Somalis everywhere are welcoming President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s objective and effort to eliminate Al Shabaab from Somalia. Somalia has many challenges and Al Shabaab is a colossal obstacle. It has proven to be a major impediment to Somalia’s progress as a sovereign nation. However, many Somalis feel apprehensive about the strategy of arming local militias and empowering local gunmen. Anyone that is familiar with Somalia’s history can understand why Somalis are concerned about having non-governmental armed groups.
More than three decades ago, Somalia had armed entities that fought the Mohamed Siad Barre regime and they succeeded in ending the Barre reign. However, the subsequent nightmare the country faced is still evident today. The armed groups did not have concrete plans to govern and the result was a long consequential civil war. The Barre authoritarian rule and the following clan fiefdoms of Somalia meant sustained carnage for the Somali people. The people became destitute and refugees in many foreign countries.
In Mid 2000’s Somali people received what many consider a reprieve. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) overtook the clan warlords in Southern Somalia. The ICU brought some semblance of normality to Mogadishu and removed the warlords’ lawlessness in many cities. The ICU purported to govern by the Islamic law and brought to an end the complete mayhem the people faced from the 1991 collapse of the Barre government. ICU efforts led to peace and security. They have eliminated warlords’ checkpoints. They opened the airport and seaports. ICU mediated both economic and social disputes from land disputes to irreconcilable divorces and gave the Somali people hope again.
The Somali people’s reprieve ended as immediately as it commenced. The network of the Islamic Union or courts as they were locally known included Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama’a. These groups were accused of suspected links to terrorist organizations and they made the existential mistake of making threats against neighboring countries particularly Ethiopia. Ethiopia invaded Somalia with US backing and installed the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia in Mogadishu. While they successfully removed ICU from Mogadishu they empowered Al Shabab, the most radical group in the organization.
Only a few members of ICU joined forces with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to fight against Al Shabab. Ultimately, the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia would succeed to take control of most of Somalia with the help of African Union forces. Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a became an obstacle to Galmudug state of Somalia. The Somali Federal Government had to send the Somali National Army to help the Galmudug state from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a’s destabilization.
In Somalia’s history, armed groups start as liberators and freedom fighters, but they end up as warlords, extremists and hired gunmen for foreigners. Somali people know armed groups in their towns, villages and cities mean displacement, insecurity, violence, and injustice towards minority communities. Somalis are tired of armed civilians; they want long term solutions for stability and sustainable government institutions. Since forming the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia the country has been gradually moving forward and rebuilding Somalia’s institutions. Recent governments despite challenges were able to rebuild the Somali National Army with the help of international communities, especially the Turkish government. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Mogadishu in 2011, Turkey became a major investor in Somalia. Turkey has built the largest overseas military training camp abroad in Mogadishu where Somali National Army soldiers. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud came back to Villa Somalia with a large and well-trained Somali Military. Military that is ready to eliminate Al Shabaab, that’s why Somalis are surprised to hear that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud wants to arm and empower armed groups like Macawiisleey. Many people are fairly criticizing the method of using civilian armed groups to fight Al shabab. The Somali leadership has to learn from previous setbacks such as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a. They refused to establish army registration when they joined the Somali National Army in the previous administration.
I am congruent with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s supporters’ argument that locals should fight Al Shabab and protect their communities. However, these locals that want to fight and protect their communities should join Somali National Army and law enforcement. Arming groups like Macawiisleey and other clan-Militias will lead to future problems for Somalia. No armed groups in Somalia ended their militarism peacefully after mutual fighting stopped. Our leaders must stop the old methods of providing tacit military support to loyal clan based affiliation to achieve short term goals. The people have seen the consequences and how these short-term goals lead to long term problems. Any Somali that wants to protect and help Somalia should pursue it through Somalia institutions. The most effective way to defeat Al Shabaab is through federal and state institutions. The Federal Government of Somalia must use both armed forces and civilian government to stabilize and liberate Al-shabaab occupied areas. The future of Somalia depends on the growth and effectiveness of Somalia’s Government institutions.
Article was written by Mukhtar Sheekh