Al-Shabab Militants Try Food to Win Hearts and Minds in Somalia

Goal #1: No Poverty

The group is taking advantage of human suffering in order to exploit those most affected.

BY LARISA EPATKO
The al-Qaida-affiliated militant group al-Shabab is trying to improve its reputation by delivering food to parts of Somalia that are suffering from drought.
Al-Shabab blocked food aid and killed some humanitarian workers during the last major famine in 2011, severely damaging its image. So this time, the group is taking a softer approach, claiming to have distributed food in the six central and southern regions of Bay, Bakol, Mudug, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle and Galguduug.
“This is a resilient group. They do learn their lessons,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president for Research and Regional Initiatives and director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. The militants learned that part of their military defeat was due to the improved training of peacekeepers, but also their own handling of the 2011 famine, he said.
Image: An internally displaced Somali family go about their day outside their makeshift shelter after fleeing from drought-stricken regions in Baidoa, west of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, on April 9. Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters
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