Abdi Noor: Hassan Sheikh, right candidate for Nobel Peace Prize
NAIROBI, Kenya - The current onslaught against Al-Shabaab, political stability and economic revolution signals in Somalia are enough to hand President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, argues Abdi Noor Mohamed, a Nairobi-based security consultant with conflict resolution experiences from the United Kingdom.
Since the ouster of military ruler Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been under persistent conflict, ranging from internal political squabbles, inter-clan fights and now, violent extremism. The resurgence of Al-Shabaab and IS-Somalia militants has even made it difficult for the country to form a stable government.
But for the last six months, there has been significant progress in all aspects, with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud taking credit, particularly in the economic revolution and military gains in the Al-Shabaab war. These, Noor opines, are strong grounds to make Hassan Sheikh a strong candidate for Nobel Peace Prize consideration this year.
The Nobel Peace Prize is the most coveted and most discussed among other Nobel Prizes. Alfred Nobel, the man behind the idea of the Prize, stated the prize be awarded, among others, to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
Africa has produced notable Nobel Peace laureates, key among them former South African President Nelson Mandela, Kenya's environmentalist Prof. Wangari Maathai and most recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Dr Ahmed's recognition has triggered mixed feelings due to the conflict in the Tigray region and other parts of Ethiopia.
When he was elected for the second term in May 2022, Hassan Sheikh reiterated his commitment to push for harmony and reconciliation in the country. At that time, Somalia was hugely divided along political, ethnic and even social lines, making it extremely ungovernable.
And despite the challenges, Noor observes, Hassan Sheikh has managed to address both clan and sub-clan differences, building most of his efforts on consultation and reconciliation. Reconciliation, he notes, is the noblest cause any Somali leadership can leverage for tangible economic transformation.
Luckily, he says, Article 111I of the Somali Constitution indicates the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ‘‘foster national healing, reconciliation, and unity, and to ensure that matters relating to impunity, revenge, and other triggers of violence are addressed through a legal and state-directed process’’.
On diplomatic fronts, Noor says, President Hassan Sheikh has embraced diversity in East Africa and along the Horn of Africa, making memorable trips which are beneficial to Somalia. Since his victory in May 2022, Hassan Sheikh has visited Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea, Djibouti and Ethiopia to foster improved foreign relations.
By having good relations with the countries in the East African region, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud could achieve better cooperation from these countries towards the fight against al-Shabaab. The cooperation could also hasten Somalia’s admission to the East African Community, he adds.
Although the President has not stated this categorically, some pundits within the region interpreted a ‘Somalia in harmony with the world’ to mean that the revanchist and the irredentist policy of Somalia may soon be coming to an end. Somalia has previously advocated for the restoration of territories that it strongly felt formerly belonged to her. Somalia has not yet withdrawn from this stance.
Hassan Sheikh has been on the frontline spearheading the war against Al-Shabaab, which is now on the horizon according to security pundits. Early this year, the president noted that Al-Shabaab could be completely eliminated from Galmadug and HirShabelle states which they have controlled for over a decade.
So severe has been the onslaught, that over 300 Al-Shabaab militants have reportedly been killed. The group has lost some of the most strategic towns including Gal'ad and Haradhere towns in central Somalia, where they were evicted about a week ago by security forces with the help of US Africa Command, ATMIS and the local militia.
Apart from the difficulty in ending the insurgency, other challenges abound. For the local security apparatus to have the necessary skills and training, the Somali government must carry out comprehensive Security Sector Reform. Additionally, the government should avoid human rights abuses in its current military operation.
Al-Shabaab insurgency is the single biggest obstacle to a peaceful Somalia. The insurgency has killed hundreds of thousands of Somalis and destroyed the country’s economy. It has not spared the neighbouring countries either. It has attacked Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
Besides activating military fronts, President Hassan Sheikh has turned his focus to scaling down the group's financial taps by putting financial institutions and business owners on notice. Al-Shabaab has been running an annual budget of $100 million mainly from local revenue.
Further, the president is championing for incorporation of clerics and religious scholars in the ideological fight against Al-Shabaab. Last week, over 300 clerics met in Mogadishu where they supported calls to end violent extremism while promising to discourage youths from being recruited by the militants.
Empirical evidence supports the President’s assertions. In their 2008 lengthy study, – How terrorist groups end: lessons for countering Al Qaida, Seth G. Jones, and Martin C. Libicki, looked at 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006 and examined how terrorist groups ended, he says.
They found that; ‘‘Terrorist groups end for two major reasons: Members decide to adopt nonviolent tactics and join the political process (43 per cent), or local law-enforcement agencies arrest or kill key members of the group (40 per cent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups [7 per cent]’’.
Hassan Should be the first president under the newly introduced federal system [2012-17] but lost to Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed better known as Farmajo in viciously contested 2017 polls. He would bounce back last year after a protracted political duel that saw Farmajo attempt to extend his term in office.