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Somalia: Al-Shabaab never left, so we must keep our heads focused


EDITORIAL | This week, the Somali militant group decided to ruin any lulls the region enjoyed as far as battling terrorism goes. And it came even as new Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was still doing laps of honor, touring the area and re-cementing ties.

On Friday, Hassan Ibrahim Lugbur, Minister for Justice in South West, was killed outside a mosque in Baidoa as he came from prayers. Witnesses said a suicide bomber targeted the Minister.

And according to reports, at least 21 Ethiopian troops were killed as the group’s fighters stormed Ethiopian soil earlier this week, for the first time, engaging in a shoot-out with local government forces. Ethiopia has said it killed more than 80 militants. Another attack had been reported on Friday, and it was possible more deaths could be reported.

But the incident shows that al-Shabaab is still capable of causing serious dents in our security system, not to mention the loss of lives.

Many analysts had warned that the terrorist group had never weakened but morphed into a cunning group of death merchants. They infiltrated the previous administration and imposed similar levies in what some called illegal taxation.

This week’s attack in Ethiopia represents the first breach of Ethiopia’s fortress against al-Shabaab. But they had tried before and failed. That the fighters came from Somalia means our porous borders compel governments in our region to do their part in securing the region. It proves an age-old argument that Somalia’s problems are indeed regional.

So what should Somalia do? Mohamud has inherited a still-weak system. His only source of hope is to continue cooperation with those who have supported our rebuilding. It means keeping friendships with all our neighbors and sharing critical information that can help isolate the terrorists.

Indeed each of our neighbors also faces its problems, and al-Shabaab may have looked at the region to see who was limping. Ethiopia’s continual conflict in Oromia and the war in Tigray may have turned its security focus to internal problems. Kenya is facing an election amid the drought. Eritrea is too uninterested in helping, while Djibouti is too small to play in more significant leagues. Yet each one has had a role to play.

The fact that most al-Shabaab fighters are often holed up in Somalia means Mogadishu will be required to do more. The militants had never left, even when they looked like they were lying low. Even when Mogadishu or other towns have enjoyed relative peace, Somalia must constantly look over its shoulder. Digging our heads in the sand or forgetting our troubles makes us more vulnerable. It is still President Mohamud’s priority to secure Somalia.


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