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Who Lost Somalia, Yet Again?

by Heikal I. Kenneded
Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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For a brief, happy — and misguided — moment, most Somalis thought the government and its AMISOM allies were winning the war against the terrorist group of Al-Shabab, who were on the path of a terrible defeat as they were driven out most of their military bases and major towns that they once ruled with iron grip. As a new hope was dawning, most Somali families in the Diaspora were either gearing up for spending their summer vacations in their native country, or gradually relocating there permanently while businesses were sprouting up all over the capital. However, such dreams were appallingly dashed by the recent events of series violent suicide bombings in the capital and the rest of the country, which seems as though the terrorist group is from the dead.  This is hardly surprising, given the fact that there’s neither an effective Somali national army capable of fighting against the terrorist group, nor are AMISOM troops willing to fight off the enemy face to face. With this new reality, many people question who failed Somalia and how to reverse the tide again before Somalia risks going back to its archetypal failed state. Nonetheless, the main threat to an effective Somali state security lies in the hands of the UN Security Council that recklessly extends its arms embargo imposed on the country since 1992, which egregiously undermines Somalia’s sovereignty.

Somalia seems to be plunging back into chaos as the country experiences the precarious resurgence of the terrorist group Al-Shabab. For instance, the recent atrocity visited upon Mogadishu’s Lido beach and many other landmark locations in the capital, throughout the country are all bloody reminders the callousness of the Al-Shabab terrorist group and how they do not discriminate innocent civilians from armed forces.  Though Al-Shabab’s incredulous capability to strike at any time at any place is not a sign of strength but rather speaks volumes of the fledgling government in the country’s ineptitude to use the national security apparatuses in place, instead of playing “Duck and Cover.” True, the government seems to have lost touch with reality and therefore neither is interested in bringing peace to the country, nor capable of doing so, even if it had the will. In fact, the Somali government’s ineptitude and downright incompetence is highlighted how they failed to prepare the country for the 2016 elections for a one-man one-vote that resulted in the protraction of the contentious 4.5 system. Given the chronic corruption within the government and all of its ineptness to safeguard the county’s security, the UN’s vacillating army embargo has become a major contributor to the worsening insecurity in the country.

Despite its many shortcomings, the Somali government is desperate enough that it unceasingly blames the UN’s Monitoring Group for recommending the extension of the unbearable arms embargo on Somalia. As a result, Somalia’s government has to cope with being safeguarded by the AMISOM troops while the country’s army languishes in a state of despair. Up until now, there’s not a set date that AMISOM peacekeeping troops will leave the country so that a standing Somali army to take their place as a permanent replacement. Nor is the Somali army likely to get any relevance and proper support to stand on its own and take full ownership of the country’s fledgling security, as long as the AMISOM forces are the focal point of being responsible for the country’s security and stability. Somalia to move beyond the so called failed state, UN Security Council needs to reconsider its arms embargo on Somalia.

The Challenges of the UN Army Embargo

An intense drone campaign has recently decimated several Al-Shabab military bases and killed their core leadership, despite all of these bombings against the terrorist organization, it hasn’t weakened them the least but rather brought them back from the grave to continue their ruthless killings of the innocent. In fact, they’re continuously reconstituting their dark forces by retreating to parts of the interior they see as safe. In fact, with the death of Al-Shabab’s intransigent leader Abdi Godane two years ago, most Somalis hoped to see the terrorist group pushed into either ragtag army that might desperately. However, the recent military raids on AMISOM bases are a proof that Al-Shabab is anything but defeated. The most dismaying aspect of Al-Shabab’s most recent resurgence is their vengeful penchant to target most peaceful landmarks in the capital that represent a sense of normalcy and statehood.  On the other hand, while drone attacks on targeted Al-Shabab terrorist bases are lethal and serve as significant deterrent, however, they also function as a central source of jihadist inspirations and recruiting purposes. Moreover, most terrorist experts have long made the link that drone strikes only fuel militancy in most countries because of their tendency to mistakenly hit on the innocent. Thus, seeing from that point of view, the United Nations needs to lift its debilitating arms embargo on the Somali government, which over the years has become a major obstacle to the formation of a professional and strong national army to effectively fight against these terrorists. There are no shortages of arms inside Somalia and therefore the irrational thinking that the embargo is an effective deterrent that armaments do not fall into the wrong hands, no longer holds water.

Moreover, the partial easing of the arms embargo in the past for the Somali government to buy some weapons and ammunition has helped past governments. It has enabled the Somali government to equip the Somali national army, as part of the overall effort to build a national army capable of taking full control of Somalia's security. No wonder, all Somali citizens across the board now agree the need to effectively rebuild the Somali army as the panacea of safeguarding the country’s lack of security. It is quite delusional in part of the international community and the UN to continuously peddle the unsustainable mandate that Somalia’s security will be guaranteed by the AMISOM forces. It is rather preposterous to spend much needed resources and funding for peacekeeping forces while the Somali National Army (SNA) does not get paid for months, not to mention lacking much needed military equipment, vehicles, communications technologies, barracks and medical facilities, which tremendously contributes the Somali army’s low morale.

There’s no doubt that the UN and the international community are more sympathetic to the dubious agenda of the neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia and Kenya who are bent on keeping Somalia in its status quo of chaos and weak state. Nevertheless, if history is any indication, no neighboring country in the Horn will be in peace, unless Somalia itself is at peace and that’s where the true challenge lies. In the meantime, the Somali government needs to put in place the necessary apparatuses to efficiently keep its arms safe in storage while averting any of them vanishing from the army by simply pay them regular wages and any other benefits in due course. Since the UN’s unrelenting decades-old arms embargo on Somalia is justified as either lack of accountability or diversion of weapons blamed on the government's weak public sector accountability systems, which is likely to encourage illegal arms dealing with a potential of ending up in the hands of terrorist groups.  In the long term, though, a radical shift is needed to rebuild both the country’s national army and police forces in order to abate the increasing insecurity throughout the country. Yet, without lifting the arms embargo from Somalia, it is most likely the terrorist group will continue to wage their war against the innocent with impunity. It is therefore unconscionable that the international community and the UN watch the Somali people suffer in the hands of these ruthless killers, as they disempower the country’s army by denying them the necessary resources to defend their motherland. 

In the end, Somalia’s serious and recurrent security lapses definitely do not lie in fear of guns which might fall into the wrong hands but rather a country without a standing army and lack of effective weapons to fight against the enemy. It would be wise before the international community facilitates another bogus election to take place in the country with another toothless government, they must urge the UN Security Council to take concrete steps of lifting the arms embargo that necessitates the Somali army to become an effective institution that defends the country’s security and dignity.

Heikal I. Kenneded
Washington D.C
[email protected]

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