President Dr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud: An Unconventional Optimist!
By Ahmed M. Roble
Thursday September 21, 2023
In a significant endeavor led by the Somali leadership, international partners, and local communities, a major counter-insurgency operation has commenced with the goal of eradicating the militant group Al-Shabab in Somalia. This operation, initiated after Al-Shabab’s defeat in a clash with the former governor of the Hiran region, Ali Jeyte Osman, has achieved critical success in the regions of Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle of Hir-Shabelle, Gal-Guduud, and parts of Mudug in Gal-Mudug state of Central Somalia. Since August 2022, the local militia known as Ma’awisley and the Somali National Army (SNA) have achieved successive victories over the Al-Qaeda affiliated group. The eviction of Al-Shabab from various cities by local troops, African Union peacekeepers (ATMIS), and Somali government forces has resulted in significant losses for the group in central Somalia, their traditional stronghold.
After the 2022 elections in May, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has prioritized security and waged war against the insurgent group. His approach encompasses ideological and military aspects, and he has taken a leading role in the ongoing offensive in Central Somalia against Al-Shabab. As the first phase of the war against the terror group nears completion, attention is now turning towards the second phase, which will shift the battle to the southern regions of Jubaland and South-West State. Efforts are focused on stabilizing the recently liberated areas in the central regions and mobilizing communities in preparation for the upcoming phase. The objective of the second phase is to dislodge Al-Shabab from southern Somalia, their stronghold for the past 16 years.
President Hassan, currently serving his second term, is highly dedicated to this war. As an academic and politician with deep knowledge of the country’s history, he considers the security of his nation the biggest obstacle to prosperity. He is fully committed to the fight against Al-Shabab and has taken various measures, including the signing of an anti-terror law and implementing financial crackdowns. These efforts have resulted in the freezing of numerous bank accounts and mobile money accounts linked to the group. Furthermore, the president has mobilized Somali clerics to issue a fatwa condemning Al-Shabab as anti-Islam. His presence in Dusamareb has maintained pressure on the group and prevented them from regrouping. Under President Hassan’s leadership, Somalia is clearly making progress in the first phase of the war against the terrorists.
Somalia is predominantly a religious and moderate Sufi society. The population is overwhelmingly Islamic, with only a small fringe holding extremist views. This fringe, mostly comprised of students who studied in Saudi Arabia in the past, espouses rigid and intolerant religious beliefs. They have sought to impose these views on others and have been indoctrinated into terrorism by external forces. Since the state collapsed, this small group has gained prominence and amassed wealth, leading to the emergence of terrorism in Somalia. Al-Shabab capitalized on the anger among the Somali people caused by Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006, recruiting thousands of impressionable boys with a nationalist and anti-foreign occupation agenda. The group thrived in the southern part of the country and established a presence in cities and rural areas, engaging in acts of violence such as target killings, bombings, sieges, and suicide attacks. In order to successfully combat this menace, it is crucial to address the underlying factors that contribute to terrorism, including poverty, socio-economic deprivation, and illiteracy.
The fight against terrorism requires support at various levels. The international community must provide assistance, similar to the commitment demonstrated by President Hassan. The diaspora community also has a role to play in offering support. Additionally, comprehensive domestic support and mobilization are essential to eradicate this menace from Somalia. President Hassan’s bold optimism, effort, and strategy deserve commendation. It is imperative to continue addressing terrorism through logical and proactive approaches, engaging the silent majority and remaining vigilant against the reemergence of extremist elements. Education should focus on teaching the true values and spirit of Islam, emphasizing self and societal emancipation. Muslim countries facing similar challenges can learn from each other’s experiences. With President Hassan’s leadership, much can be achieved if the operations remain focused and determined.
Ahmed Holds writes about the contemporary politics, governance, and development of Somalia. He can be reached at [email address].