Somalia’s prime minister has named former al Shabaab group co-founder and spokesperson Mukhtar Robow as a minister in the country’s new cabinet, a move that could either help strengthen the fight against the insurgency or provoke clan clashes.
Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said in televised remarks that Robow, who once had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head before he split from al Shabaab in 2013, would serve as the minister in charge of religion.
The previous government arrested him December 2018 in Somalia’s South West region as he campaigned for the regional presidency. The protests that followed were quashed with deadly force with security forces shooting at least 11 people.
“After much deliberation with the president and the public, I have named cabinet ministers who have education and experience and they will fulfill their duties. I ask the parliament to approve the cabinet,” Barre said before announcing the cabinet appointees.
Some analysts have speculated that Robow, who subsequently denounced al Shabaab, could help strengthen government forces in his native Bakool region, where the insurgency holds substantial amounts of territory.
New President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elected by lawmakers in May, has promised to take the fight to the insurgency after three years in which his predecessor, consumed by political infighting, took little action against al Shabaab.
That allowed the insurgency to build up substantial reserves of cash and carry out attacks over a wide swathe of the country.