Somalia / by Michelle Ryan

With country preparing for elections in September 2016, authorities are engaged in extensive consultations to decide on the final electoral format. Meanwhile, Prime Minister has reacted to recent domestic criticism and has cut down on his over-sized cabinet. Foreign relations with neighboring Kenya might deteriorate in the near future, due to the Somali parliament's recent voting in favor of Kenyan troops withdrawal from the country. Militant group of Al-Shabab is engaged in a propaganda war with the Islamic State, which is trying to take over the hearts and minds of Somali extremists. Added to that, radical Somali group's logistical capacity may potentially decline due to the government's recent initiative to crack down on illegal charcoal exports, which represents one of the major sources of Al-Shabab's revenues. Economically, Somalia was advised by the World Bank to maintain existing peace, which has the potential to lead to substantial economic growth in the next few years. Even though elections are almost two years away, inter-party political intrigue and bold promises have started to occur. Justice and Welfare Party lost one of its strongest candidates, who voiced his opposition to the party's alleged subservience to the ruling KUMLIYE faction. Presidential and Vice Presidential hopefuls have promised the electorate to advance the country's international profile if elected, while also prioritizing economic development and the tackling of problems related to crime and climate change. Despite such promises, free journalism and freedom of expression remain limited due to the inclusive nature of the Penal Code, which human rights organizations and their supporters consider as inherently undemocratic and reflective of the leaders' true intentions.