afrol News, 16 July - The Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab was hailed by Al Qaeda colleagues for its first major terrorist act abroad, in Uganda. But the grotesque "success" is backfiring as efforts to fight the group in Somalia increase.
Sunday's terrorist attacks in Uganda's capital Kampala by Somalia's Islamist group Al Shabaab left 76 civilians dead and 70 injured. In the group's extremist mindset, this was a success, and other militant Islamists have congratulated Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab for the terror attack.
But among Africans at large, including an overwhelming majority of Somalis, the attack on football viewing Ugandans in two Kampala restaurants was nothing more than a coward and disgusting act. As US President Barack Obama called Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab racist organisations that "do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself," he captured the feeling in Africa well.
The mounting anger over the Kampala terrorist attack is now set to backfire on Al Shabaab. Africans, governments and the international community have never been in more agreement over taking the struggle back to Somalia, to beat Al Shabaab in its strongholds.
As a first consequence of its Kampala attack, Al Shabaab can count on a big funding setback. Still, many Somalis in the Diaspora help funding the Islamist movement, which at a time was seen as the group most fit to re-establish peace and order in the war-torn country. Later, it was the main group opposing Ethiopian occupation.
While Al Shabaab drifted into extremism, many exiled Somalis did not want to recognise this development. Mounting proof of connections between Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda were rejected. Now, after the attack, no one can doubt Al Shabaab is an international terrorist organisation, and this will inevitably stop most Somalis in the Diaspora from continuing funding it.
Also the states hitherto positive towards Al Shabaab have already started reconsidering their relations with the Somali extremists. Eritrea, which previously provided the Islamists with funds and arms - despite a UN embargo - to fight a proxy war against Ethiopia in Somalia, is now considering how to shift its alliances without losing face.
This leaves Al Shabaab mostly isolated, with only the international Al Qaeda network to count on. While Al Qaeda can provide training, fighters and some arms, the terrorist group itself is facing financial problems, according to intelligence reports.
On the other side, there is a global rush to fund the fighting of Al Shabaab on Somali soil. Somalia's impotent and unpopular transitional government, which for a long time has been calling for an intensified fight against "Al Qaeda in Somalia," is now being heard.
Currently, only a smaller African Union peacebuilding mission, AMISOM, is aiding the Somali transitional government. The 5,000 troops, mostly Ugandan and Burundian, only hold parts of Mogadishu but engage in occasional confrontations with Al Shabaab outside the Somali capital. An offensive against Al Shabaab launched earlier this month is moving slowly.
After the Kampala terrorist attack, support for AFRISOM however is quickly growing. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has promised "revenge" and announced to scale up his country's troops commitment to AMISOM by 2,000 additional troops. The African Union is welcoming any plan to increase the mission.
Most important, the US government has promised to dramatically scale up its financial and material support for AMISOM; an operation that has been troubled by lacks of funds and troops so far. Additional US funding could allow for more African countries to send troops and thus turn the odds at the battlefield.
A major offensive against Al Shabaab now should also have better possibilities of success than the Ethiopian attempt to root out the Islamists' predecessors, the Islamic Courts movement. The Ethiopian offensive mainly failed because of popular resistance against Somalia's old arch-enemy - Ethiopia - and Diaspora funding of the Islamists.
Al Shabaab, which also is terrorising the Somali population where in control, does not count on the same popular support. And the Kampala terrorist attack should put an end to Diaspora funding. An offensive by a strengthened AMISOM at his time therefore could be successful.
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