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Defeat of Al Shabaab a 'matter of time'

17 July 2014, 21:41

Dar es Salaam - A former top UN envoy said Wednesday that Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab rebels will be defeated if foreign governments stay the course in backing the fragile government in Mogadishu.

Speaking at Land Forces East Africa, a two-day regional defence conference and military technology exhibition, the former envoy to Somalia played down a recent upsurge in Shabaab attacks inside the country and across the border in Kenya.

"It's really just a matter of time before the Shabaab are defeated in Somalia," said Augustine Mahiga, a Tanzanian diplomat and the United Nations' special representative in Mogadishu from 2010 to 2013.

Need for reconciliation

"But pressure needs to be sustained and it must be relentless. The moment you relax, the Shabaab will recover. So the international community must be ready to continue supporting the mission," he added.

"There's a huge need for political reconciliation," he added. "Even if you exclude the Shebab, there's still a lot of political work that has to be done."

Recent Shabaab attacks have targeted key areas of Somalia's government or the security forces, seemingly as part of a bid to discredit claims that the authorities are winning the war against the Islamists. The group has also claimed a string of attacks in Kenya.

While the 22 000-strong African Union force launched a fresh offensive in March against Shabaab bases, seizing a series of towns, the insurgents have largely fled in advance and suffered few casualties.

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