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What We're Watching: Somalia's new cabinet, takeaways from US primaries, Peru's president in peril

What We're Watching: Somalia's new cabinet, takeaways from US primaries, Peru's president in peril

Somalia appoints former al Shabaab spokesperson as minister in Mogadishu

REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia appoints former al-Shabab militant to cabinet

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre has named former al-Shabab spokesperson, Muktar Robow, as Somalia’s minister for endowment and religious affairs. A veteran of the Afghan war, who was training with al-Qaida in Afghanistan during 9/11, Robow helped found al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow the Somali government in a bid to invoke a strict interpretation of Sharia law. The militants have killed tens of thousands since 2007, and they’ve recently been involved in cross-border attacks in Ethiopia. Robow (aka Abu Mansour), who once had a $5 million bounty on his head, broke from the al-Qaida-linked militants back in 2017. Arrested by Somali authorities in 2018 to prevent him from running for office, Robow had been under house arrest in Mogadishu until last year, when he was taken back into custody. This week, he was released just before his new role was announced. As the new face of Somalia’s war against al-Shabab, Robow is tasked with helming the ideological battle against the terrorists. Some believe this will strengthen the government’s hand against al-Shabab, but critics fear it could lead to sectarian violence.

Key takeaways from US primaries

Five US states – Arizona, Missouri, Michigan, Washington, and Kansas – held primaries on Tuesday, giving an indication of the public mood in parts of the country just 12 weeks out from midterm elections. So, what happened? Trump-aligned candidates did pretty well. In Michigan, Rep. Peter Meijer – a freshman and one of just a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump – was defeated by an extreme pro-Trumper who has spread conspiracy theories (read lies) that Dems engaged in satanic rituals. In Arizona’s nail-biter GOP gubernatorial primary, Keri Lake, a Trump-backed TV presenter who propagates the former president’s lies about election fraud, was polling ahead of her rival with more than 80% of ballots counted. A slate of other Trump-aligned candidates also won primaries throughout the Grand Canyon state. Some Democrats will be happy with these outcomes, believing that far-right candidates will be easier to beat in battleground states this fall, but others have been critical of the strategy. Meanwhile, in Kansas, abortion-rights supporters were celebrating after 59% of voters rejected an amendment to the State Constitution to allow the state to regulate – or ban – abortion. High turnout in the Sunflower State suggests that abortion rights could indeed be an energizing issue for Democrats this fall.

Peru’s president in peril

Amid widening criminal investigations centered on President Pedro Castillo, Prime Minister Anibal Torres quit on Wednesday. Torres, a longtime Castillo ally, said he just wanted to go back to a quiet life of “legal research.” The resignation is the latest crumble of the cookie for Castillo, an upstart leftwing populist who stunned the country by winning the presidency last year, but who has been beset by scandals, missteps, and a fractious Congress since taking office. He is currently under investigation for alleged treason and for running a criminal enterprise from the presidential palace. Small wonder that his approval rating has plunged to below 20%, and our friends at Eurasia Group say it’s “only a matter of time” before lawmakers force him out. If this sounds topsy turvy, it is, but it’s also not unusual for Peru, where political parties are plentiful but weak, and presidents rarely have solid majorities in the legislature. The country went through a period in 2020 where there were three different presidents in the space of a month.


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