OP-ED: Ditching Fear and Reclaiming Somalia

Op-ed by Ahmed Hassan, who is a social activist and critic interested in Somali politics. You can find him on Twitter at @pansomalist.

13 November 2015 – The latest despicable attack that was carried by al-Shabaab at the Sahafi Hotel is a stark reminder that the game is far from over, and the players are not willing to end. The scourge of terrorism remains unabated, and all the forces that are involved appear to be enjoying the fruits of the business of terrorism behind the curtain whilst the ordinary Somalis continues to suffer.

Whenever al-Shabaab commit a heinous attack, we hear condemnation from across the political spectrum, and the loopholes that has eased their attacks are often overlooked

As Vision 2016 is getting more blurred, the only thing we can expect from a collection of incompetent politicians and self-interested rival neighbors masquerading as peacekeepers is to fail in stamping out insecurity to extend their legitimacy in service. The behavior of the parties involved in the insecurity of Somalia is quite treacherous and suspicious. They talk about liberating territory and re-establishing security in public, but mysteriously retreat when real security threats arise.

The cozy relationship

It appears Shabaab and their enemy are enjoying a cozy relationship. The existence of one depends on the other. The conflict in Somalia is a source of money and power for politicians and other players. The African Union forces need a reason to be in Somalia and the politicians, especially those in the government, want to remain in power; the only thing that can fulfill their wish is for the war to continue.

I don’t know what kind of war AMISOM and Shabaab are fighting because apparently neither side is losing. AMISOM has captured many big towns from Shabaab but the irony is Shabaab have camps in rural areas just outside government areas and do their business without interference. In fact, in Kismayo, Shabaab don’t control the port but their charcoal business, which is their main source of income, is booming still.

According to UN Monitoring Group report, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), as part of AMISOM, is said to be one of the facilitators of the charcoal business that benefits al-Shabaab. In fact, KDF and UPDF soldiers bribe their seniors so that they can be sent to Somalia to benefit from high salaries offered by AMISOM, and an insufficient number are looking for opportunities to engage in offensive operations because they do not want to die while protecting the lives of vulnerable Somalis.

The perpetrators of the Sahafi Hotel attack were in Burundian military fatigues. It’s possible the weapons were also from AMISOM forces, considering al-Shabaab’s ability to loot its weapons. Therefore,  weak AMISOM forces have distinctly enabled al-Shabaab to gain dangerous capabilities and resources for attacks.

Fear mongering

While the UNSOM’s Nicholas Kay is assuaging the world, with a serene tone, claiming that Somalia is rising and Shabaab are on the run, his counterparts with the help of al-Shabaab are using fear to further their goals. Every able and patriotic individual like the late general who drove Shabaab out of Mogadishu, Dhagabadan, are assassinated just because they have potential to bypass the paling of dependency that most politicians are confined in.

The scaremongering tactics are not limited to only patriotic politician and government officials. As we have seen, the messengers of the people, no matter how neutral they are in a country where the loyalty to state or tribe is constantly shifting, are not spared too because the war profiteers see them as a threat. Many promising journalists including Mustaf Abdi Noor, who was recently killed in the hotel attack while he was in line of duty to show the world what happened, have lost their lives.

The scale of fear in Somalia was well captured in Amb. Abukar’s piece about the politics of insecurity in Somalia. He says, “In Somalia, fear is a traded commodity” at a fair price, he added, “And these phenomena play major roles in perpetuation of fear: Ghost assassinations of patriotic civil servants with institutional memories, government officials, and activists; and periodical suicide bombings that never get investigated. AMISOM bomb experts are notoriously absent from the scene…

Reclaiming Somalia

Some will arguably say that Somalis are no longer in charge of their country. And that’s not far from the truth as we have seen the last two decades. The country is occupied by various players who have different agendas; bringing peace and prosperity in Somalia is not one of them.

The so-called National Consultative Forum is working round the clock to maintain the status quo. It has rendered that Vision 2016 of one-person one-vote as unrealistic because it will not ‘’enhance legitimacy’’ and “security.” Therefore, this means that it’s unlikely to see the departure of the current punch of inept government.

The political system of the country is seemingly controlled from the outside. We are told how and who to choose, the type of electoral system we should have, who to secure us, etc. The ordinary Somalis are reduced to spectators and the political class are just errand boys, co-authoring the misfortune of Somalia.

It is time to start thinking as a Somali and try to think about the future of Somalia. Let’s start owning this country once again and save the future generation, or else Somalia will be remembered as lost in history books.

In conclusion, to all Somalis out there, I want to remind you of a simple Somali adage. Raag nimaadado ninkale loomadhibto, which means “don’t trust your manhood with another man.” In other words, don’t depend on other people too much. Somalia was liberated from the brutal colonial powers by Somalis and not the international community. Today, Somalia needs to be re-liberated again and the only people who can do that are none other than Somalis.


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