EDITORIAL: Politicking need not distract Somalia from Al-Shabaab fight


EDITORIAL: Somalia yet again took a hit from al-Shabaab on Thursday night, a constant reminder that the enemy we have fought for years is not yet defeated. And it was unfortunate that the attack came at the start of Ramadhan and on the same day the Federal Government security chiefs met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss ways of retaking territory controlled by the militant group.

To be fair, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has had a credible goal of defeating al-Shabaab, and his initial war on the group, as soon as he came to power in 2022, was commendable. He took in his wings volunteering vigilantes who sided with the Somali National Army (SNA) to chase the militants out of town in most places in Hirshabelle, Galmudug, and South West.

The initial result was more territory freed from the terror of al-Shabaab and more communities free to live normally without looking over their shoulders. Of course, the initial debate was whether freed territories could be forever under the government especially since most of these places lacked basic amenities and services from the government.

Enthusiasts argued that it was better to be, first, free, then to be closer to a formal government that is installed by the people and which can gradually start providing these services. Critics argued there was a danger of relapsing to al-Shabaab, especially since these communities had gotten used to some form of aid from the terror merchants. Critics also argued that vigilantes may run out of control once victory is achieved on the al-Shabaab front, and become a danger to the government.

It is clear, however, that most communities in Somalia want life without al-Shabaab control. Life without worrying about dodging bombs and bullets, one where freedom is guaranteed.

Which is why Somalia need not be distracted. We understand President Mohamud made promises to achieve certain things in his term. These include defeating al-Shabaab, rewriting the constitution, freeing Somalia from arms embargo and foreign debt, and reconnecting Somalia to the world as a major player.

Most of these have been reached, at least and Somalia is now a member of the East African Community, has had most of its debt canceled, and can freely buy weapons to upgrade its military.

Yet one thing seems to be spoiling the broth: Revising the constitution appears to be distracting Somalia’s bid to defeat al-Shabaab. The thing is, all the goals set under the government of President Mohamud are interrelated. One cannot sit down to write the constitution when burdened with debt, faced with insecurity, and cannot defend themselves. But one cannot, also, concentrate on the war on al-Shabaab if they have to be dealing with politicking.

The constitution needs to be revised, it is the only way Somalia can move forward to a stable democracy. But that should never be done at the expense of the war on al-Shabaab.

As it is, we need to separate the war on al-Shabaab from discussions around legal reform. Al-Shabaab elimination should be a priority and it should be basic for Somalia to concentrate on security assurances. A country may live under an interim law, but security should never be compromised.

We call on political leaders to lead security chiefs to do their job, that of chasing after al-Shabaab. We shouldn’t lose focus on a core goal that had raised national morale to a political debate that we can always have to reach a consensus.

Somalia has no choice: to rebuild the country, we will need security first.


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