Here we are again, mourning yet still another loss of young, vibrant and core of our society—which append to long list victims at the hands of heartless terrorists. First of all, I would like to send my deepest sympathy and condolence to the Somali people, especially to those who have lost their loved ones to the terrorist attack today in Mogadishu. Also, my heart and empathy goes out to the families lost their family members to the ruthless attack in the Southern port city, Kismayo, on the 12 July 2019. Among the 26 innocent lives that the terrorists slaughtered cruelly in Kismayo was the Somali Icon and prominent journalist Hodan Nalayeh. Mrs Nalayeh, represented hope for our society and her legacy will live forever. Nalayeh was a beacon Somali activist who was passionate about serving our country—that long wrecked by war, corruption, famine and terrorist attacks, beyond the usual bombs and bullets descriptions. Nalayeh left her comfort zone, her home for the last 30-years, Toronto, Canada, to contribute her energy to the efforts of stabilising our country. “What a blessing to be back home in Somalia after 30+ years away” that was Nalayeh’s first words as soon as she set foot on the homeland after many years in the diaspora.
Nalayeh joins a long list of Somali icons that the terrorists brutally killed and denied us the joy of benefiting from their wealth of knowledge and experience. These Icons entail; Dr Qamar Adan Ali, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Addow and singer-songwriter, politician and true Somali Icon the prominent Saado Ali Warsame and many others. The million-dollar question is why Nalayeh and thousands before her were killed? What have they done to deserve to be killed in the most horrific imaginable? Terrorism operations in Somalia were going far too long, and whenever we think we have the upper hand, they come out from their potholes and dungeons to inflict pain on us again and again. And this is unacceptable, Prophet Muhammad may the peace and blessing of Allah upon him warned us against this when he said: “The believer should not be stung from the same hole twice.” Never mind twice, we have been bitten countless times from the very same hole, by the very same people. We must pause for a second, if we are to get out of this mess, and ask ourselves hard questions, like Who is our enemy, that want to destroy us? Who funds them? How they obtain the bombs and bullets they use to kill us? The war on terror in Somalia had prolonged; therefore, we should ask ourselves why defeating terrorists in Somalia is proving to be tricky and taking longer than anticipated? Lack of international support, perhaps?
Is AMISOM Helping the Peace Process in Somalia or Hindering?
On January 19 2007, the first battalion of African Union Mission in Somalia AMISOM, from Uganda arrived on our soil with UN Security Council mandate of six-months authorisation to counter militant group, Alshabab. Twelve-years fast-forward, their size and equipment increased, but instability, assassinations and suicide attack also increased. Originally a small peacekeeping force of Ugandan soldiers, AMISOM has since expanded in size and in the capacity of the mandate and is now encompassed of an estimated 22,000 soldiers from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Although Somalia is an independent state and should be able to defend itself, AMISOM has taken the Ministry of Defence’s role in the counter-insurgency campaign, representing as a de facto army until the Somali National Army (SNA) is strong enough to counter the jihadi group on its own. At least, that was what we have been told. However, what has AMISOM achieved for those twelve-years in Somalia? According to Paul. D. Williams (2018), the author of Fighting for Peace in Somalia: A History and Analysis of the African Union Mission (AMISOM), 2007-2017, in the beginning, AMISOM “…force was never, from the outset, a peacekeeping operation, but rather a war-fighting and counter-insurgency operation.
In 2010-11 it was engaged in urban warfare against Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, sustaining and inflicting casualties at a level that no UN force would have been prepared to do” he said. Undoubtedly, as Williams (an academic scholar of Somalia) argued AMISOM from the set go had achieved some victories against Alshabab, especially in the battle of Mogadishu 2010-11, forcing Alshabab to withdraw from the capital. On the other hand, according to Williams, AMISOM had encountered some challenges such as; lack of coordination between the military units of AMISOM dispersed throughout the capital and surroundings. Williams stated that the idea of AMISOM was “…to develop the Somali National Army (SNA) as their national counterpart, to the extent that it would be able to take over responsibility for national security including defeating Al-Shabaab”. However, according to Williams, the SNA has indicated slight possibilities for accomplishing this, hindered “by the more local loyalties of its commanders [tribalism], corruption, and political divisions within the Somali government”. Moreover, in a recent interview with the Foreign Policy, one Ugandan AMISOM colonel said: “[the peacekeeping operation in] Somalia is like cleaning a pig, you clean it, and it gets dirty.” These failures and the lack of progress from the Somalis’ part also makes the AMISOM contingent to have failed to form an integrated army with standard military training, doctrines and command. Although AMISOM lacked having the mandate to protect civilians, they are obliged under the international humanitarian law obligations to protect civilians—however, the lack of guidance left commanders and troops on the ground were left to make decisions on when and how to use force. According to Harley Henigson (2018), a scholar of Somalia, the inadequate plans to develop protection of civilians (POC) hampered efforts to defeat Alshabab.
This led AMISOM to neither fight Alshabab nor protect civilians, but rather prioritise the protection of government institutions and staffs. The inclusion of old foes of Somalia, such as; Kenya and Ethiopia, and the allegation of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) has turned many Somalis to distrust the African Union’s mission in Somalia, Henigson argued. According to Henigson, life is hard to live under the harsh policies of Alshabab, some Somalis prefer to live in Alshabab governed areas than AMISOM and FGS ruled areas—because they believe that Alshabab controlled areas is safer than government ruled areas. AMISOM receive approximately a yearly budget of $900 million, an AMISOM soldier takes home monthly $1,028 roughly—while their Somali counterpart takes home a mere $70, for the same duration and services—which is not guaranteed to receive. According to these two studies, it is explicitly clear that the solution to our problems does not lie with foreigners like AMISOM or any other entity. Although comparisons sometimes mislead, ISIS came out long after Alshabab established themselves and have proven to be stronger than Alshabab in military, finance and personnel, yet they were defeated in a short time. Someone may argue that the US and Russia defeated ISIS. That is half of the truth of what happened in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS. Yes, Americans and the Russians provided air support, but the Iraqi troops on the ground were the ones that fought ISIS tooth and nail street-by-street, and eventually cleared ISIS fighters from their country one-by-one. In stark contrast, the terrorist group Alshabab is flourishing in Somalia, particularly in some places in the South of Somalia and the North East mountains in Puntland State, it seems their resources, especially their human resource is unlimited. We have to ask ourselves why we are not able to break Al-Shabaab’s chains of supply?
Destroying Alshabab’s Supply Chain
According to reports, Alshabab has a long list of youngsters who wants to be suicide bombers. In recent experiences from Iraq and other places, terrorists cannot be defeated only with military assault. We have to ask ourselves, do we have a strategy to defeat Alshabab other than military strategy? Have we prepared an ideological war with the group? Because Alshabab has an ideology, to beat them, military assaults alone may win us a battle, but will not win us the war, which is crucial. Since 1991, the collapse of the National Central Government of Somalia, the country became an experiment-ground where Islamist ideologies are tested. Extreme doctrines and new interpretations of Islam that Somalis were not familiar with has been imported into Somalia by several Islamist groups. With foreign money and support, these groups managed to establish schools of their own, with each school depicting the curriculum of the group that finance them. Some of these schools teach the curriculum of Saudi Arabia, some teach Egyptian curriculum, some UAE’s curriculum. As a result, these schools produced and still producing an Egyptian or Saudi or Emirati who know more about the history and geography of these countries than their own country (Somalia). Because of the lack of stable government that control and unite national curriculums, thus, some of these schools took advantage of the situation of the country and teach children very much the exact ideology of Alshabab, albeit a theoretical one.
Therefore, once these children grow up and graduate, Alshabab recruiters are on hand outside the schools to recruit them. All Alshabab needs to do is to apply the finishing touches, and use the new graduates as suicide bombers and killers of innocent people, because the jihadist ideology is already instilled in them. To my knowledge, until today nobody inspects these schools and colleges which function across the nation. Also, neither the Federal Government of Somalia nor the regional administrations have any power or accountability over these schools. These schools, in my opinion, represent the supply chain of human resources of Alshabab. Therefore, if we want to defeat Alshabab, we must inspect and closely monitor what the schools are teaching our children. The war on terror in Somalia should start from grassroots, it’s a waste of lives and resources if we do not accompany our bullets with educational reforms. We should fight the terrorist group with one hand, and control the education system with the other.
Similarly, no one controls the ideas that are spread in our mosques, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has the responsibility to infiltrate what it is being taught in our mosques. We do not need any extremist ideas, Somalia is a Muslim country, and according to historians Islam reached Somalia before it reached Medina. Therefore, we should never stand behind anyone whoever it may be, when it comes to Islam. By and large, if we do not gain control over our mosques and schools, we should kiss goodbye to any peace and life aspirations we have. The battle against Alshabab should start in schools and mosques, if we are to defeat this heartless enemy.
Moreover, we will never be able to defeat Alshabab while the Federal Government and the Federal States are fighting. It’s no secret that since the current leaders of the Federal Government came to office, the relationship between the FGS and its member states has gone from bad to worse. The FGS’ reluctance on federalism is there for everyone to see. The only thing that Somalis agreed upon is the provisional federal constitution—until we agree on something else, we should follow the instructions of the law. Thus, instead of putting their effort on guarding the constitution and fighting all forms of terrorism with all guns blazed, the FGS seems to turn on its member of states—and this can only benefit Alshabab. Any functioning government should constitute three independent institutions from each other. First, an independent legislative body in the form of people representatives who legislate policies. Second, an executive wing which carries out the legislated policies, and third a separate judicial system. Under the current regime of Somalia, it looks they are attempting to break the government barriers, and annex all three governmental wings to the executive. Although is very hard to obtain a shred of concrete evidence, the FGS was accused of getting rid of the former speaker of the house Muhammad Osman Jawari—after he had resisted the orders from the executive wing and insisted the parliament is an independent and will not take orders from the government. Nevertheless, he was forced to resign and came to his place Muhammad Mursal Abdurrahman—some claim he is a puppet to the government. As a result, the FGS overthrew several state leaders including, Osoble, Sharif Hassan and Xaaf, and currently pursuing to get rid of Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland State of Somalia.
In the final analysis, as the genius Albert Einstein once said: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We love to defeat Alshabab but were allowing ourselves to make the same mistakes over and over again. We are allowing to be stung from the same hole over and over again. Hodan Nalayeh and other beacons of our society might have reached their destiny, but many more will follow judging the current situation and our history of carelessness. We will never be able to defeat Alshabab until, first, the FGS and the state members unite under the federal constitution and work together. Second, we reclaim our schools and mosques and cleanse from all sorts of extremism. Third, sort the AMISOM question, either they put all their efforts into fighting Alshabab—which was their mandate twelve-years ago, or leave.
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