Today from Hiiraan Online:  _

By Ismail D. Osman
Thursday July 14, 2022

After months of confusion, tension, and political theatre, Somalia elected former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to the presidency, defeating incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in a third-round run decided by a parliamentary vote of 214-110.  In a sign of the times, the vote was held in an airport hangar protected by blast walls built to prevent al-Shabaab insurgents from gaining access to the new leader and potentially impacting the election, underscoring the recognition that al-Shabaab remains the preeminent and ongoing threat to Somali governance. 

The political uncertainty of the months leading up to the election resulted in a cycle of civil unrest and political violence on the streets of Mogadishu when, in April, 2021, the Somali Parliament announced an unconstitutional two-year extension to President Abdullahi’s term, an action vehemently condemned by leaders around the world, fueling instability in an already volatile region. With the election secured, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud must now focus his attention on what he promised to be a top priority - the dissolution and destruction of Al-Shabaab, a clan-based insurgent and terrorist group that operates with seeming impunity since their inception in 2006.  The terrorist tactics used against the Somali people as well as the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Federal Member States (FMS), and African Union Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) created an untenable environment of fear and oppression that President Mohamud must immediately rectify. 

During his previous tenure, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was credited with his full force and an offensive that pushed Al-Shabaab out of some local areas but came short to deliver the decisive blow that would have finally and definitively eliminated the scourge of Al-Shabaab. For the sake of Somalia’s future, he simply cannot afford to swing and miss. Re-establishing trust and protection from Al-Shabaab to the Somali people, and simultaneously beginning to seize their assets and remove their financial upper hand. President Mohamud must take any security leverage Al-Shabaab has of remaining in power by working to disintegrate their control over the minds of Somali communities. 

Recognizing that our new President faces the daunting task of governing a nation suffering the worst drought in four decades and plagued by incessant civil strife,  the priority should nevertheless remain on securing Somalia from the detrimental presence of Al-Shabaab. The strength of anonymity gives the terrorist group an upper hand in gaining and maintaining their power in the country, and endless second-guessing of the safety of the Somali people pushes Somalia further into the mental hesitance that strengthens al-Shabaab’s position in the country. The Government of Somalia must make an effort in building and maintaining the strength of their armies to have the resources to fight back against the terrorist group instead of complying and accepting defeat. Protection through the military will remind civilians of the power of the Government and will be an effective way to show the people that Somalia is strong enough to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Al-Shabaab is only as strong as the fear that surrounds them, once that fear is removed the Somali Government will be able to take devastating actions in weakening the terrorist group significantly.

A report from the United Nations has indicated through practices of intimidation and brutal methods of coercion, -Shabaab raises as much revenue as the country's authorities, estimated at of $20M a month in “taxes” extorted from the Mogadishu business community and the Mogadishu port, illegal levies that started in 2017 under the previous administration. It is vital the Somali Government make extra efforts to reveal the secret accounts Al-Shabaab holds, and seize these assets by any legal means necessary, including new fiscal legislation, specialized training, international policy and strengthening regional and international cooperation against the financing of terroris

Investigating, proving, and eliminating the methods of terrorist financing is a highly complex activity that will require the involvement of many world leaders and countries.  Suppressing terrorism financing is an essential step in any strategic initiative to develop the capacity to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate terrorist financing and rid the world, and our country, of this long-suffering criminal crisis. Once the Government have protected the Somali people from terrorist attacks, fear is no longer under Al-Shabaab’s control. Removing their financial resources should be centered on the efforts against Al-Shabaab.

Ultimately, in order Al-Shabaab to be weakened to a point of no return, significant actions must be taken to solidify the power of the Somali Government and Presidency. Prioritizing protection of the people through military might, will provide an efficient and intellectual way to eliminate Al-Shabaab's menace to Somalia and neighboring countries.

It is time for the leadership of our country to do everything in their power to prioritize the safety and security of their people.

Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him [email protected]


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