Somalia: daunting crisis of security

Somalia is still bleeding. It is suffering endless self-inflicted horrors. Al-Shabaab terrorists are the main culprits of the present carnage in Mogadishu and other towns. In the latest terrorist attacks on the courthouse in the capital, the Al-Shabaab attackers were said to have acquired and were wearing the uniforms of the national security forces.

The terrorist infiltration into government forces and the accusation that the Somali military and its soldiers have committed acts of rape against the poor displaced women and girls in the camps is bringing unquestionable disrepute and bad name to the government and its security forces.

It is widely accepted notion in every circle and discussion: that the government soldiers are undisciplined and unprofessional; that the Somali government soldier is not capable to protect the lives and properties of the people she or he serves; that the government relies on Amisom forces for its existence; that the safeguarding of the Somali state and officials is in the hands of the Ugandan soldiers in Mogadishu.

The whole national security is in total disarray and not working right. The command is clannish, factional and their formation or nomination is politically driven. The composition of the Somali security forces is derived from the same warring factions that destroyed Somalia. Even those soldiers that are trained outside of Somalia become part of the conflict and corruption when they return to the few government compounds that exist.

The president of Somalia has repeated several times that security is his top priority. He categorically stated in his speeches that security is his first, second and third priority. It seems the president talks the talk and walks the walk in foreign capitals. It looks like that the national security is relegated to the clan factions and the personal security of the president and other big heads is the priority of the government. Friends in Mogadishu recount that substantial amount of resources is allocated for the protection of the top officials in the government. The Supreme Court and its employees perhaps are not part of the top echelons of the government as evidenced by the latest terrorist attack. All important government buildings were supposed to have well-functioning and built security perimeters just like Villa Somalia and the ports.

Recognizing the failure and the ineffectiveness of the government to protect itself from terrorist attacks is overdue and after acknowledgement it demands reform. When the government acts on its pronouncements that security is the top priority with credible reform, then it would be able to create conditions for good governance and harmony.

The successive transitional governments lacked leadership and were incompetent. The current one seems to have inherited that and is following suit. Most government soldiers have no standard military training. They lack discipline, have no morale, are not paid well, have no personal benefits, depend on mental stimulants to function, and most of the ranks are illiterate.

The military regime of the past, in its early and golden days was able to build an above average national security force and Somalia’s military and police was ranked high and among the best in Africa. However, tribal infiltrations, dominations and the dictatorial regime’s use of the military as instrument of oppression tainted its credibility. The decimating civil war, coupled with the state failure of Somalia destroyed the basic structures of Somalia’s national security. Where to start and who to rely to build a modern, well-disciplined military and police forces that is sensitive to human rights and is aware of its dignity and duty to serve and protect the nation well is a mystery to many of the current leaders.

It would be dangerous and disastrous to reform Somali’s forces and security institutions on the past and present structures. The remnants of the previous regime should not be allowed to structure the military without supervision and guidelines. The clan is non-starter. As stated earlier, the current ranks in the military are composed of clan factions that cannot be reliable. Clan militias and factions must not be the basis to organize our military and security institutions. Any warlord deemed to have been powerful because of the number of loyal clan militia he commands and arsenal his clan owns should not be allowed to be part of the military. We have seen many known warlords promoted in the ranks. Some of them now boast of being generals and colonels. Our military and security forces must not be allowed to become instruments of violence against the people. The men and women serving the military must be recruited from the unarmed populace and those who had never participated in clan militias and warring factions. They should be trained to be loyal to the nation and not to the clan. They should be taught of the constitution of the nation, rule of the law, due process and human rights. The military should be independent of conflicting and competing power cliques within the government and be under untarnished and adept civilian rule. Above all the government soldiers should be in military barracks and gain good salary and have substantial benefits so that they will not sell out to the terrorists and clan factions.

With competent leaders in charge and consulting with the right people, Somalia’s military and police force can be reconstituted. It is not that gloomy or hopeless. Giving proper training and incentives to the men and women who serve in arms, could the Somali government not only eliminate the terrorist infiltrations and attacks in its ranks and sites but safe guard and protect the nation and its people. It is time to for Somali leaders to start doing something and stop the senseless travels and talks. Somalia needs effective policy makers that can build institutions and not suit wearing globe-trotting politicians. Until we find the right effective people to lead us out of this misery our security crisis would remain the same and the terrorists would be emboldened to carry more attacks to prolong Somalia’s endless horror.

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