Thursday November 2, 2017But how does one reveal
unpleasant realities and tell a traumatized nation what appeared like a
‘light at the end of the tunnel’ was in fact a runaway train coming at
them? How does one do that without shoving them into state of
self-defeating despair? These indeed are the dicey challenges, but truth
must be told.
By Abukar Arman
is a broad-based consensus that security in Somalia has been
deteriorating at an alarming rate. In the past few weeks, hundreds of
people have been killed by truck bombs at two prominent locations in
Mogadishu. The lethal potency of the explosives and the scale of death
and devastation resulting from the Oct 14th one was far beyond what
Mogadishu has witnessed in over quarter of a century of violence.
successive deadly terrorist operations combined with allegations that
attackers have used intelligence services ID cards have turned the
spotlight on Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA).
Serious questions regarding the agency’s leadership, competence and the
scope of its authority are being raised.
Somalia is in an existential race against time.
Much like all other critical issues facing the nation, the Somali
government does not control its intelligence or security. Worse, the
government does not have the political will to address the real causes
The Ownership Dilemma
Somalia is the center
of gravity of international predatory capitalism. Not only because of
its untapped natural resources since many countries would qualify, but
because Somalia is the gold standard of these three systematically
destructive elements: corruption, ineptitude and disloyalty to the
nation. How many nations do you know that host dozens of security and
intelligence forces with various (domestic and foreign) commands and
control? Here are some examples:
There is the revolving door
syndrome of failed security leadership that recycles the same has-beens.
Every year or so when a new commander is appointed and another is
sacked. The former brings in his own clan comrades and cronies and the
latter takes with him the manpower that he brought in.
former al-Shabab leaders with long ugly record who, despite never
seeking the forgiveness of their victims, been co-opted by the
government, and, yes, been giving highly sensitive positions at NISA and
other branches of government.
There is the cottage industry of
intelligence serves ID cards. These IDs are readily available for anyone
willing to pay the going rate. Apparently it is the agency’s failure
when individuals in charge of issuing these IDs make little over $200
for monthly salary and the going price for a false ID is twice their
monthly salary. While civilians try to possess these IDs for various
reasons, the most common is the need to get through roadblocks and
checkpoints since there is no logging system to verify authenticity of
There are multiple security and intelligence agencies
that emerged within the five clan-based federal states that may share a
name with NISA but functionally have nothing to do with that ‘national
agency.’ Most of them take their substantive orders from one neighboring
state or another.
There are the corrupt leaders in the political
upper echelon that readily put Somalia’s national interest behind
anyone with a bag full of cash or has the capacity to aid them in
attaining or keeping a position.
There are many in the circles of
influence, including ministers and parliament members, who own their
own private security companies and directly benefit from increased
There is the underground business cartel that considers the status quo a heavenly blessing.
is the Blackwater project to advance what might be called ‘world peace
according to Erik Prince’ while UAE and DPI provide the diplomatic and
There is UK –guised as UNSOM—to guard the
Soma Oil and Gas interest by any means necessary. It is mandated face
that governs the Halane compound where a mishmash of the good, bad and
ugly and their mercenaries are hosted. In their possession is the carrot
and stick that boost or undermine security, at will.
the US. In addition to AFRICOM drone operations, the US runs routine
covert operations in cooperation with a Somali counter-terrorism unit
that is trained, paid, and commanded by the US. Though this was a thinly
veiled secret, it entered into the public discourse on US’
controversial activities in Somalia since the recent killing of a Green
Beret, and its role in Africa when four other Green Berets were killed
in Niger a few months later.
This needless to say raised both
media and congressional interests in the US clandestine operations in
Africa. For years, AFRICOM has been effectively managing perception by
offering ocean-cruise version of embedded journalism.
that backdrop it is extremely difficult to pinpoint who, or which
combination, has triggered the latest wave of terroristic atrocities.
Knee-jerking Into the Oblivion
usual, the government immediately reiterated its counter-terrorism
motto: al-Shabab and ISIS have committed this atrocity. They are out to
eradicate the Somali people, therefore, we should all join hands to
fight them in their bloody swamps. We should wage an all-out war in many
fronts and many regions and “I will be the first in the line”, said
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo).
Never mind the
fact that the terrorists—be they al-Shabab or one of the other
clandestine candidates—are executing their deadly operations behind the
roadblocks and barricades across Mogadishu. And never mind that the
mightiest nation on the face of the earth could not defeat terrorists in
Iraq and Afghanistan in a conventional warfare involving hundreds of
thousands of its best soldiers. President Farmajo declared a war and
went off to solicit more military support from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya
and Djibouti to ‘defeat al-Shabab, once and for all.’
So How Does One Get Out Of This Mess?
order to stabilize Somalia all pieces of the insecurity puzzle must be
accounted for. In addition to al-Shabab’s suicidal vision, the
ever-worsening security condition is driven by the interplay of the
aforementioned domestic and foreign elements.
being a lucrative project of international appeal, a regional cash cow,
and geopolitical pretext for exploitation and military expansion. Except
the government which, in theory, is the guardian of the Somali national
interest, all others are entrenched in advancing their zero-sum
strategies and interests. Out of that condition emerged a deadly system
of ‘a favor for a favor’ that keeps insecurity ever-present, but
The Somali people need and deserve more than a
cosmetic accountability fix that is intended to cover the wrinkles of
incompetence and corruption.
Somalia needs competent leadership
that puts its national interest in its appropriate place; leadership
that is mindful of the fact that security does not exist in vacuum;
leadership with strategic vision who are mindful that genuine national
reconciliation is essential to harmonizing hearts and minds; leadership
with the political will to demand immediate overhaul of the current
dysfunctional security system; leadership willing to demand streamlining
the command & control of the intelligence sector; leadership that
demands a front-door entry into Somalia and thoroughly vets to select
the right strategic partnerships.
Unless and until these
fundamental issues are addressed, neither Somalia nor its (official and
unofficial) guests could be safe. Security would be nothing more than an
extended respite between one terrorist attack and another.