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Grounded SNA Nationalism is crucial for tackling Somali’s stability fragility level

AbdirahmanYusuf Ali
Saturday January 21, 2023

In the last six months, the Somali National Army with the support of Community Defense Forces drawn from different clans have inflicted a heavy casualty toll on Al-Shabaab and recovered large swathes of territories in an unprecedented approach since the emergence of the militant group's close to two decades ago. Since coming into office last May, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has demonstrated unparalleled commitment and determination to annihilate Al-Shabaab and proved more competent, knowledgeable and effective than his first term in office between 2012 and 2016.

Unlike AU-led operations in the past, the current campaign has netted victories within a short time with minimal resources. These victories are a prove that Somalia can rid itself of terrorism if there is a genuine commitment by the country’s leadership and a deliberate decision by the public to rally around the course for peace.

Even as we acknowledge and celebrate our gallant forces for their exploits against Al-Shabaab, we should remain alive to the need to continue our efforts in building a loyal, professional and strong force capable of executing its mandate as provided by the Constitution. The SNA has been undergoing a gradual transformation since its formal recomposition in 2000 following the formation of the first permanent post-civil war government in Somalia.

A more pressing need is the planned take-over from the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) which is ending for April 2024. With just a year to go, the need to redouble efforts to realise this milestone cannot be gainsaid.

Despite this transformation, clan dependencies and loyalties still run deep within the national army. For instance, during April 2021 ‘uprising’ in Mogadishu, clan loyalties overrode national interests. Sections of the SNA especially in the Middle Shabelle region moved to Mogadishu and joined opposition forces in what almost resulted in full-scale fighting. Such balkanization of the national army into clan lines affirmed concerns that our army is still beholden to clans and is yet to transform and embrace an absolute loyalty to the nation and not the clan.  

Nonetheless, we should treat this as a learning curve appreciating where we have come from; the sacrifices our forces have made and the myriad challenges they have had to encounter. On this note, I wish to delve into the rallying call for concerted efforts to build a competent nationalist national army whose standards can comfortably meet international thresholds.

Unified training

Every country around the world  has a standardized and unified training system for its security forces - this encompasses a unified curriculum which not only covers the technical part of the training and the ethos of a disciplined force but importantly national values, doctrines and principles. These sets of values and principles are unique to every country and in line with its laws, cultures, values and practices. In Somalia, the national army comprises soldiers trained by Turkey, the UK, US, UAE and Eritrea. Each of these trainers imparts different sets of values and also set their trainees apart from the rest. It is no surprise that we have seen instances when UAE-trained soldiers clash with Turkish-trained soldiers in Mogadishu resulting in a deadly exchange of fire.

SNA combat professionalism is notable and improving gradually every year with support of international community and national level but entrenching national values such as loyalty and patriotism is yet to be adequately realised. There is still an overarching needs to instill these values so that the military is guided and driven by higher national ideals as opposed to ethnic and clan affiliation, political and personal interests among other identities.

This can be reached through improving and contextualizing the National Security Architecture endorsed by parliament in 2017 to provide well-balanced unification and standardization of the training curriculum of the country's security forces. 

Remuneration and welfare

In acknowledging the need for a professional army driven by national values and ethics, we must also be ready to allocate sufficient resources to cater for their salaries, healthcare, family welfare and post-service care. At the moment, the average salary for SNA officers is about $200 coupled with a food ration share of about $40 per month. According to the recently approved 2023 Appropriations Act, the Armed Forces is allocated $113m which is an increase of about $20 million for the 2022 Financial Year. Additionally, Parliament allocated a paltry $115,000 to cater for orphans of SNA soldiers and the disabled. This fund is expected to cover the education of these orphans among other needs thus it is clear that the amount is still very little. Whereas there was a marked improvement in allocations to the military to cater for their salaries, equipment and other expenses, the military welfare vote is still way below par despite an increase from $53,000 in the 2022FY. SNA is perhaps among the few military units in the world actively involved in domestic warfare. The level of attrition in terms of deaths, and physical and mental injuries in addition to the loss to their families is therefore quite high. In reforming the military therefore, we should pay attention to deliberately allocating sufficient resources and support for their welfare in addition to gradually building a veteran’s fund to cater for the welfare of our soldiers when they leave active duty. A similar policy should be developed to cater for housing and other support needs.

Institutional Development

An effective and professionally functioning army is dependent on a solid institutional framework which guides among others the structure, serviceman promotion and personnel development, resource allocation, legal framework, and oversight among other tenets. The Ministry of Defence, a civilian component empowered by the Constitution to head the military must continuously develop robust policies, laws and frameworks which ensure the military function within an institutional set-up not influenced by favorism, politics and personal or group interests. An established institutional framework ensures that the military and police functions seamlessly even with the change of government because a rules-based system is in place.

In conclusion, the journey to realizing a fully-fledged and professional army in Somalia is still long but within sight. Other countries in the world have successfully done it thus Somalia is no exception. We can do and must do it.

AbdirahmanYusuf Ali
Social and Peace activist
Uistaag Dadka iyo Dalka
[email protected]
[email protected]


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