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A Three Decade Stalemate in Somalia Continues Unabated

Al-Shabaab continues to pursue the goal of installing itself in power. To achieve this, it aims to overthrow the Western-backed Somali government and eject foreign forces from the country. For its part, the Somali government relies largely on international support to deliver stability and reconstruction. To resolve the conflict, some observers have urged the Somali government to initiate dialogue with Al-Shabaab. One proposal is that the Somali government should engage with moderate members of the group. Another recommends third-party Muslim state actors stepping in to initiate talks. The government in Mogadishu has signalled its willingness to enter into direct talks. But Al-Shabaab has rebuffed all attempts. Instead, it has dismissed the government as a “criminal regime” that has “left the fold of Islam”. So, how do you establish direct negotiation with a group that maintains uncompromising demands? Findings show that while the insurgent group rebuffs talks on the national stage, it frequently negotiates local issues with the government and other groups through senior clan elders. Elders often broker temporary ceasefires between Al-Shabaab and the government. Sometimes they facilitate hostage-release negotiations or humanitarian delivery access to Al-Shabaab-controlled areas.