Amid Government Militia Infighting, Somalia Awaits Arms Imports

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A delegation has been sent by the Somali Ministry of Interior to address the continued infighting between government-allied militias in the port town of Marka—located 110 km south of the capital Mogadishu.

Since 22 March 2013, shootouts have occurred several times between rival government militias, causing tension among residents.

The delegation’s job is to consult with members of conflicting sides and sort out reasons behind the fighting.

Why the Infighting?

Pro-al-Shabaab sites reported that in one incident 10 people died and as many were injured after rival government militias exchanged fire over disagreements on how to divide the profits from an illegal checkpoint set up in the town.

Other sites pointed to larger conflicts between political administrators and armed groups affiliated with them.

The local commissioner in Marka—Ahmed Maalim Ukash—recently talked about the relationship with his deputy, stating, “We are not getting along too well. Last night gangs attacked my house and am sure he was the mastermind behind those planned attacks…My deputy wants to murder me.”

In a slightly different view, the governor of Lower Shabelle region—Abdikadir Mohamed—said the problem had to do with inter-clan fighting within clan-based militias that make much of the Somali National Army (SNA). Abdikadir stated, “This [clan militia] problem has grown…[The] problem has really increased tensions in the city.”

Though there are various reasons to explain infighting between SNA militias in Marka, they are not mutually exclusive or unheard of in other towns.

New Weapons Shipments

While government militia infighting continues to be a problem, Somalia is due to receive its first shipment of weapons since parts of the arms embargo were controversially lifted by the UN Security Council. (See concerns about the decision here.)

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud responded to the announcement, stating, “We are not worried about getting [arms] supplies, we’re concerned about the management of these supplies.”

Mohamud’s concern is a relevant one. On 11 March 2013, reports emerged about a cache of weapons that was stolen from the Villa Somalia presidential grounds by unknown culprits, meaning that weapons are still insecure in what should be the most secure location in the country.

Unless reforms are made to address problems such as infighting and securing weapons, an influx of arms could contribute to insecurity in towns liberated from al-Shabaab. (For example, imagine the same infighting in Marka but with more arms between militias.)

It is also relevant to ask which groups within the Somali security forces will receive weapons from the first shipment due to reach Mogadishu in the next two months.

If the weapons go to certain forces in Mogadishu, as many would expect, it could cause an uproar among President Mohamud’s critics (especially those far outside the capital) and rival militias.

In other words, the distribution of weapons is a political act as much as it is one of security.

Long-Term Security Reform

In order to improve the effectiveness of Somali security forces in the short-term, Mohamud’s administration should prioritize resolving key issues between rival militias that are the causes of infighting—whether they are caused by lack of pay or inter-clan feuds.

Retiring aging military chiefs and getting rid of incompetent security officials is a good start to security reform.

But in the long-term, one of the hardest tasks will be infusing the solidarity, patriotism, and professionalism among Somali soldiers and police that so many Somalis desire.

The big question will be what programs and policies can be created to reach these goals. Perhaps Somalia’s newest think tank Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS) can be a leader in proposing new and innovative ideas.

If these risks are not addressed, it is possible that Somalia’s ongoing federalization process could further promote the growth of regional militias with little allegiance to a unified Somalia–an outcome few want to happen and one that could undermine strides in the country’s progress.



Categories: Somali Government

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  1. Key Factors Distinguish al-Shabaab’s Internal Divisions, Somalia’s Other Infighting Lots «

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