EDITORIAL: NISA owes spy agent’s family an explanation
EDITORIAL | Somalia was yet again hearing a horrendous story of Agent Ikran Tahlil Farah, the bubbly staffer at the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA). Her employer claimed she had fallen into the hands of militant group al-Shabaab and had captured her and killed her.
That may have been intended to close one of the most controversial sagas in the country. But it only served to open new questions. First, NISA’s confirmation that she had been killed was not followed by where the body is or when she was actually killed.
Instead, the spy agency said it will pursue killers to avenge the killing of one of their agents.
The response from the family showed NISA may have only reopened an old wound, rather than seal it. Her mother, Qali Mohamoud Guhad was livid, rejecting the version Al-Shabaab killed her daughter. She claimed Agent Ikran was on a fateful day reportedly meeting a senior commander in the NISA ranks. The identity of the commander has not been known. But it pointed to a sinister cover-up.
NISA must know that both its reputation and role in society could be potentially damaged if officers there trying to cover up. Ikram was always a dedicated staffer and perhaps she knew that al-Shabaab could be part of the risks to her job. This is why NISA must investigate and table evidence to the family that indeed the militant group ended her life.
Amid the chaos, however, questions are emerging on whether there had been differences between officers of the agency. If clarity won’t come forth soon, there is a risk that NISA will be seen as a body corporate where teammates routinely turn against each other. It is therefore in NISA’s and Somalia's federal government’s interest that this matter be laid bare for closure.
We suggest a public inquest where officers testify on oath what they know. NISA, which is central to Somalia’s security services, knows that mishandling this case could have two negative outcomes. One is that it could be equated to other personalized dictatorship squads across Africa which have been used to nib troublemakers in the bud, for the benefit of rulers.
It could also make NISA less attractive for young qualified men and women who may want to add something to the rebuilding of the country’s security institutions.
For now, NISA owes Ms. Guhad and the entire family an explanation. If she was meeting a commander of the agency on a fateful day, we must know whether she was sent to danger right after or during the meeting. We must know whether penalties will be coming for those who had a hand in the killing. We must also know future safety safeguards to be put in place for NISA agents.
It may be true that NISA touches risks every day in its work. But the agency has lately been associated with political twisting rather than security spying. Politicians had earlier complained that the agency’s boss Fahad Yassin had become a tool for the sitting President to whip opponents into shape.
It became associated with impunity, preventing politicians from legally flying out of Mogadishu, illegally detaining suspects, and harassment of those deemed stumbling blocks.
We do not demand revelation of state secrets but NISA’s explanation to the family could chip away some anger. It could also be a start to the agency’s own reform for transparency.