REPORT: How to revive the broken Somali National Army
MOGADISHU, Somalia – For over three decades, Somalia has struggled to rebuild a security force free from clan antagonism and Al-Shabaab infiltration, but these efforts appear to face obstacles and may consequently delay the project, which has been going on for years.
There are three categories of security forces in Somalia; the Somali National Army [SNA], the Somali Police Force and the National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA] which has a mandate to take care of the security and stability of the country.
Research conducted by the Heritage Institute of Policy Studies [HIPS] established some of the issues that were discouraging by Somalia’s security forces, in particular political incompatibility between Somalia’s fragile political elite, who quite spectacularly have not found a common ground on the outstanding state – building issues such as security architecture.
HIPS noted that the politicization of the security forces is fierce and the leaders of the FGS and federal member states [FMS] tends to prioritize the security of the regime over national security.
Instead of fighting Al-Shabaab and enforcing the rule of law, the report adds, “some or many of the country’s various security forces are exposed to enforcing the law of the ruling elite and deepen the distrust that many Somalis and international partners have about Somali security forces.”
Corrosive misgovernment also exists as an obstacle to the restructuring of Somalia’s security forces. Although commendable progress has been made over the last few years in the fight against corruption through the purge of ‘ghost soldiers’ and the introduction of biometric registration and electronic wage payments, the underlying corrupt cultures remain entrenched.
The report stated that officers are promoted through nepotism and clan affiliation to buy loyalty and consolidate power and destroy the morale of the security force. High turnover of top brass also destabilizes the security forces and weakens command and control, resulting in poor accountability, the report adds.
The ongoing financial crisis is another major obstacle limiting the ability of the security sector to recruit, train and equip officers. Along with high attrition rates, FGS is struggling to generate sufficient strength to achieve its goal of “clearing, maintaining and rebuilding” communities.
By and large, the security sector is heavily dependent on a few highly trained special forces, most notably the US-trained Danab Brigade and the Turkish-trained Gorgor and Haram’ad units. It is estimated that Danab conducts 80 percent of all operations and 100 percent of counter-terrorism operations.
With the expected downsizing of AMISOM forces in the coming years and the geopolitical rivalry among external actors, the coming years could be crucial for Somalia’s emerging security forces. Perhaps a silver lining is that Al-Shabaab no longer poses an existential threat to FGS, even though it is still a deeply disruptive and potent force across the country.
It has proven to be skilled and agile during intense U.S. airstrikes and ground operations. Based on a sophisticated underground network, the militant group has turned into a criminal syndicate and is collecting as much revenue as the FGS from Mogadishu, Bossaso and other major cities, the report notes.
Reconstruction of Somali forces
The Somali-based think tank notes that structural barriers to rebuilding Somalia’s security sector may seem like an “insurmountable” task, but with committed leadership, these challenges can be addressed.
According to HIPS, FGS and FMS executives should return to the London Security Pact as a temporary framework for cooperation with National Security Architecture as a foundation. In this regard, it said FGS and FMS [at senior officials level] should open an urgent dialogue within the national security architecture aimed at phasing out the fires in Gedo and Hiiraan and reaffirming the London principles.
In addition, leaders should commit to depoliticizing security forces below [and afer] the federal election, in line with Article 127 of the Provisional Constitution. The politicization of security forces at the federal and state levels has the most negative impact on the long-term reconstruction of a responsible, accountable and acceptable security force.
Secondly, within the framework of the national security architecture, FGS and FMS leaders should establish the National Security Commission as provided for in Article 111G of the Provisional Constitution. This council should be the permanent replacement for the National Security Council and should be able to establish broad policy guidelines for security in a post-conflict and federal Somalia.
Thirdly, the FGS should immediately implement the recent policy for the promotion and relegation of the security sector in accordance with Article 111G of the Interim Constitution.
This would make it harder for politicians to encourage promotions based on loyalty or clan affiliation. It would also lead to professionalization and institutionalization of the security sector.
Fourth, the FGS and FMS leaders must discuss and compromise on the 15 outstanding articles in the review of the interim constitution. The continuing rivalry over protracted constitutional issues is a key factor in all political strife in Somalia. While the opposing sides may not conclude the discussions on all 15 articles during this election cycle, they should at least agree on the relatively easier ones with a patriotic spirit.
Fifth, the United States should seriously consider returning its troops to Somalia. President Biden was Vice President when these troops were sent to Somalia, and many of his senior officials understand the strategic importance of their role in Somalia’s long – term stability and security. The investment in Danab Brigade is too big to fail.
Sixth, the leaders of FGS and FMS should [afer elections] objectively review the role of external actors in rebuilding a competent security force. Within the National Security Council, efforts must be made to complete duplication of work and streamline training and equipment efforts from partners.
The NSC should also review the continued presence of Ethiopian and Kenyan forces in Somalia. If they find that they are not helping the nation in its earnest attempt to revive its forces, they must immediately order them out of the country. There is plenty of evidence to support our neighbors’ bad intentions. However, FGS should maintain a good neighborly relationship with both.
Somalia is almost dependent on backups from AMISOM troops, whose mandate is set to expire upon full implementation of the Somali Transitional Plan [STP] which is expected to be completed in December 2021. There are close to 22,000 AU peacekeepers in Somalia.
The Mogadishu-based think tank quotes in most of its scientific studies Axadleand in appreciation our articles. The articles are well researched and balanced due to editorial independence.