EDITORIAL: The detrimental consequences of playing the blame game while combating Al-Shabaab
EDITORIAL: The second phase of Somalia’s battle against al-Shabaab has begun, and it is imperative for the country to remain united in this fight. Criticizing the forces on the frontline is counterproductive and undermines the collective effort.
Recently, there have been debates surrounding certain decisions made by the Somali National Army (SNA) and their allied militias, with some accusing them of disunity or colluding with the militants. For example, the tactical withdrawal of the SNA in Dhusamareb was aimed at minimizing casualties but resulted in the recapture of previously liberated territories. While there may have been miscalculations, it is unfair to accuse members of the SNA of working for al-Shabaab.
The SNA has its weaknesses, such as morale and equipment issues. However, this is not solely their fault. Somalia has been rebuilding its institutions for years and is still operating under an arms embargo, which restricts their access to weapons. Furthermore, combating terrorism incurs significant costs, including the sacrifice of limbs, equipment, and even lives. Recruiting and maintaining troops requires financial resources. The initial phase of the war against al-Shabaab largely relied on volunteer vigilantes, but a sustainable strategy necessitates more than just armed forces. Winning over the hearts and minds of the local population is crucial in preventing al-Shabaab from regaining support and recruits.
Winning the war against al-Shabaab requires more than social media criticism. While freedom of expression is important, we must be cautious of the detrimental effects of online banter. It can demoralize the troops, confuse the public, and potentially aid extremist recruitment efforts. Somalia cannot afford to backtrack in its fight against extremism; instead, it needs the unwavering support of its citizens.
During these challenging times, it is essential to distinguish between genuine criticism and malicious intent. Labeling every critic as an al-Shabaab supporter undermines democracy and creates divisions within society. The government should also refrain from using social media figures to attack critics or blindly support the administration.
Authorities must effectively communicate with the public and be transparent when faced with questions and concerns. Accountability should be a routine practice.