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Cross-Roads Between Alshabaab, Tribalism and Nationalism - Somalia Must Choose

Friday October 7, 2022


The ongoing military and community uprising against Alshabaab is a commendable and courageous step to finally destroy Al-Shabaab militarily and politically. The campaign is at a critical juncture with communities still engaged in heavy fighting in the Hiraan region. Significant progress has been made, pushing back Al-Shabaab into a corner. We must not step off the gas now. Although the uprising began spontaneously following the heinous massacre of innocent lives in September, it must now be part of a structural military force that forms part of the national security architecture to fully eradicate Al-Shabaab as a military and political outfit in Somalia. This battle cannot be left to communities alone who have done the heavy lifting so far but feel abandoned by others in the field. This is counter-productive to the moral and overall battle against terrorism.

There are structural reasons why the battle to defeat Alshabaab has taken decades in blood and pressure- because the complexity of the struggle is now beginning to emerge. Al-Shabaab are Somali citizens who have become rogue elements/mafia but are embedded in our communities. Communities/clans that live with or are under the control of Al-Shabaab are mainly at peace but exhibit deep-rooted historical mistrust that is already having an impact on the current uprising, with some communities apprehensive about the post-Al-Shabaab power setup or revenge from Al-Shabaab if the current mission and counter-insurgency is not successful. Therefore, this battle cannot continue as a voluntary community service but must be underpinned by a national military and political plan that considers the physical military struggle and the stabilization/reconciliation efforts.

One way of ensuring this is to have the entire Somali army and ATMIS lead it with military air cover from other international partners - village by village - from the front while allowing communities to hold on to towns and cities captured. The current display of voluntary uprising, brave as it is, will be disjointed and suffer resource fatigue and ill-discipline, leading to mistrust and failure at the cost of all.
The public and authorities must also choose from the crossroads of Al-Shabaab, Tribalism and Nationalism. They cannot have Dahir Aweis, Al-Shabaab commander and sympathizer, openly defending Al-Shabaab ideology and terror attacks from the comfort of Mogadishu while under house arrest from the authorities. This makes a mockery of the supposed security battle against Al-Shabaab and is a disservice to lives lost already to terrorism. To be taken seriously, we must be consistent, ruthless, and unrelenting with our approach without fear or favour. If Alshabaab atrocities are anything to go by, they do not discriminate on tribal and national lines; hence we must not support any individual in our communities who have an iota of sympathy with Alshabaab.
The battle is complex, but the price is worth it to have an open, secure and liveable existence in Somalia. If we exercise greater political bandwidth, this battle also presents a golden opportunity for reconciliation between communities. The government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somali communities and international partners must now seize the moment. 

BA/MSc, London School of Economics and Political Science, is a London-based writer and social justice campaigner. He can be reached @Mi_shiine via Twitter.


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