by Naima Osman
Sunday October 2, 2022
I want to start with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives began to end the day we become silent on things that matter”. We have been silent for over a decade while Al-Shabab was slaughtering our people in the name of Islam. The ideology of Al-Shabab is an extremely dangerous one; they believe that they are the guardians of Islam. With that in mind, they imposed the absolute authority to kill anyone who does not dress like them, does not look like them, does not think like them, and above all any respected Somali. The targeted assassination of General Farxaan Qaroole testifies to the ruthlessness of Al-Shabab. General Farxaan is a hero killed by the enemy while serving his country. His death is a loss to the entire nation.
The terrorist organization, Al-Shahab has distorted the interpretation of the verses of the Quran; brain-washed our youth and the illiterate in society. Al-Shabab does everything that contradicts Islam. For example, to satisfy their sexual desire they legalized themselves to sleep with any woman regardless of whether she is married or not because they do not recognize the legal Islamic marriage in Somalia. They starve people, coerce them, and force them to pay ransom money. Besides their distorted religious narratives, in recent years it has transformed itself into a gang organization similar to Cosa Nostra, such as the Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta, and Camorra in Italy. It is a criminal organization that uses the threats of violence.
The most alarming reality is their infiltration into society. Due to the absence of government authority in most parts of the country, most civilians accepted to live with them in order to safeguard their businesses and family. And because of their gruesome acts of violence people prefer to be on the good side of Al-Shabab. Unfortunately, many are Al-Shabab informants and will remain so until they see a strong and justice government system.
No other options
President Hassan’s call to fight Al-Shabab is a call for liberty, justice, and for development of the country. Al-Shabab took away our freedom, dignity, morality, and our peaceful religion as a race and as a nation. We have been so quiet and submissive while they continued killing our people. It is time to stand with our brave ones and join the liberation of Somalia. The fight against Al-Shabab is equivalent to fighting Al-Quraish during the prophet’s time. Quraish opposed the prophet’s message and stopped his followers from worshipping Allah. In Somalia today many people cannot go to the mosque for fear of Al-Shabab.
Prophet Mohamed (SCW) said, “whoever hears the prayer and does not attend the congregational prayer, then his prayer is not valid except if he has an excuse.” I know good Muslims who live less than one hundred meters away from a mosque and yet could not attend the congregational prayer for fear of Al-Shabab. It has become a normal act of Al-Shabab to kill people inside and outside of the mosque. What Islam is Al-Shabab preaching? Where in the Quran it is permissible to kill a worshiper? Living constantly in fear when worshiping the creator (ALLAH) is a sign of weakness in our faith and we should reject it. The choice is between running away from worshiping Allah or confronting this ruthless organization. It is doing or dying.
A strategy to defeat the enemy
Unfortunately, the President has not so far provided any strategy, nor is he surrounded by experienced people who can be entrusted to defeat Al-Shabab. Supporting Macaawisely people from Hiiran region was a clever idea and should continue throughout the country with no exceptions. Mr. President, stay firm and develop basic military strategies to ease the current confusion. Here are key points to consider in your strategy:
1) Trust building: Trust building should be your major priority. It unifies people. A polarized society cannot defeat its enemy. Mr. President, you should invest lots of your time building trust with the communities. You used to be a good speaker. Use your teaching skills to reach out to as many of your citizens as possible. Let them know that it is about our national existence, future well-being, and our freedom as a nation. You should function as a war president. Spend most of your time in the country and in the war room with your military advisers. Bring credible people into your administration. There are many devout, experienced patriots who can make major contributions to the country. Identify them and call them for the national service. Party-line politics is not fruitful at the time of war.
Mr. President, your minister of Religious Affairs, Mukhtar Robow, should come out publicly and ask forgiveness from the orphans and widows of those killed under his watch. This will bring closure and healing to the descendent of the victims. A young lady whose father was killed by Al-Shabab once told me it is hard to show mercy to someone who refused to show mercy when he was committing the crime and is not asking for forgiveness.
2) Dismantle the financial network of Al-Shabab: This will be the most difficult one but still is doable. Paying taxes to Al-Shabab should be made illegal. Businesspeople who deal with Al-Shabab should be prosecuted and their property confiscated because they are aiding the enemy of humanity. They need to understand that working with Al-Shabab is immoral and anti-Islam. God Almighty declares that “killing an innocent person unjustly is like killing all of mankind and saving a person’s life is like saving all of mankind”. The businesspeople can make any excuse they want for themselves but need to recognize that by paying taxes they are aiding Al-Shahab. In turn, they are responsible for the actions of Al-Shahab, which is killing innocent people.
The parliament should pass the terrorist law to empower authorities to prosecute the enemy of humanity. The government should have full control of the money circulating in the country to enable tracing of the amount transferred to Al-Shabab, and from which account. The banks must report any suspicious account activities to the government. Also, phone companies should provide the names of each sim card holder. This will make it easy to track the movement of the terrorists. Optimal collaboration between the banks and the government will enable the disruption of the financial network of Shabab. It is all about commitment and implementing the rule of the law. No one should be above the law.
3) Reaching out to Regional Governments: It is especially important that we have a united front to defeat this enemy. The rules of engagement in every region should be the same. Make them responsible for defeating Al-Shabab from their respective regions. Federalism is about sharing responsibilities and resolving national issues collectively.
4) Be aware of not falling into a trap: Mr. President, some individuals may see financial gain from this war. This is particularly dangerous if these individuals are the generals or officers responsible for the logistics. Others may try to defeat you because it is not in their interest. These are normally the oligarchs and their subordinates. Also, there will be people who will sell weapons and ammunition to the enemy. This has happened before and will happen in this war. There should not be illusions. The military court should be responsible to prosecute these criminals.
5) Engage ATMIS- They cannot sit and watch. They are well-trained and heavily equipped. They should be part and parcel of the joint military operation. ATMIS, formerly known as AMISOM has been lately inactive and. hardly seen engaging militarily with Al=Shabab. The previous administration has tried on several occasions to involve them in the fight against the enemy but without major success. The resolution put forward by the UN security council provides a vital opportunity for ATMIS to roll back Al-Shabab. ATMIS has a shared responsibility with the SNA to eliminate Ak-Shabab. The proposed operation for ATMIS offers a credible, shared vision with the Somali government of how to more actively encounter Al-Shabab. The mandate is clear, but someone needs to hold them accountable.
6) Minimize collateral damage: It must be kept in mind that any war will have its own collateral damage. Particularly in this war, it is hard to understand who is responsible for the command and control. It is important to assess in advance what collateral damage will this war bring. If there is a genuine commitment to succeed, and a clear hierarchy the collateral damage will be barely minimum. It is necessary to avoid anything that will escalate clan tensions. After the war, we expect a better future for Somalia, a future that will guarantee peaceful coexistence- Somalia is at peace with itself, and everyone is proud to be a Somali. Mr. President, we also want to celebrate you as a war hero at the end of this war provided that you win it. Keep this as a big achievement to inspire.
7) Holding forces: Defeating Al-Shahab will hold ground only when there is a plan to put holding forces (mostly from the local communities) and effective administration in the liberated areas. This has to be part of the strategy.
8) Remember Allah. Every time you plan to make decisions ask Allah for help. Do not accept rogue elements of your team to mislead you. You will be by yourself in front of Allah on the Day of Judgment.
9) Dealing with unexpected realities: There has to be a strategy to deal with unexpected facts. The country has lots of enemies who may find the Al-Shabab defeat a threat to their national interest. Surveillance should be strengthened to avoid the delivery of weapons, ammunition, and money to Al-Shabab.
10) Talks with Al-Shabab: under no circumstances should the government open a dialogue with Al-Shabab until they denounce terrorism.
To the skeptics of this war, be cognizant that there are no other choices left for Somalia. Either the enemy defeats us or we defeat them. It is time to say NO to the threats of Al-Shabab. Enough for mass killings and suicide bombings. Mistakes and setbacks will happen but should not be an excuse to make nonsense accusations. There is no rolling back. The country cannot be in a box and continue to be a hostage to the Al-Shahab. This bloody thirsty organization and its twisted ideology is cancer that must be surgically removed.