A former Al-Shabab deputy leader and spokesman could be running for office in the presidency of Somalia’s South West State.
Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur is a founding father and former spokesman of the Al-Shabab group, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed Somali government and rule the country according to its own interpretation of Islamic Sharia. It has carried out attacks in the country for a number of years, killing thousands in the process.
Abu Mansur defected to the Somali government in August of last year, after severing ties with his former group.
Al-Shabab is the deadliest terrorist group in Africa. In October 2017, it killed more than 500 people in a single attack when a truck laden with explosives went off in central Mogadishu. It was the deadliest single attack in Somalia’s history and the deadliest in Africa.
Abu Mansur stayed in the bush for close to four years after parting ways with Al-Shabab in 2013. He was protected by approximately 400 fighters from his clan who left Al-Shabab with him. Mainstream Al-Shabab fighters have attacked him several times after he rejected their demand that he should return to the group. He belongs to the Digil and Mirifle clan who mostly are the inhabitants of the Bay and Bakol regions in southwest Somalia.
His surrender was drawn out because of a long negotiation process he was involved in with the government about his future. At the time there were calls for Al-Shabab members to be prosecuted and executed if found guilty of human rights abuses and killings.
This week, Abu Mansur appeared in a meeting hosted by National Assembly Speaker Mohamed Mursal in Mogadishu, along with other candidates planning to oust South West state leader Sharif Hassan who was a former House speaker himself.
South West parliament is expected to elect a new president in November of this year. Sources say Abu Mansur is meeting senior government and foreign officials for support in his bid to be the leader of South West State.
Abu Mansur is the most senior figure to have quit the group since it was founded more than 10 years ago.
He fell out of favour with his former boss, the late Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane – alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair- who was killed in a US drone attack in September 2014, over the use of foreign fighters. Abu Mansur was in favour of the use of local fighters for their agenda while Abu Zubeyr wanted both locals and foreign fighters. The ensuing row split Al-Shabab into two factions and eventually led to the death of American fighter Omar Hammami and the defection of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
Abu Mansur served as an Al-Shabab spokesman, military commander and spiritual leader. He took part in the planning and execution of deadly attacks against Somali and African Union soldiers and well as civilian targets.
He could be following the footsteps of Somalia’s former President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Hassan who was elected president of Somalia in 2009. Sheikh Hassan was a former leader of the Islamic Courts Union – a union of local Islamic courts that ruled most of southern and central Somalia. The Islamic courts were labelled as a terrorist organisation by the US.