Al-Shabaab group has continued to pose a significant threat to national security across Somalia and its neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organisation, has continued its violent insurgency in southern and central Somalia despite being defeated by Somali and Ethiopian forces in 2007. “The group has exerted temporary and at times sustained control over strategic locations in those areas by recruiting, sometimes forcibly the regional sub-clans and their militias, using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) peacekeepers, and nongovernmental aid organizations”.
Al-Shabaab’s lethal rebellion continues without the hope of ending within foreseeable future. The group constantly remains a step ahead of domestic and regional operations of military. The militants’ agility, coupled with disintegration and split among their foes, has allowed them to integrate into Somali culture. There is increasing domestic and international agreement that Al-Shabaab cannot be defeated just through military tactics. However, neither Somali elites nor the country’s foreign partners are interested in considering alternatives, particularly talks with terrorist leaders. Nevertheless, the three front fighting strategy (ideology, economic and military) of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud seems to be working.
The continued existence of Al-shabaab in most regions of Somalia makes fight against the group a working progress. The Federal Government of Somalia, regional and global organisations have continued to come up with strategies to neutralize the group. Among the strategies is the use of ATMIS officers who conducted various covert operations to drive out Al-Shabaab militants in various regions in Somalia. However, one of the neglected but effective strategies that have succeeded in most countries is community participation. Involving community member in the fight against Al-Shabaab should be supported in Somalia. Currently, the successful joint operation conducted by the FGS security forces and the community defence forces (Ma’awisley) in Hirshabelle and Galmudug against Al-Shabaab shows the importance of the community participation in the fight against the terrorists.
Civilian-Police Partnership in Fight Against Al-Shabaab
Since the community members have lived in Somalia for long enough, they have adequate information about Al-shabaab and their tactics. Hence, community could be involved in fight against Al-shabaab in the following ways.
- Civilian-Police Groups
Civilian-police groups have been established and continues to exist inunstable countries in Africa in which the governments are not able to defend citizens against security threats posed by terror groups. In Somalia, civilian-police groups have been fighting against Al-shabaab to keep their affiliated communities safe and secure. Recently, civilian-police groups in Somalia received a significant boost from the current administration of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s who is in a support of the new policy that promotes the use of civilian-police groups to help weed out Al-Shabaab militia from the villages they occupy.
- Police-Community Partnerships
The partnership between police and community members would play a critical role in fight against Al-shabaab. The partnership ensures engagement of local law enforcement and leaders of community in a dialogue to recognize issues and collaboratively come up with solutions for improving partnerships between police and community members. Community members share intelligence and information about Al-shabaab militia with police officers who take action through arrests and imprisonment of the suspects.
What Needs to be done to Support Civilian-Police Partnership
- Promoting Civilian Uprising Against Al-Shabaab
The government need to create awareness on the need for community members to move out of their comfort zone and constantly take part in fighting against Al-Shabaab. This is because the civilians are the ones who are greatly affected when Al-Shabaab carries out any terror attack. Civilian uprising can be promoted by equipping them with weapons and also communication gadgets to facilitate their communication with authorities.
- Developing a Legal Framework to Support Civilian Uprising
It is very important that the FGS introduces new laws through Act of Parliament to ensure that civilian uprising groups are recognized by the law in Somalia. The legal framework should cover provisions on how to provide and license weapons for the civilian groups. Introduced laws should establish provide mechanisms for registering the groups so that there are terror groups arise in disguise of civilian uprising groups.
- Security Training for the Members of Civilian Groups
Though civilian groups are helping in fight against Al-Shabaab, they lack skills and competencies that a security personnel should have. This puts them at higher risk of being captured or even killed by Al-Shabaab militia. Hence the need for the government of Somalia to come up with strategies and also initiate programs intended to train the civilian groups. The training should aim to equip the civilian groups with skills on how to use weapons, how to gather intelligence and even conduct highly militarised operations.
- Introduce a Communal Security Initiative
It is essential that the local community is at the forefront in fight against Al-shabaab who continues to pose a threat to their safety. Using similar approaches and initiatives as Kenya’s Nyumba Kumi initiative, there is a need for civilians to group themselves into clusters and make a commitment to protect each other. Nyumba Kumi was presented as a remedy to criminal conduct and terrorism.This effort encourages residents to continually communicate and share information concerning one another, to monitor security dangers and submit information to local government and enforcement organs. The Initiative should aim to bring together the police, civil society, and local communities to develop local solutions to safety and security concerns. This initiative should be designed for citizens to know their neighbours. It should be based on the assumption that citizens are well-versed in their surroundings.
and can detect and report any suspicious or odd activity. This would go a long way in fighting against Al-shabaab.
- Achieve a Comprehensive Political Settlement
Failure to have a comprehensive political settlement have made (it) impossible to fight against Al-shabaab. Continued lack of trust between the civilians and the government have continued to make Al-shabaab stronger as civilians who feel the government is not accountable end up joining the group. Only a solid political agreement that ensures a precise distribution of authority, duties, and resources would be able to end Somalia’s culture of mistrust and lack of responsibility. The top priority for the new government of Somalia should be reaching a permanent political settlement. A settlement serves as the foundation for agreement on matters concerning the constitutional reform process and the rule of law. It could also create the framework for future constitutional and state-building efforts, allowing the security establishment to work more efficiently. Another critical concern is strengthening the Somali security sector to guarantee a peaceful transition from the ATMIS peacekeeping mission and supporting economic growth to boost the legitimacy of the new government. Moreover, harnessing the Somali people’s exceptional entrepreneurial abilities and providing perfect circumstances for additional investment will significantly contribute to the social andeconomic stability.
- Change the Administrative Structure of Mogadishu
Mogadishu is mainly inhabited by Hawiye Clan, followed by the Banadiri and other clans. To ensure effective fight against the Al-shabaab, there is need for Mogadishu
o have its own administration elected by the people and not appointed by the Federal Government. The residents of Mogadishu should elect their own Mayor or President of the State who would be accountable for the security of the region. The mayor /State President should also appoint a police commissioner who would take orders from the president of State or the Mayor.
- Resettle the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mogadishu
There are numerous internally displaced people (IDPs) living bushes and camps in Mogadishu. In most cases, these IDPs are linked to terror attacks as they happen to host terrorists. This could be attributed to the fact that they are not effectively monitored by security agents. It is therefore important for the government to resettle the internally displaced people (IDPs) and engage them in productive economic activities. There is also a need for the residual areas to be monitored and surveillance by the security agents to ensure that there are no IDPs who are involved in terrorism.
Terrorism is a problem that government cannot fight all alone. It needs involvement of every stakeholder available including police, civilians, and regional military personnel. The fight against Al-shabaab cannot be won bythe FG offices but at the community level. This is because Al-shabaab members are living among the civilians and the only way to identify them is through the civilians. Moreover, the civilians being the most affected group when Al-Shabaab stages a terror attack, they should be heavily involved. Their involvement can be through civilian-police partnerships and also through empowered community police working hand in hand with the security forces. However, their involvement needs to be legalized and
recognized by the law and hence the need to have laws or acts of parliament. There is also need for civilian to be empowered by giving them weapons and registering civilian uprising groups. In my opinion, the only lasting solution to fight against Al-Shabaab and any other terrorist group is civilian-police partnership. Moreover, the government should win the ideological and economic battle as well as the military one.
Written by Abdullahi Yabarow, an LLM based in London, UK.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Shabelle Media’s editorial stance.