EDITORIAL: As Somali intelligence displays exemption, who will cut their legs off?

EDITORIAL | Somalia National Intelligence and Security Agency [NISA] is a noble organization. But it seems run by those who like to trade evil and impunity.

This week, Fahad Yasin, the head of NISA revoked the dismissal orders of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble against two agents who had been implicated in violations against political leaders.

Yasin overturned the dismissal, and therefore normalized impunity. The agency also fought against allegations that its top executives organized the disappearance of an agent suspected of landing on sensitive information.

Legally speaking, the creation of the NISA was legitimate. Based on the issues the country had gone through with Al Shabaab and the institutional collapse, a stable intelligence team was needed to predict the issues and how to deal with them.

It is true that the agency has had problems in the past, including infiltration of the wrong people and a general lack of professionalism. Under Yasin, however, NISA became the long hand with which the administration of President Mohamed Farmaajo tamed its opponents.

The incidents at the airport earlier this month when opposition politicians were arrested and prevented from traveling were not simply impunity. It also showed that Yasin is now untouchable.

Under civilized conditions, NISA is supposed to help the country heal by exposing any plans to derail peace or security. Instead, Yasin used him as an attack dog against politicians. Many of these politicians have lodged formal complaints, but Somalia’s justice system, whose institutions are close to death, has allowed NISA to thrive by breaking the law.

In an election season where politicians have to travel across the country to market their policies or their candidacy, it becomes evident that reducing their travel is working for President Farmaajo. Prime Minister Roble did well to show the two rogue agents the door, signaling his discontent with impunity.

But we also know that he is a Farmaajo employee who hired him to work only while he loves her. This means that Roble can do little to push Yasin’s hand. As Farmaajo’s close ally, Yasin may well consider himself above the law, as long as his boss sticks around.

His answer has not yet arrived, as he was traveling to London to attend the World Education Summit. But if these two agents continue to work, NISA risks losing public trust, turning it into a mercenary organization.

Somalia, however, does not need rogue agents or mercenaries. After being battered by conflict, drought and flooding for three decades, the last thing Somalis want now is to spend their money on building an institution that backfires.

So who will cut off NISA’s legs before it becomes damaged commodity? The greatest weapon is to support a free and fair election. A credible election will dilute their overbreadth and bring together a group of leaders who will not tolerate impunity.

When Somalia finally emerges from the primitive tricks that NISA has tried and learns to focus on its function of securing Somalia, the agency will not worry about disturbing the peace of harmless politicians.

Somalia will rise and rise on the basis of institutions that function under the law. In time, the outlaws of NISA will find no more air to breathe.


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