Al-Shabaab Declares China an Enemy and Oppressor of Uyghurs as Beijing Provides Military Equipment to Somalia
On March 18th, China delivered a donated shipment of military equipment to Somalia to help bolster the government’s military and security campaign against Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab. The provisions included military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, water trucks, landmine detectors, ambulances, and more.
General Odowa Yusuf Rage of the Somali National Armed Forces announced that China would be delivering further military aid and that another shipment was on the way.
Al-Shabaab was quick to address China’s military assistance package to Mogadishu and published a media report through the group’s official Shahada News Agency highlighting Beijing’s policies.
Citing a recent comment by US AFRICOM commander Stephen Townsend, Al-Shabaab suggests China is seeking to establish more military bases and of looking to expand its security footprint in Africa. Furthermore, they say that Beijing is working to grow its polico-economic influence on the continent through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and gain access to natural resources.
The release notes that the arms shipment arrived just days after Al-Shabaab attacked a Chinese national in Kenya and concludes by mentioning how China views Al-Shabaab as an enemy — hence the military support given to Mogadishu — in line with Beijing's campaign of "genocide" against the Uyghur Muslims of ‘East Turkistan.’
Al-Shabaab has a history of targeting Chinese nationals in both Somalia and Kenya — something worth observing as Beijing continues to develop its relations with the Somali government. The recent increase in Al-Shabaab attacks against Chinese nationals in Kenya, its emphasis on BRI projects in East Africa, and its new statement condemning Beijing’s donation of military equipment to Somalia may portend heightened future risk to Chinese interests in the region.