EDITORIAL: Let’s cheer when Danab crushes Al-Shabaab, but target total victory
EDITORIAL | Somalia has, in a couple of past weeks, registered small but crucial victories against the malevolent al-Shabaab terror group. And given the scale of madness expressed by the militants, any of their kind felled by our troops should be celebrated.
We want to be forthright in expressing our pleasure in seeing incidents in which the terrorists meet their match. After all, it has been years and years of innocent bloodshed by these terror merchants. We express our congratulations to the special forces, Danab, for putting their lives on the line to take down the militants.
In parts of Lower Shabelle, some of the places have been impassable for years as al-Shabaab blockaded roads to extort travelers and transporters. They turned those parts of the country into their enclave, enslaving locals to their religious tenets no one can meet. They have abused Islam, and in turn, abused the people who follow its good teachings.
When Danab forces announced crushing some of those illegal roadblocks, it sounded like a country finally taking back its power from merchants of death. The small victories are certainly crucial for motivating the nascent army, its determined soldiers, and the country at large.
But we must never lose an eye to the cause of all these. Somalia has been without overall authority on its territory for nearly three decades. The Federal Government of Somalia may claim it is in charge now, but the persistence of terror cells, roadblocks, and uninhabitable districts in Somalia signals a country in need of legitimate authority.
The arguments in Mogadishu maybe that Somalia’s nascent government needs money and other resources to reach out to everyone. But there are poorer countries in the world that have managed to secure their populace without a whistle.
Somalia’s ultimate security, and the total victory against Shabaab, is going to demand much more than a resourced government. It is going to depend on how authorities can dissuade youth from joining renegade groups. It will depend on how the government can convince the public that it offers a better alternative to al-Shabaab.
In most recent cases, al-Shabaab managed to expand simply by providing services the federal government hasn’t. Somalis yearn for faster justice, and Al-Shabaab simply conducts those kangaroo courts to show that theirs is not enslaved by bureaucracy or corrupt dealings.
It doesn’t matter that those courts the militants run cannot even meet 20 percent of the natural administration of justice. But because of the lack of a stable judicial system in Somalia, people would rather subscribe to a terrorist group than spend years in and out of non-functional courts.
There is something else Somalia must do: The total defeat of Al-Shabaab is also going to depend on whether we conduct a free, fair, and verifiable election. This could become the first stone to the walls that will strengthen our nascent institutions. A country with functioning government departments is likely to defeat al-Shabaab without even firing a shot.
As we have said before, al-Shabaab has been so infiltrated in our society that defeating it will no longer be based on ambushes or conventional warfare. It is going to depend on the government simply showing it is accountable to its people. There are examples around the world where terrorist groups have been outed simply through a strong working relationship between intelligence agencies and the public.
Somalia need not invent the wheel. We should continue crushing al-Shabaab through the bullet. But perhaps the ultimate victory will be attained simply by running a proper ballot.