Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Ads By Google
A Long Term Comprehensive Focus will translate as Success for the Somali National Army

by Dr. Paul R. Camacho
Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Soldiers in the Somali ‘National’ Army complete their training (UN Photo Library).

Ads By Google
During April 2014, it was extremely encouraging to listen to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud speak about gradual, overall improvement of the Somali National Army. Of particular interest for me was his comment that the self-perceptions of ordinary soldiers were moving toward a national orientation / identification.
[1] On May 14th of this year, President Mohamud announced the creation of the National Commission for Somali National Army Integration and initiated a new training academy to advance the professional quality of the Somali National Army. This was facilitated with the donor sponsorship of the United Arab Emirates, represented by Envoy Mohammed Ahmed Al Othman.[2] 


These events are the most important steps among the critical issues that must be addressed by the Somali people with regard to the reunification and professionalization of the Somali National Army and are a key component of reconciliation and reunification of Somalia.


Certainly the political and military leadership of the Commission membership is representative of all sectors of the nation. My question as a sociologist is whether that is inclusive enough? Should the Commission have an advisory board or a number of advisory boards representing the voices of both governmental and public non-security sectors of the nation? Ownership requires maximum inclusiveness, having the ability to wrestle with concepts “outside the box” of traditional and standard notions of security and institution building as being exclusively military, intelligence, and police. It should include consideration of ideas generated from all non-security sectors.


The Commission would do well to consider “field hearings” around the nation appreciate the participation of the most affected: the communities of elders, religious, economic / business, professional academic, women, youth, the diaspora, from the internally displaced, and from former soldiers and combatants - yes, even the DDR participants will no doubt have something of value to express. Also, they might consider the opinions of trusted partners in development such as the Turkish business associations and others. Such a strategy should work to widen opportunities for local Somali to participate in public debate and exercise productive citizenship.[3]


This type of tactic is just one implementation of the most important strategy - taking long term considerations of deep range and wide scope, which must have substantially greater priority than the present short term factors. This seems counter-intuitive, but signifies the importance of overcoming the crisis of immediacy; to not do so, means to concede decision space to adversaries and forego holistic conceptions and narratives of a reconciliatory future. Without a long term view, Somalia risks perpetually trying to get there, but never would arrive. It would become a victim to the “tyranny of emergency”[4] robbing it of decision space, consequently distorting both organization purpose and strategies - negatively impacting outcomes.


Achieving peace, justice, and development are not short term projects undertaking “results now” issue resolution as so often the case in corporate models. To be genuinely successful, the process of reconstruction requires the reestablishment of cross community relationships, which requires a broad long term perspective. Belief and faith in their ownership of the SNA by all the people of Somalia is essential to success.

What Kind of Army

What kind of Army do the Somali people want? One that wins battles or one that achieves peace. The U.S. has the most technologically powerful and professionally trained force on the globe with a budget exceeding the collective wherewithal of several other nation states further down the list. It has won numerous battles over the last decade and a half, but not achieved anything resembling peace. Perhaps this fact is an indication of a model not to be replicated too closely.  Winning battles may be essential, but it is not even remotely sufficient. Conflict involves more than the symptom of military combat. Certainly the government and commission has to consider what is practically achievable and yet cannot allow the presently achievable to fundamentally alter the proper choice - a percentage of resources must be invested where they can provide a return toward achieving long term goals.


The overarching concern involves identification and definition of mission. It is not as simple as it may appear with a reply about war-fighting and/or peace keeping capabilities. What configuration of warrior and peacekeeping / peace development will provide the optimal benefit for the short, mid, and long term requirements. At least some 26 African nations have provided peacekeeping training. Certainly there are a good number of ideas, procedures and best practices to choose from to devise a proper fit for the various conditions across Somalia. I am, of course uncertain as to what degree these have been catalogued and incorporated into the developing SNA doctrine. [5]

Need for a Ministry-wide Research Unit

As a sociologist, I submit that the commission should see that a comprehensive research unit is established within the MoD and possibly across the ministries in the security sector. I know this has been a concern of several individuals in the government and of special interest to at least one civilian advisor to senior SNA leadership. I agree wholeheartedly with this.  Solid research will provide both necessary information and a variety of insights valuable to the complex process of rebuilding the SNA. It is not just the specific data of particular reports, but the “meta” data of synthesis and integration which is necessary for development. It requires a research unit to build this kind of organizational /institutional capacity.


Consider the following “bullets” as just a few of the conceptual, organizational issues confronting the SNA each of which possess a plethora of parameters to be accounted for. A great deal of basic cumulative research is required. [6]


·         The challenge of civil-military relations involves commitment to the development of professional (democratic) military structure loyal to a formal constitution / legal process and yet responsive to the authority of the state. This is a continual challenge for any military.


·         Can a warrior culture and peacekeeping - peace development culture co-exist in the same military or must a choice be made?


·         How big an active duty sector is optimal?


·         What recruitment plan can be developed to address line and field grade officer corps shortages and the NCO corps professionalization? These issues are connected to sustenance for the troops and professionalization requirements.


A Hypothetical Composition

Conceptualizing composition in terms of financial, physical, and human capital as a criterial model of possible / plausible security mix solutions could take a variety of forms. The following is just one conjectural model.


Suggested hypothetical allocation example

State Orientation Model / Warrior Model

Citizenship Model / Peace Keeping - Peace Development

Financial Capital



Human Capital



Physical Capital




The portion of military for peace development could be a very large yet only partially deployed, possibly even a part-time force. The regionalization – federalization of peace development forces is also a possible arrangement; this could be a form of a “National Guard model”.



I believe that professionalization of the SNA requires the expected basic training skills and specialty schools training of all military forces. It also requires a great deal of educational considerations that acknowledges the basic historical overview of the Somali conflict and prepares soldiers for the present and future - this is particularly pertinent for integration. I should note that training for the warrior culture is predominantly skill acquisitions; preparation for peacekeeping and peace development requires a much broader interactive social relations skills.[7] The orientations are extremely different and require solid contextual grounding - they are not ahistorical formulas. For example, “warrior” forces are deployed according to operational needs and tempo; the peacekeeping - peace development forces are far more permanent to a community or district - their area of operations is far more of permanent location.


Peace-keeping and peace-development forces are far more important and effective for establishing trust and rebuilding relationships between the people and their government than are the warriors. There are significant implications with this - for instance, while acknowledging necessities of force protection, the peacekeeping - peace development troops cannot over-militarize (their personal gear, their military equipment). In short, the more exotic the equipment, technology, even dress is, the more social distance between the soldiers and civilians.[8] Given the tenuous period of rebuilding social relations this could lead to a devolving situation. Also, peacekeepers and peace developers are akin to stage managers; among their functions and roles is the task of creating and maintaining positive conditions in order to facilitate constructive excellence on the part of all the civilian “actors” in their districts. This requires significantly different skill sets and thus distinct capacity and training schedule requirements, particularly in terms of experience and leadership capacities.[9]


There is much more, but just a few of the issues / possibilities involved in organizational composition and professionalization include, but are not limited, to the following:


o   Again the research should have a section at the new facility and be staffed with graduate students from the various universities.


o   A comprehensive educational program should be established even if piecemeal and incremental at the new training academy; it is as important as their military skills training


o   A variety of paths to achievement and the development of opportunities for Somali soldiers to step forward into leadership positions should be created. A comprehensive “mustang” program for both line and warrant officer grades could be developed



Integration - the most crucial long term issue

How will integration of the SNA proceed? I do not think it can be simply decreed and implemented with some numerical formula for unit composition. Even if that could be the case, doing so would by-pass opportunities and strategies to create a cascade of positive benefits throughout the society. Part of the process conceptualization requires an educational process that should begin with the input of the various sectors of the Somali society noted above. What are and / or how can demographic considerations for national identity be conceptualized or assessed? Certainly critical to this is the development of human capital across the SNA.


Some individuals will be far more attuned to integration than others. A positive attitude is critical. Those highly opposed are perhaps not suitable or should be among the last of the forces to experience integration. For those at the front of realizing the essentiality of SNA, integration reassignment to integrated “demonstration” units could be a first step. For those focused on peacekeeping and peace development assignment at the local level - on the ground in pairs of different clan backgrounds working together constituted a highly visible mechanism / demonstration of reconciliation. Perhaps the SNA begins with vetted volunteers from across clan lines. Again, it is easy to realize the need for a comprehensive approach, a good deal of research, and the development of several demonstration units followed up with evaluation metrics that provide a genuine assessment.


I am convinced Somali needs to build a robust public space and thus ask whether Somalia should create a program of National Civic Service which would include a civic service reserve / civic service guard sector [not military, but civilian] or a civic service (civilian) reserve / guard “draft” that includes those returning from the diaspora . Can their active participation in the national development of human capital be secured, e.g. should they be entreated or required / provided with incentives to help build national unity by helping to develop the human capital of fellow (cross-clan / sub clan) countrymen as a component of peace and countrywide development while pursuing their own private interests – one or two days a month?


All these points actually involve questions and opinions concerning the meaning of citizenship. Are there society wide obligations that come with citizenship? In a paper co-authored with a Somali colleague, we developed the phrase “WELCOME / BUILD / DEFEND” as a strategy for reconciliation and citizenship building for Somalia.  The government should welcome all Somalis to join together in rebuilding Somali society and the nation and defend it vigorously. In the broadest terms, public space has to be rebuilt; far more important for genuine reconstruction is the rejuvenation of individual and collective relationships among all Somalis - this is a long term process that requires maximum opportunities for socio-political participation, transparency, and good will.


Conclusion - What about al Shabaab

Chaos cannot rebuild nor can a methodology of violence genuinely govern Somalia. Certainly there is bitterness with the impact of attacks. President Mohamud has made a number of offers of amnesty and negotiations with various elements of the opponents of the federal government.[10] He should continue to do this. I am certain that there are many fighters who could contribute to the reconstruction of the society by “coming in from the cold” and entering into a dialogue with the government, take advantage of the amnesty programs, and other programs of reconciliation. Finally, the obvious - this entire effort is a generational one. Somalia security and development before long will soon pass into the hands of a younger generation. In my opinion the weapon of choice for Somali youth is not the Kalashnikov; it is education, and lots of education - the more the better. That is the most effective weapon of choice for Somali society because it nourishes the development and acceleration of human capital - there are no substitutes! The tragedy that befell Somalia has also occasioned the opportunity for a new beginning for the Somali people to redefine the concepts and constructs of peacekeeping and development in a context of home-grown nation-building[11] that will provide lessons of global significance. I wish them the best of outcomes.

Dr. Paul R. Camacho


The William Joiner Institute

for the Study of War and Social Consequences

University of Massachusetts Boston (Retired)

100 Morrissey Boulevard

Boston MA 02125-3393


[email protected]



[1] It was an honor and a privilege to be invited to provide my views as an “outsider” for the conference "Security Sector Reform: Challenges and Opportunities - Abroad View with Recommendations", National Conference on Internal Security, which was held at Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia on 20-23 April 2014 and to provide comments / input concerning the conference document and on other  discussion papers being developed.


[3] Adrian Oldfield, “Citizenship and Community: Civic Republicanism and the Modern World”, The Citizenship Debates, Gershon Shaefir, editor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, pp. 75-89. Republicanism refers here to the concept of citizenship and citizens’ relationship to society - not to the Republican Party in the U.S. See also Herman R. van Gunsteren, A Theory of Citizenship - Organizing Plurality in Contemporary Democracies, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998


[4] For an extremely interesting approach to significant issues concerning short and long term conceptualizations of time on decision processes in the general globalization environment see Jerome Binde, "Towards an Ethics of the Future", Globalization, Arjun Appadurai, Ed., Durham: Duke University Press, 2001, p 91. There are definite implications here frameworks of conflict and reconciliation definitions and strategies in general, which are certainly relevant for the Somali context.


[5] See http://www.nation.co.ke/News/26%20African%20countries%20have%20trained%20troops%20on%20peacekeeping/-/1056/1032464/-/61ik97z/-/index.html.  Obviously as an outsider I am not aware of many factors, e.g. the number of troops, number of militias to be integrated - and many other situations impacting both physical and human capacity conditions confronting the SNA. However, one Somali official did say there existed little institutional memory and Somalia was starting from scratch.


[6] Initial studies can easily be devised and assessed with inexpensive “off the shelf” software. Much can be done at very low cost, such as devising generic / basic questions and focus group “schedules” and other indices so essential to the development of information and knowledge acquisition. However, as studies become part of a systematic platform, significant planning - extensive dialogue - is required about anticipating future needs / goals and the requirements to address them and achieve success. Accumulating valuable data and study conclusions is easily surmountable, the integration of the information and knowledge is another issue altogether - it constitutes a much more conceptually demanding synchronization among participating departments, agencies, and ministries.


[7] See Funmi Olonisakin, “African "Homemade" Peacekeeping Initiatives”, Armed Forces & Society 1997 23: 349. The online version of this article can be found at: http://afs.sagepub.com/content/23/3/349. The online version of this article can be found at: http://afs.sagepub.com/content/23/3/349. See also Dr. Bruce Jones, Richard Gowan, and Jake Sherman, with contributions from: Rahul Chandran, Victoria DiDomenico, Benjamin Tortolani, & Teresa Whitfield, Building on Brahimi – “Peacekeeping in an era of Strategic Uncertainty”, - A Report by the NYU Center on International Cooperation Submitted to the UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support For the ‘New Horizons’ Project, April 2009, p. 50. Available at:  http://www.peacekeepingbestpractices.unlb.org/PBPS/Library/CIC%20New%20Horizon%20Think%20Piece.pdf  The concept here is to take in literally to the individual level.  See also A New Partnership Agenda - Charting A New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping United Nations” – Department of  Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support, New York, July 2009 Available at http://www.peacekeepingbestpractices.unlb.org/PBPS/Library/CIC%20New%20Horizon%20Think%20Piece.pdf. See also Ian Johnstone (Consultant), Peace Operations Literature Review, August 2005, Center on International Cooperation, Project on Transformations in Multilateral Security Institutions - Implications for the UN, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Available at: http://www.peacekeepingbestpractices.unlb.org/PBPS/Library/Peace%20operations%20final%20literature%20review.pdf


[8] The gear and equipment begets attitudes and creates intersubjective perceptions and postures between civilians and soldiers, which impact legitimacy - it creates social distance. For permanent peacekeeping peace development personnel this could negatively impact legitimacy in relatively short order, particularly because their function and role as compared to that of the warrior sector is dramatically different. The defensive protection advantage of the armor and weaponry utilized can easily erode / negate the development of trust so essential for rebuilding positive reciprocal civil - military relations crucial for mutual legitimacy. 


[9] Such assignments are more than likely an arena for older soldiers with a greater depth of life experiences and provided with a broader educational curriculum than that of the warrior force. It requires far more negotiation and transformational leadership skills. In leadership training there certainly is overlap, but this does not diminish the substantial distinction between the functions / roles of these two distinct military sectors. These differences must be reflected in the post basic training schedules. See Peter G. Northouse, Leadership - Theory and Practice, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997.


[10] "Somalia offers amnesty to al-Shabab fighters", Aljazeera, 3 September, 2014 - http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/09/somalia-offers-amnesty-al-shabab-fighters-201493222945948695.html. See http://allafrica.com/stories/201507190084.html.

See also Dr. Afyare Abdi Elmi and Abdi Aynte, "Somalia: The Case for Negotiating with al-Shabaab", Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, January 2012, http://studies.aljazeera.net.  See also Jonas Gahrstore, “In Defense of Dialogue: Why We must Talk”, Best of TED, Season 1: 8; the argument is a large global deficit of dialogue impairs the ability to address conflict.


[11] For one example see Funmi Olonisakin, “African "Homemade" Peacekeeping Initiatives”, Armed Forces & Society 1997 23: 349. The online version of this article can be found at: http://afs.sagepub.com/content/23/3/349.


Click here