Securing Somalia: On Mogadishu terror attack

In the deadliest terrorist attack in Somalia, an explosives-laden truck collided with a fuel tanker in Mogadishu, killing more than 300 people and injuring many more. Mogadishu has seen a number of attacks and suicide bombings on “soft targets”, mostly hotels and restaurants, and military targets orchestrated by the terrorist group al-Shabaab in recent years, but none as horrific as this one. The Islamist organisation has not yet claimed responsibility for the attacks but government spokespersons have blamed the al-Qaeda-allied group. A weakened Al-Shabaab has managed to revive itself as a guerrilla force lately. Reports suggest that it has not claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks as yet because of the scale of the toll, as it did not anticipate the truck colliding with a fuel tanker. If it is indeed al-Shabaab’s doing, it would signal a dangerous reversal. Somalia must immediately work towards building a sense of civic solidarity among the various clans in the country and use the popular revulsion following the bombing to isolate al-Shabaab and its backers. Al-Shabaab had retreated from Mogadishu in August 2011 following intense joint offensives led by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somalian federal government. The increased involvement of Kenyan and Ethiopian military forces, as part of AMISOM, in the conflict had pushed al-Shabaab fighters even further into interior Somalia, particularly to rural areas in the south. Beyond military help from AMISOM, logistical support from the U.S. government, which was stepped up after Donald Trump became President, has helped the Somalian government fight al-Shabaab.

Yet the group’s defeat is predicated not just on military strategy but also on isolating it from the levers of power in Somalia’s clan-driven society. Al-Shabaab still has the capacity and wherewithal to carry out terror attacks as it is emboldened and aided by divisions within Somalian society. The country has been slowly limping back from a state of anarchy that began in the 1990s, with warlords controlling various parts of the country; now it has a functional presidential government. It was the long spell of anarchy that enabled al-Shabaab to attain a position of prominence as an offshoot of the conservative Islamic Courts Union, which promised a semblance of order through the implementation of Sharia law and the capacity to fill a vacuum in governance. Early this year, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected through an indirect polling process by an electoral college of parliamentarians nominated by society elders. The state of civil war prevented the conduct of elections through universal adult franchise, but the Somalian President seems to carry a positive reputation among the people. It is vital that he capitalises on this beginning.

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Printable version | Jun 8, 2021 2:19:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/securing-somalia/article19872520.ece

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