To the disappointment of the Shabaab terrorist group, efforts towards meeting the African Union Mission in Somalia’s (Amisom’s) objective of stabilising Somalia continue to pay off, and change the history of the war-ravaged country. The election of Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed as the President of the Republic of Somalia is the latest and strongest indication that change is coming.
Since 1993, Somalia has been a dysfunctional state characterised by endless chaos. Any government that assumed power was quickly and easily consumed by claims of associating with militant organisations or threats by the same or warring terrorist gangs. The country was also a popular training ground for terrorists and positioned as the Achille’s heel in the Gulf, primed for piracy.
As we congratulate the newly-elected leader, we must also laud the choice of the people of Somalia to work towards a stable and peaceful country. Kudos must also go to the military, police and civilian components operating under Amisom for their neutrality and creation of a conducive environment for the people to conduct elections and exercise their democratic rights. Notably, this success comes at a cost. Too many lives have been lost in the quest for a peaceful Somalia. When Kenya invoked chapter 6 of the Charter of the United Nations in hot pursuit of al-Shabaab, its newspapers splashed the story under a headline summarised as “It is war”.
When Ugandan troops were deployed to Somalia, this was cynically summarised as a “dead-on-arrival” mission. Today, scribes on defence and security desks, especially those who have been embedded in any of the sectors in Somalia, have a different reality of what was, is and can be. To appreciate Amisom’s accomplishments, one must reflect on Somalia several years ago, without a central government, the days when, upon engaging in dialogue for reconciliation, with the key stakeholders, some would leave the negotiating table over clan differences. Then, meetings and subsequently the government in its infancy, were run from outside Somalia.
Those were the days when the President of Somalia would be rescued by Kenya’s military in the Northern Frontier hounded by militant groups. Juxtapose this against the reality of Somalia today, the idea of a Cabinet meeting being held outside the country would be unthinkable.
The Somali military has also metamorphosed in name, character and professionalism. Contrast the days of a “Ras Kamboni Brigade” with the wholesome Somali National Security Forces we have today, a growth nurtured by Amisom forces through joint operations and training. Through these engagements, a richer partnership has been forged. The Somalis have the advantage of language, accurate terrain assessment, intelligence and closer ties with the locals, which has greatly improved the relations between locals and Amisom forces.
It’s a relationship which eases the tension among Somali refugees being encouraged to go back to their motherland and rebuild it with their ideas and expertise.
The efficacy of the security parameters initiated by Amisom and sustained by peace-loving Somali nationals have gradually sealed and frustrated the entry and movement of weapons into Somalia. This has also denied foreign fighters access to the country.
Every area the Amisom forces traverse, be it on patrol or use as main supply routes, is automatically elevated to safer roads and environments. With this safety, micro-economies are booming, contributing to overall economic growth. Locals trade without fear of violence, financial extortion, loss of capital, or death. The benefits also extend to access to clean and sufficient water. Within Sector II, in Dhobley, Hoosingo and Afmadhow, the Kenya Defence Forces have drilled wells and sunk boreholes, in addition to building a mosque and refurbishing educational institutions. The Kenya military also operates permanent and mobile health clinics.
Incidentally, livestock was exported from the Port of Kismayu in June last year, after nearly 20 years of inactivity. Somalia’s silver lining is projected by the institutionalisation and structuring of administrative protocols and procedures. Kismayu International Airport is fully operational and levies collected from cargo, air transport and other economic activities are equitably distributed among the government ministries and also further through to clan representation. This accountability paves the way for a culture of development conscientiousness and patriotism.
Abdul Mohamed is a consultant on governance, law and security (Somalia).