A former al-Shabab leader, Mukhtar Robow, has been appointed as a Somali cabinet minister. Robow was a co-founder and former spokesperson of the deadly militant group but defected in 2015.
In a move that has created a divide amongst critics, Mukhtar Robow has been appointed as the religious affairs minister in Somalia’s new cabinet.
Before his appointment, Robow was placed under house arrest for four years. He was earlier held in detention during the reign of former Somalia president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on charges of organizing a militia group and engaging in extremism.
He was arrested in December 2018 in Somalia’s South West State as he campaigned for the regional presidency.
After his arrest, a wild protest erupted, which claimed more than 20 lives. This, critics say, is one of the things that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud should have considered before making the appointment.
Mukhtar Robow announced his decision to defect from the al-Shabab group in 2015; he cited ideological differences as the reasons for his defection. However, he went on to form another militant group.
At one time, the US had his name on its list of people wanted for acts of terror. It offered $5m (£4m) for his capture, but that was dropped in 2017.
So, although the Somali government claims that the appointment of Robow as religious affairs minister is an ideological war against al-Shabab, many critics disagree. They argue that the move is an attempt by the government to cover up the crimes he committed while he was part of the al-Qaida-affiliated group.
Critics are of the opinion that regardless of his defection, Robow is not worthy of any public office as long as the deadly militant group he formed continues to carry out deadly attacks in Somalia and other neighbouring countries.
The announcement of the new appointees into the country’s cabinet was made by Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre. On the choice of the former al-Shabab spokesperson Muktar Robow as a minister, he said the move would help strengthen the fight against insurgency. But many critics think otherwise; they believe it could provoke clan clashes.
In televised remarks on Tuesday, speaking on the appointment of Robow as a minister, Barre said:
“After much deliberation with the president and the public, I have named cabinet ministers who have education and experience and they will fulfil their duties,” Barre said before announcing the cabinet appointees. “I ask the parliament to approve the cabinet.”
This new cabinet, nominated nearly 40 days after new Prime Minister Barre took office, will need the approval of the Somali parliament.
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