Born: 10 October 1969;
Place of Birth: Hudur, Somalia;
Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansur, is a former deputy leader and former spokesman of the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab.
Robow was born on 10 October 1969 in Hudur, in the Bakool region southern Somalia. He studied at a local Qur’anic school, and later continued his religious education in the mosques of Mogadishu as well as those of his home region. A member of the Rahaweyn and more specifically of the Leysan clan which is particularly well represented in the South West State of Somalia. Robow also studied Islamic law in the 1990s at the University of Khartoum in Sudan.
Islamic Courts Union and Al-Shabaab:
Robow subsequently returned to Mogadishu and worked for the Saudi Al-Haramain Foundation, which was later accused by the United States of having links with Islamic terrorists. Robow then taught Islamic education to orphans the foundation was looking after.
Robow later served as the Deputy Commander of the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled much of the south of Somalia. A hardline and radical Islamist who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, Robow was blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist leader.
Robow appeared in videos with deceased American militant Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki. Robow and other leading Al-Shabaab members challenged the leadership of Ahmed Abdi Godane (Moktar Ali Zubeyr) at Barawe in June 2013. Godane killed two of the leading members, and Robow fled to his home district. Godane’s forces launched an offensive against Robow’s supporters, it was reported in August 2013.
On 23 June 2017, United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed him Reward for Justice (RFJ) list following discussions was made with the Somali government after a USD $5 million bounty was placed on him for information leading to his location on June 7, 2012.
On 13 August 2017, he surrendered to the Somali Government authorities. In a press conference held in Mogadishu shortly after, he denounced Al-Shabaab and called on its members to quit the group.
Candidacy for Regional Presidency:
A year later, Robow was pushing the envelope again. The charismatic former Shabaab leader officially declared he was running for regional elections originally set for November 17 and later postponed to December 19. Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, made the announcement to hundreds of his supporters in a welcoming rally in the South Western town of Baidoa.
The enthusiasm, however, was not shared by the internationally-backed Somali federal government in Mogadishu. In a sharp rebuke, Somalia’s internal security ministry released a statement that Mukhtar Robow was not eligible to run for the regional elections. The problem, though, is that Somalia does not have a formal constitution and, legally, the powers of the federal and state government have not been adequately detailed.
It was unclear whether the federal authorities have the ability to enforce a ban on a regional presidential candidate. Al Shabaab too has denounced the political ambitions of the group’s highest profile defector. Ironically, the federal authorities and al Shabaab find themselves on the same side of the Robow candidacy controversy.
Worried about Robow’s popularity, the federal government has sent at least one high-level official to try to persuade him to step aside. The electoral commission, dismissing Mogadishu’s demands, has awarded a certificate of eligibility to Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur.
Mukhtar Robow was officially cleared by the South West State Electoral Commission to contest in the December elections despite early protest by the Federal government seeking to have him barred. The Coalition for Change, which has thrown its weight behind Mukhtar Robow, issued a statement after the polls were postponed.
The group said it fears the government is planning to rig because the new date is not favourable for international observers as most of them will then have left Somalia for the end of the year festivities. Some 150 elite Somali forces, armed with DShK rifles, were deployed to Baidoa to physically block Robow from accessing the election venue.
On 7 Nov 2018 The United Nations Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) warned of presidential election in Somalia’s South West State have the potential to lead to violence and called on all parties to ensure that the electoral process proceeds in accordance with the established rules and avoids any behaviour which may lead to conflict or undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
On 13 December 2018, Mukhtar Robow was arrested by African Union peacekeepers from Ethiopia and flown to Mogadishu under tight security. At least 12 people were killed in Baidoa in violence that erupted following Robow’s arrest. Among those killed was a member of the regional parliament. The victims were shot by AMISOM Ethiopian forces and Somali Special Forces flown from Mogadishu.
Somali lawmakers have written a protest letter to the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian government and the UN complaining about the conduct of AMISOM. His arrest also prompted the resignation of Somalia’s Public Works Minister Abdifatah Mohamed Gesey, who hails from Baidoa and is from the same Leysan sub-clan as Robow, to resign in protest.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Haysom wrote to the Somali government on December 30 2018, requesting details of the legal basis of the arrest of Robow, as well as calling for investigations into the deaths in the protests following his detention.
Somalia‘s security forces used lethal force to put down three days of demonstrations in the south-western town of Baidoa on 13-15 December, with at least 15 people killed and 300 people arrested, according to the UN. On January 1, 2019, three people were wounded including two UN staff members when a barrage of mortars were fired into the main UN base in Mogadishu.
Somalia’s government has ordered the UN top envoy to leave the country, accusing him of “deliberately interfering with the country’s sovereignty.” The order comes days after the official, Nicholas Haysom, raised concerns at the action of Somalia’s UN-backed security services in recent violence that left several people dead. The U.N. Security Council is expressing regret at Somalia’s decision to expel a U.N. envoy who questioned the arrest of an extremist group defector-turned-political candidate.
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