Without addressing the security disparity in Mogadishu, the new counter-terrorism strategy is boud to fail, writes Liban Ahmad
The worst terrorist attack in Somalia’s capital forced President Farmaajo to introduce a new security strategy to defeat Al-shabaab. The Somali government will create civil defence forces and commit US$ 14 million to the first phase of the project. Such an initiative will stand a chance to succeed if it builds on successful security measures aimed at defeating Al-shabaab in Mogadishu.
According to Sahan Research, in 2016 more than 900 people were killed by “Islamist rebels using improvised explosive devices”. Between January and March 2017, 298 people were killed in attacks involving IEDs.
The Federal Government of Somalia is at war with an outfit long known as”a better-run organization than its adversaries, including the corruption-plagued central government.” If the federal government is unable to have frank discussions on this public relations disadvantage, the new counter-terrorism strategy is unlikely to deal a decisive blow against Al-shabaab.
Corruption is always cited as the government’s Achilles heel exploited by Al-shabaab. While this assessment is correct, it is not the sole weakness that makes it possible for Al-shabaab to kill or maim many people in Mogadishu. An overlooked aspect of the problem lies in the security disparity in the capital. Although the Green Line of Mogadishu is no longer operational, thinking about the capital in North and South parts could bring to light security loopholes. More Al-shabaab attacks take place in areas once classified as South Mogadishu. The scene of the latest terrorist attack lies within South Mogadishu. Neighbourhood-based security measures similar to the one piloted in Waaberi has never been implemented in North Mogadishu. Many people argue effective security forces in North Mogadishu can be explained by efforts President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had put into recruiting from one social group.
There is perception that former Al-shabaab members in security forces facilitate infiltration or tip off Al-shabaab operatives. President Farmaajo’s government has inherited weak and undisciplined security forces; it should refer security policies to MPs and Senators for review. The government needs to conduct a security audit of all Mogadishu-based forces in the government’s payroll. Rebranded clan militias working as security forces are not less dangerous to public security than Al-shabaab amniyat is.
In 2014 Somali security forces tried to rob businesses in Hantiwadaag neighbourhood of Jowhar district. If President Farmaajo’s call for civil defence forces turns into another phase of arming neighbourhoods, Mogadishu could be entering, God forbid, another stage of instability.