions still against him (which included a $5 million reward from the U.S., until recently), while the U.N mission in Somalia has not commented. Some residents of the Southwest region have been protesting the government’s “meddling” in their vote, reflecting the near complete disconnect between central and regional politics. “I guess you could say it is a positive story to see a former high-ranking Al-Shabab official participating in a system he spent many years trying to destroy,” said one researcher with the Institute for Security Studies. “But there is also the other side of it, the lack of having to answer for his time as a jihadist.” The candidate remains popular and observers have indicated that, if the campaign goes forward, there is a good chance that he will win.