Will the uprisings in North Africa weaken Somalia's Al Shabaab rebels?
Ghana's former president Jerry Rawlings thinks so. Why is Rawlings' view on Al Shabaab noteworthy? Well, he's the African Union's special envoy on Somalia.
Rawlings said the uprisings in North Africa are weakening Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels. He did not name any specific countries but there have been reports that Libya's Muammar Gaddafi regime has been funding and sending weapons to Al Shabaab.
Rawlings, 63, said that arms coming from North Africa to Somalia "are beginning to fizzle out, some of the resources as well" which he said hopes will "contribute to a weakness we can take advantage of."
Rawlings, appointed last year as AU special envoy to Somalia, said youths currently employed by Al Shabaab, which is allied to Al Qaeda, might be willing to lay down their arms and switch sides now that the rebels’ funding is drying up. He suggested the African Union should appeal to the Al Shabaab youths.
"Some of them need jobs to do. And most of them are probably youth, youth just looking for adventure and food to eat, and I’m not sure what percentage can actually be graded as Al Qaeda or Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab stands for the youth, right. It’s unfortunate that the word youth is being perverted in such a manner. But quite frankly, I think the opportunity to bring them on board does exist, and we must take advantage of that," said Rawlings.
Rawlings was speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African Union.
In Somalia, however, Al Shabaab rebels have not yet shown any signs of significant weakening in its fight against the transitional government of Sheikh Sharif Ahmad. Al Shabaab announced Thursday that it had killed a soldier who was part of the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu (AMISOM).
The AMISOM soldier was killed in fighting Thursday morning, said Ali Mohamoud Rage, Al Shabaab's spokesman.
AMISOM confirmed that one of their officials was killed and three others injured in a battle. AMISOM spokesman Paddy Akunda said it is deplorable that Al Shabaab would drag the body through the streets of Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab has also vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden.
The rebels said bin Laden's death would not hurt their fight to topple Somalia's Western-backed government.
Analysts have said bin Laden's death is unlikely to dampen the insurgency by Al Shabaab. When news broke of bin Laden's death some Al Shabaab combatants in the Somali capital Mogadishu wore white as a sign of grief, residents said.
"We shall redouble our jihad and we shall overpower our enemies. Osama is not the first martyr, may God rest his soul," said Al Shabaab spokesman Rage.
"We shall never divert from the path of Sheikh Osama and we shall continue the jihad till we taste the death our brother Osama faced, or achieve victory and rule the whole world," he said in the capital Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab is battling to overthrow the government and impose its own harsh version of Shariah law in Somalia.