South West state is set to hold state presidential elections on Wednesday, December 19, amid a tense and violent political environment. At least 11 people, including a member of regional parliament, were killed in Baidoa this week as supporters of recently arrested presidential candidate and former Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow took to the streets and clashed with security forces. Further violence, including terrorist attacks, along with protests, transportation disruptions, and clashes with security forces are possible throughout South West State, particularly in Baidoa. A heightened security presence is expected.
South West state, which is comprised of the former Bay, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle regions, is holding presidential elections on December 19 originally scheduled for November 17. Federal security forces, along with Ethiopian peacekeeping troops, arrested Mukhtar Robow on December 13, resulting in violent protests. State and regional politicians have accused the Somali Federal Government (SFG) of interfering with the election and seeking to control state politics.
Mukhtar Robow is a popular candidate for the state presidency. He was the deputy leader and spokesman of Al-Shabaab. In 2017, he surrendered to government forces and publicly denounced the terrorist group.
Individuals in Somalia, and particularly those in South West state, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant activity, and obey all instructions issued by the local authorities. The security environment in Somalia remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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