Mysterious troop deployment: Another sign of broken government


EDITORIAL - Somalia can sometimes work as a functional government system. But one more turn, and it reminds us all of the long journey ahead to correct its errors.

This week, Somalis woke up to planes landing at Beledweyne on Wednesday, carrying specialized troops known as Haram’ad, the paramilitary police, and Gorgor ostensibly to protect Hirshabelle President Ali Gudlawe. The federal-state President has reportedly been unable to travel to the area due to a rising opposition from clan-based militias.

If there was fear of confrontation, the elite troops at least haven’t clashed with the local Hiraan Revolutionary Council (HRC), the militia said to be occupied areas surrounding the Ugaas airstrip.

The worry, though, is that a specialized contingent of Somalia security forces is being roped into local politics of clans in Hirshabelle while leaving its core mandate of securing the country unattended.

What is more? Somalia’s Cabinet Ministers have been saying this deployment was strange to them as there had been no discussion nor approval for it. Defense and Security Ministers claimed they were “unaware” of their deployment, referring to the usual permissions needed.

On Thursday, the Council of Ministers sat and agreed to have the troops withdrawn.

By Friday, the more than 400 troops had not left Beledweyne, and there were growing fears a clash could ensue. That is not the only danger, though. It signals just how broken the Somali government has been. What exactly are the reporting channels for these troops? And who authorized them to report to the area?

We understand the forces are expected to be entirely loyal to their force commanders, which means the troops on the ground cannot be blamed for simply obeying orders to report to duty. What needs to be done is an inquiry into the flow of commands. Do the forces decide on their own where to assemble and target, or do they await approval from the civilian authority? What is more, President Mohamed Farmaajo hasn’t responded to this despite raising serious security questions.

There may be nothing wrong with securing a state president on a visit, as long as the proper procedures are adhered to. But Somalia has bigger fish to fry. The ISIS menace has just shown its ability to infiltrate the Somali communities again after forcing traders in Mogadishu to shut down their shops for fear of being attacked unless they pay taxes. That and the menacing threat of al-Shabaab should focus on our security agencies.

To look elsewhere when the problem is at the center may seem like using a hammer to kill a fly. It may just not reflect the forces’ inability to remain apolitical. It shows our government needs urgent fixing so that there is a clear flow of mandates for the safety of everyone.

Mr. Gudlawe will owe us an explanation because he cannot claim to be unaware of these troop movements. Somalia needs urgent fixing to save gains made.


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