Davidson College Professor of Political Science Ken Menkhaus was in Mogadishu, Somalia, just three days before today's UN compound bombing as part of his long-time work with international agencies to stabilize the violence-plagued country. He is now in the city of Somaliland conducting research for two projects related to Somalia. One is a political economy assessment of regulatory reform in Somaliland for the World Bank, in support of efforts to promote more business investments while protecting the interests of the Somaliland people.
The other is a study of institution-building and aid effectiveness in Somalia, part of a global comparative research project sponsored by the UN University. He will continue those projects in the next few weeks with trips to Djibouti and then Kenya. He had tentative plans to return to Mogadishu in early July, but will not do so now.
When he was in the capital city of Mogadishu on June 16, half of his World Bank team spent the day in the UN compound that was just bombed. Menkhaus had elected to attend other meetings at a different nearby site.
Menkhaus reports that the UN compound is very close to the airport, which is tightly controlled by the African Union peacekeeping forces. The compound was thought to be well protected, and is usually busy with a growing number of UN staff in support of the new government of President Mohamud (who is a friend of Menkhaus, and co-author with Menkhaus of a book chapter a few years ago).
The jihadi group Shabaab appears to have targeted the UN compound because it is the most visible sign of international support to the government, which Shabaab wants to undermine.
Menkhaus says the short term impact of the attack will be to curtail even further international presence in Mogadishu as security restrictions tighten. The attack is also a blow to the Somali government, which has been trying to portray Mogadishu as a safe city for diplomats, aid workers, and investments.