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Published On: Tue, Aug 25th, 2015

Somaliland:Language war between the federal government and Al-shabaab

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The Somali language is the one of fields of contestation for the Somali Federal Government and Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. When  the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA)commander,  General Tuuryare,   publicised the newly coined acronym,   UGUS (  Ururka Gumaadka Ummadda Soomaaliyeed ‘ organisation for massacring Somali people) .

Al-shabaab media outlets used the same acronym but  changed the second word into  gumeeyay  ( degraded) as in Ururka Gumeeyay   Ummadda Soomaaliyeed ‘the organisation that degraded  Somali people’ ) to refer to federal government security forces. Who is taking the language war seriously and using  every trick in the propaganda rule-book effectively?

NISA leaders have decided to call an anti-Al-shabaab campaign conducted in Mogadishu  an immunisation campaign as reflected in the headline of the story posted in Radio Mogadishu website:  Ololaha talaalka ka hortaga UGUS oo galabta furmay immunization campaign against Al-shabaab started in the afternoon ). The headline makes one wonder if Somali scientists have discovered   a counter-terrorism vaccine.

NISA  commander has instructed Mogadishu-based journalists to call Al-shabaab UGUS but Al- shabaab  has threatened journalists who call it  UGUS.  Through NISA the Somali Federal Government has been exploring ways to influence  reporting by correspondents  for websites, radio and TV stations. This is not the  “bold,  legal war” General Tuuryare  vowed to wage  against Al-shabaab . A misleading Radio Mogadishu headline: immunization campaign against Al-shabaab started in the afternoon

Al-shabaab monitors Somali Federal Government  TV and   websites for ideas to put a spin on stories; its  journalists have used a video clip from the Somali National TV,  showing NISA commander sitting by an ad for Kenya-based  mobile-phone based money transfer, MPESA, and another picture with a story about inauguration of a bank in Mogadishu,  showing  President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud   jubilantly holding    a US banknote he had  withdrawn from a cash machine of the new bank with the headline Daawo Sawirro:Madaxda DF-ka Oo Isku Bedeshay Tabeeleyaal Wax Lagu Xayaysiisto!!. (  See pictures: Leaders of the Somali Federal Government become billboards ).


unnamedCommander Tuuryare of NISA  sitting by an MPESA ad

As Al-shabaab loses more territories its propagandists  are concentrating on  strategies to  exploit communication foibles of the Somali Federal Government. Al-shabaab calls suicide bombings  camiliyad istish-haadi ah (  martyrdom operation) although  victims of its attacks are   people in a market or in a bus or students  in a college,  for example.

The Somali Federal Government will lose the  language war if it does not stop giving Al-shabaab opportunities   through careless  coinage of terms or campaign themes. In one speech General Tuuryare advised people who  “think  to have contracted UGUS  disease to go to the district office and tell them you  need to have a medical check up about UGUS disease.If you test positive , you will be cured of it; if you test negative you will be given a preventive medicine“.

NISA should leave to the Ministry of Information the task of reporting or  drawing up communication plans to respond to Al-shabaab’s relentless language war.

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