THE FIGHT AGAINST SOMALIA’S AL-SHABBAB
By Paul Ndiho
May 17, 2011
Somalia’s Transitional Government says it’s making some progress in stabilizing the security situation, but a lot more needs to be done in the fight against al-Shabaab.
Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Prime Minister of Somalia, says the al-Qaida-linked militia group al-Shabaab is vowing to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden by continuing kill and attack innocent civilians. Al-Shabab is trying to overthrow Somalia’s transitional government and set up a state based on a strict interpretation of Sharia law. The Somali- American prime minister says his government and Africa Union troops have boosted security around the capital Mogadishu, and are now expanding to other areas under their control.
“We’re making some progress and a lot of things need to be done. In a short period when we are in office, we have improved the security situation, we increased the revenue that enable us to pay salaries for all civil servants and the military, and, of course, to provide food for our military, medical service and we’re now to ready to face the enemy.”
Mohamed Farmajo says his government has made some significant gains in trying to reach out to young militants in the last couple of months and more than 150 al-Shabaab militia fighters have defected and joined the government forces.
“We have received calls from those youths asking where they can come if they want to defect. And also we communicate through the air, radios, and assure them that they will be welcome and provided with salary and education. We also tell them that this is not Somali culture or Islamic culture blow up and kill innocent people.”
Al-Shabaab controls much of southern and central Somalia but has lost some ground in recent weeks to a government offensive. Last week, officials in Somalia’s Puntland region said at least 26 people were killed in fighting between government soldiers and Islamist insurgents. Basto Ahmed, a US-based Somali community leader observes that the transitional government is making progress in the fight against Al- Shabbab.
“This government with the short period of time they have accomplished a lot. In other words, this is the first government which clearly has some sort of success on the ground against Al- Shabaab and against these terrorist groups that are in Somalia. They have made some significant gains; they’ve only been in office for the last 8 months.”
Ahmed says that the killing of bin Laden will diminish al-Qaida’s ability to support the Somali militant group.
“We hope that their funds, their economical funds from al-Shabaab came from al-Qaida. As of matter of fact, Somali news and Somali websites, they had a meeting today in a city called Afgooye and they declared themselves, the al-Shabaab leadership declared that the death of Bin Laden will be loss, because they used to get training from al-Qaida and because they used to get funds from al-Qaida.”
David Smock, Senior Vice President for the U.S. Institute of Peace, says that though African Union and Somali forces have made headway against al-Shabaab, the group may not be deterred by the death of the al Qaida leader.
“I think al-Shabaab, even though it’s facilitated with al Qaida, I don’t think it would significantly be influenced or held back by the death of bin Laden. I will expect al-Shabaab to carry on with his nastiness.”
Critics are urging Somalia’s transitional federal government to engage young militias in a dialogue aimed at integrating them into the government forces, and where possible, rehabilitate militants who have caused so much suffering in Somalia.