AXADLETM / EDITORIAL – The Somali-based Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Al-Shabaab may have struck hard in recent times, but it appears they are continuing to bounce back with deadly consequences.
This week, a UN panel of experts on Somalia published a report warning that the group remains a potent threat to peace and security in the region despite bombings by the Somali National Army, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and US air drone attacks.
Part of the reason, the panel claims, is that Al-Shabaab has been transformed into a floating organization, grown from being dependent on a source of revenue and infiltrated regular government ministries and served on missing or weak government institutions.
Its “mafia-like taxation” includes e.g. Planting officials in Mogadishu port to provide demonstrations of imports, which they use to demand ‘tax’ from businessmen as well as extortion of ‘protection’ fees.
In addition, the group aims to connect gaps that the government has left behind, such as. In the provision of justice in land disputes, child support or business agreements, no matter how rudimentary.
“Its ability to provide basic services, such as access to justice, may account for some of Al-Shabaab’s ongoing appeal in areas of Somalia where state institutions do not reach,” the experts wrote.
“As state justice is often costly, protracted and unpredictable, stakeholders often engage in dialogue with Al-Shabaab and request the group’s mediation on issues related to land ownership conflict.”
In the past year, al-Shabaab’s “unprecedented” increase in the use of improvised explosives aimed at government installations also coincided with the continuing bad blood between federal states and the federal government in Somalia.
In the Southwest, for example, violence erupted after former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtar Rubow was successively prevented from running for state presidency. The election later voted in Abdiaziz Mohamed “Laftagareen”, but the absence of agreement on who should run, allegations of bribery, continuous delays in voting and perceived interference from Mogadishu and Ethiopia, sowed seeds of disagreement.
Did it give Shabaabs a chance to expand its wings? Probably as allegations of similar interference in Puntland and Jubbaland may have taken the authorities off the ball. The latest battle is in Galmudug, where local clans associated with Ahlu Sunna protested against what they call the withdrawal of a power-sharing agreement with the deportation government.
Yet some Somali politicians claim that Al-Shabaab is a threat to the region and especially Somalia, no matter what system of government the country adopts.
“It is a vicious tool to stop Somalis from advancing and developing their lives,” said Somali lawmaker Abdulkadir Osoble, arguing that it would remain a threat, whether Somalis adopted a centralized system or a federal structure.
But the MP, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, accused the federal government of letting Shabaab rule, e.g. Strengthen the justice system that would make it easier for people to use.
“It is true, current leaders (have) failed to correct and reform the judiciary.”
A situation assessment from the think tank East African Center for Research and Strategic Studies (EACRSS) said that the provision of the ‘basic services’ has enabled Shabaabs to love themselves in the local communities, making it harder to be discovered.
“Al Shabaab’s ability to interfere with the population has effectively made it possible to infiltrate the state revenue collection points, mainly through force and coercion to obtain illegal taxes and money from Somali traders in exchange for protection,” the center said last week.
Correction of the justice system falls within a broader transition plan from Amisom, which includes setting up courts, getting judges, stabilizing security forces and retraining, as well as equipping them to form part of Somalia’s plan that could get Amisom to leave the country by 2021.
However, the panel of experts is doubtful that Amisom could implement the plan given the constitutional program that would get Somalia to hold general elections in 2021.
Part of the current problem, experts say, is that the interim constitution in Somalia does not specify the roles or boundaries of the federal government and federal states.
“I do not think so,” argued Abdimalik Abdullahi, an independent researcher in the Horn of Africa, dismissing al-Shabaab’s potential to subdue the federal system in Somalia.
“The guys are weak in terms of military ammunition and manpower. They are just lucky that they do not have serious authorities who will flush them out. ”
But he admitted that Shabaab is a complex issue that should force leaders to cooperate rather than haggle over personal interests.
“It takes more to neutralize them, as a different approach than military intervention. It is quite complicated, but it requires cooler heads to win, and Somali authorities are fully committed to carrying out this goal with the help of international partners. ”
Cooler heads will first have to sit down and draft a new supreme law that will guide the functions of the states. According to the UN panel, some federal states received cash from foreign entities and continued to enter into contracts or partnerships that Mogadishu did not like.
As the Provisional Constitution does not directly prohibit such commitments, it meant that each region could easily have a conflicting foreign or defense policy.
Yet Al-Shabaab members were found in a study with weapons supplied to a federal state, indicating a possible collapse on Earth.
When AMISOM officials were interviewed by the panel, they worried that the transition plan could be weakened by the government’s failure to implement replacements in areas Amisom had withdrawn, giving al-Shabaab the benefit.