By Ahmed M. Roble
Thursday September 21, 2023
For the first time in years, a massive counter-insurgency operations are launched with core commitment led by the Somali leadership, international partners, local communities with the sole aim of rooting out the militant group of Al-shabab in Somalia. This operation’s first phase sparked by after a clash of defeat to Al-shabab by the former governor of Hiran region, Ali Jeyte Osman, the Ahmed Shah Masood of Somalia and has brough out a critical success mainly in the region of Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle of Hir-Shabelle and Gal-Guduud and part of Mudug in Gal-Mudug state of Central Somalia. The Local Militia aka Ma’awisley and the SNA has won successive battles over the Al-qaeda affiliated group of Al-shabab since August 2022.
The chasing of this group and the successive seizure of multiple territorial strong-holds have now become the center of attention in Somalia. Since the fighters were ejected from several cities a year ago by the local troops of Ma’awisley, African Union peacekeepers (ATMIS) and Somali government troops, they’ve sustained dramatic losses in central Somalia which was their traditional stock in a long time.
After 2022 elections in May, the president’s top agenda was the security and waging war to the insurgent group; his approach is categorized into twofold; ideological, militarily and over the last month or so, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM) has been leading the fight against Al-Shabab from the frontlines as the first-round offensive in Central Somalia against the terror group is nearing its completion.
With the second-round offensive that will shift the battle to the southern regions of Jubaland & South-West State now on the horizon, a great deal of attention is revolving to the stabilization of large swathes of liberated territories across the central regions and further preparing the needed ammunitions, mobilization of communities and support for the 2nd phase of the war; the second phase is meant to push into southern Somalia, the traditional stronghold of Al-Shabab, which has been waging a brutal insurgency against the government close to the past 16 years.
President Hassan is currently serving in his second term and is highly dedicated in this war; an academic and politician with deep understanding of the country’s contemporary history holds the most dangerous job in the world and sees the security of his nation as the only obstacle to prosperity. The president is determined not only on the battlefield but has also signed a long-awaited legislation; the anti-terror law, instructed financial crackdowns that led to the freezing of hundreds of bank accounts and mobile money accounts, holding a couple of millions extorted from the poor pastoralists and businesses in the rural areas combined with the mobilization of Somali clerics to produce a fatwa and condemn Al-Shabab as anti-Islam.
After the state collapse, never in Somalia has been seen a President with such fierce, keenness, and oratory confrontation waged against the group causing to cease in existence as a homogenous group and on the run incapable of undertaking a coordinated operation. His presence in Dusamareb sustains the pressure, denying Al-Shabab the opportunity to re-group and it is evidently and with surety that Somalia under the leadership of HSM is winning the first phase of the war against the terrorists.
In Somalia and at our core, the people are religious and moderate Sufi’s. Somalia is an Islamic state with almost homogeneity in religion, only a small fringe of the population are extremists. This fringe mostly students from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 80’s and 90’s holds rigid, orthodox, obscurantist and intolerant views about religion; it is this percentage that tried to impose its rigid and dogmatic views on others and this fringe are not only militant and aggressive but are indoctrinated into terrorism by external forces. After the state collapse, It is this small group’s prominence in the society with amass wealth, and everything to strive ahead and the emergence of post 9/11’s global war on terror converged with the Somali case not well managed by Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of the United States Jendayi Frazer in the Bush administration at the time that produced what we’re puzzling with more than 17 years.
In 2007, Al-Shabaab recruited thousands of impressionable boys across the country on a largely nationalist, anti-foreign occupation slogan. Exploiting a popular anger among the Somali people because of Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006, the militants successfully fought against the region’s powerhouse, eventually forcing the Ethiopians to ingloriously withdraw their forces in 2009. A culture of militancy, weapons and extortion flourished in the southern part of the country, the deadly al-Qaeda affiliated network entrenched itself in the cities and even the far rural districts and towns of the country. The culture of target killing, explosives, car bomb, sieges and suicide attacks took root. It is this madness that the past 17 years is experienced no other than the current president and the people of Mogadishu in particular, and the larger society in the country; it is then a good start toward smashing the terror network and giving the ownership in an a grassroot level with support to the people in taking the arms and assisting the national army and partners in ending this mayhem.
The ending of this mayhem is impossible without addressing underlying factors of poverty, socio-economic deprivation of the communities, illiteracy and among others that produces such explosive mix. In the current Somali context, the issues that spawn terrorism are to be addressed at three levels: the international community’s support in supporting this time with willingness similar to that of the president, the diaspora community to ensure and avail the necessary and available support in this time and lastly but not the least comprehensive domestic support and further mobilization to root out the scourge of this menace in the earth of our beloved Somalia.
Finally, the President’s bold optimism, effort and craft of the matter is commendable and that it has reached at this stage which not only needs prudence but dealing with and continuously addressing the evil of terrorism with minds and hearts of the people. Mind-sets cannot be changed by force. They must be transformed by superior logic and action. It needs the president’s involvement, facilitation, and mobilization of the silent majority to rise and play a positive role, denying any access of funds while remaining alert to their reemergence in some other garbs; this effort needs to be vigilantly sustained. It would be acceptable if the curricula of the schooling system are to be added to the teaching of the real values and spirit of our religion, focused on the emancipation of the self and society.
There is great commonality in the cultural, intellectual, and emotional environment of most Muslim countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria. We can have a lot to learn and adopt from each other’s experience. I believe a lot will be done under the Leadership of President Hassan only if these operations remain focused and determined.
Roble writes about the contemporary politics, governance and development of Somalia. He can be reached at [email protected].