By: Sadik Warfa
Wednesday September 20, 2023
In the inspiring words of
Abraham Lincoln, "Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then
you shall find the way." President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has made the bold
decision to lead the people of Somalia in reclaiming our beloved country from
the grip of Al-Shabaab. Under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's leadership, we
are filled with hope and confidence that victory is within our reach. The
government has shifted its strategic objectives and is now focused not only on
eliminating Al-Shabaab but also on implementing substantial measures to combat
terrorism and bring stability to our nation. This is a challenging endeavour,
but history has shown that success is possible, with one notable example being
Sri Lanka, which managed to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
after 25 years of conflict.
To win a war, a leader needs a grand strategy, and
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud seems to have adopted one. A closer examination
of his actions reveals a multifaceted approach, combining military action with
diplomacy, economic initiatives, and information operations. In his address to
the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2022, he expressed confidence,
stating, "We are now confident that with enhanced public support, our
government will eliminate terrorism from Somalia."
In the realm of intelligence, President Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud's government has implemented a two-phased counter-insurgency operation
in collaboration with international partners to combat and suppress the
activities of insurgent groups, primarily Al-Shabaab.
The first and ongoing offensive, which began in
August 2022, marks a significant turning point. It was launched with the
understanding that previous approaches to countering al-Shabaab had fallen
short in significantly diminishing the group's influence. Unlike past efforts
that relied on foreign forces, there has been a notable shift in strategy. A
fresh offensive, now led by Somali forces, demonstrates a stronger sense of
local ownership. This remarkable task is further strengthened by extensive
military training generously provided by Eritrea, invaluable Turkish drone
support, and vital assistance from the United States. Together, these elements
are paving the way for a more hopeful and effective approach to securing a
safer future for Somalia.
Sheikh Mohamud has also improved command and control structures, enhanced
coordination between different units of the army, and reduced corruption within the military ranks. Most
importantly, government forces have aligned themselves with local clan militias
known as the "Ma'awisley." These Clan Militias are cost-effective and
enjoy local support from clan members angered by Al-Shabaab's extensive
taxation and extortion. They also possess intimate knowledge of the terrains
used by Al-Shabaab.
The results of these efforts are already evident in
recent attacks and takeovers by the Somali National Army and the Somali Police
Force on Al-Shabaab camps in several parts of Hirshabelle and Galmudug states.
These successful attacks were executed simultaneously to overwhelm, confuse,
and disperse the defenders, all while taking great care not to endanger
civilians in the vicinity.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been actively
involved on the ground, exemplified by the attack in Hirshabelle that followed
his visit to Jowhar, the administrative capital of Hirshabelle.
Economically, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's
strategy of liberating the port town of Harardhere and the nearby town of
Galcad is a significant move aimed at diminishing Al-Shabaab's influence in
Somalia and cutting off one of the militia's major sources of funding. These
towns were notorious as a key base for pirates involved in hijacking merchant
ships, making them a crucial financial hub for the militia. By taking control
of these areas, the government aims to disrupt the flow of illicit funds to Al-Shabaab,
thereby weakening its capacity to carry out acts of terrorism and insurgency.
This not only reduces the group's financial resources but also helps enhance
maritime security and international trade in the region, contributing to the
economic stability of Somalia.
Furthermore, it's worth noting that both houses of
the federal Parliament have recently passed the new anti-terrorism law. This
legislation has been carefully crafted to furnish the government's security
agencies with a robust legal framework, which will play a pivotal role in
strengthening our efforts to combat terrorism. Its provisions are set to
empower our military and government forces in their mission to protect
civilians from potential future attacks by militias and to prevent these
militias from regaining a foothold in the areas that have been liberated.
This law, along with other crucial bills like the
Somali National Identification Bill, must be diligently put into action to
grant the government a
deeper insight into its citizens' identities and movements. It serves as a
valuable tool for enhancing border security and thwarting the infiltration of
foreign militants into our nation. By rigorously verifying the identities of
individuals crossing our borders, we make it significantly more difficult for
Al-Shabaab members or sympathizers to enter or exit Somalia unnoticed. What
remains now is for our leaders not only to lead the charge in implementing
these measures swiftly but also to encourage our citizens to actively
participate by registering for their identification cards. Together, we
strengthen our nation's security and build a brighter future for Somalia.
Additionally, in light of the awareness that
Al-Shabaab has wielded influence over local Somalis through coercive tactics,
such as compelling residents to adhere to their directives via their
illegitimate "police force" known as the Hisbah, carrying out
kidnappings, and assisting in the creation and placement of improvised
explosive devices (IEDs), the government has issued a strong warning to the
networks of international and regional entities that provide financial support,
contribute to corruption and pay taxes or protection money that enable and
support the group's detrimental activities. Authorities have also taken action
by closing down hundreds of banks and mobile money accounts that are suspected
to be linked to the group.
Internally, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has
placed a strong emphasis on cultivating the support of local communities in the
battle against terrorism. His approach involves engaging Imams and Sheikhs to
combat extremist ideologies at the grassroots level, with the aim of nurturing
a more resilient and harmonious society. This comprehensive strategy
encompasses constructive dialogues and initiatives, equipping Imams and Sheikhs
with the tools and knowledge needed for counterterrorism and deradicalization and
leveraging their guidance, counselling, and support to deter radicalization and
recruitment by extremist groups. It's important to underscore that these
efforts are carried out in full respect of religious freedom and the right of
individuals to practice their faith without interference. This approach
reflects our commitment to both security and the values that define our
The Somali government has also offered amnesty to
Al-Shabaab militants. In his speech, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud expressed
his belief that Somalia belongs to all its people and pledged to work with
defectors to build a better country. His reconciliation efforts may ultimately
involve discussions with Al-Shabaab.
Quoting the words of Ulysses S. Grant, a general who
led Americans to victory in the Civil War of 1865 and later became the 18th
president of the US, "The art of war is simple enough: find out where your
enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and
keep moving on." President Hassan Sheikh seems to be on a determined path,
promising not to stop until Somalia achieves "final victory."
Looking ahead, it is crucial to recognize that in
addition to implementing a well-planned and articulated strategy, the President
must govern effectively and ensure that Al-Shabaab does not infiltrate his
government. He also needs to mobilize clan militias against terrorists without
inadvertently reigniting historical clan rivalries, fragmenting society, or
further militarizing it—conditions that initially facilitated Al-Shabaab's
emergence. Striking this balance is a formidable challenge but indispensable in
securing a stable and secure future for Somalia.
In Somalia, there is a wise saying, "Far
kaligeed, fool ma dhaqdo!" which, when translated, means 'One finger
cannot wash the whole face.' While the President is determined to restore peace
and has vowed a "total war" against Al-Shabaab extremists, it is time
for neighbouring countries, diaspora Somali communities, and all nations to
come forward and support him.
Somalia is indeed facing a critical moment in its
history, and the fight against Al-Shabaab is a paramount challenge. As the
President emphasized, neutrality is not an option in this battle. The choice
before Somalia is clear: to defeat Al-Shabaab and establish a stable and secure
state that upholds the rights and privileges enshrined in the United Nations
Charter. This entails not only countering terrorism but also building a society
that respects human rights, promotes peace, and fosters development. It's a
challenging journey but one that is vital for Somalia's future and the
well-being of its people.
The global community should further integrate its
assistance into the humanitarian-development-peace nexus since not only is
Somalia's security transition suffering from outstanding funding needs, but the
country also requires financial aid to address other pressing issues such as
floods, displacement of its residents, and food insecurity. Collaboration is
key, and it is time to work together to build a safe and secure Somalia.
The writer, Sadik Warfa, is a former Minister of Labour of the
Federal Republic of Somalia and Represented Mudug Constituency Federal