The Horn of Africa Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Ascent and Tenacity of al Shabaab Somalia: Martial Guardianship, Diplomacy or Tribal Leaders’ Alternative Conflict Management Respublica Litereria Public Lecture – RL Vol. XIII No 579 MMXIX Costantinos Berhutesfa Costantinos, PhD Former Chairperson of the African Union Anti-corruption Advisory Board, &

The paper discusses the ascent and tenacity of al Shabaab and balances the current: martial guardianship against diplomacy and alternative conflict management to resolve the Somalia impasse. This is a follow up paper on Peacekeepers’ withdrawal from Somalia-A Somali Success Story or a new lifeline for Global Terrorism. To stabilise Somalia truly by force would require 100,000 troops. Putting another few thousand on the ground would only increase the violence. It could also necessitate sending soldiers from Ethiopia or other bordering states, bolstering al-Shabaab’s best argument for popular support. Moreover, it is the best alternative to escalating the violence and strengthen al-Shabaab (Bruton, 2010). It is essential that to resist the temptation to allow history to repeat itself. Instead, the élite should negotiate with al-Shabaab. It is not a monolithic movement; after all, al-Shabaab includes the religious leaders who controlled the Islamic Courts in 2006. While talking with them may be unappetising, but, one can and should negotiate with them directly, an effort that would be supported by most Somalis, who are desperate to be rid of foreign extremists. Mohammed Ibrahim Shire, 2019 asserts that tribal elders are capable of bridging the trust deficit between the government and al Shabaab-and they might be the only chance left for peace. In Somalia, without the peacekeepers to provide the rationale for its existence, al Shabaab would likely shatter from a religious crusade into nationalist warlords as was in the beginning of Somalia’s decline to lawlessness in 1991. Dialogue for peace with all stakeholders will finally prove that Somalia’s sheer un-governability is both its curse and its blessing. Somalia’s stability primarily relies on its own military and police forces to secure their own territory. In the Somali context, traditional elders have played a significant function in terms of security and social cohesion. They command authority, derived from a historical position within society that makes them useful in maintaining peaceful communal relationships. As experienced mediators of customary law, they have been instrumental in establishing relatively stable structures of governance, jurisprudence and security. Puntland and Somaliland serve as demonstrable examples where traditional elders mapped a mechanism to bring sustainable peace. Since 2010, they have facilitated defections of senior al Shabaab leaders as trustworthy guarantors. In the end, we have seen how disastrous it is to rely exclusively on martial action to stabilise nations. The Iraq, Syria and Yemen military intervention has only produced mayhem on the local populace killing more than a million citizens and displacing half of their populations. It brought the Daesh to destroy these nations using Western armour and guns. The West is now harvesting refugees, seeds that they bedded in Syria and global terrorism has moved to Western cities. Hence, there is the requisite need for hard thinking on how protagonists in Somalia can sit in and solve their problems.
Keywords: Somalia, al Shabaab, Amisom, martial guardianship, diplomacy, alternative conflict management
“I was only 17 when I met him. I knew he wanted to marry me and that he would take me back to school. After I found out he was an al-Shabaab fighter, I realised my life had been ruined. I knew he’d lied to me … but I had nowhere to go, so I decided to stay with him,” says Fatuma. After her husband had disappeared fighting in Somalia, Fatuma managed to escape and returned home to Kenya” (Al Jazeera. Daughters of al-Shabaab (2018)

Issue: 579
Volume: 13
Page Numbers: 583-598

  Costantinos 596  | The Ascent and Tenacity of al Shabaab: Martial Guardianship, Diplomacy, Alternative Conflict Management    and belong to a more complex universe of conflict management thought than any political group’s particular representation. 3.3.   Identifying the root causes of the conflict:  The conflict, one of the most significant wars since World War II, has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of combatants, displaced over a million people, destroyed essential infrastructure, and dislo-cated the economic production base of more than ten million people. It has ruthlessly driven back record achievements in the economic, social and political development of the recent past in both countries. In this sense, the religious leaders proposed the need to identify the root causes (going beyond the symptoms) of the conflict, if sustainable solutions are to be found to the problem. The following are some of the measures that need to be discussed in the meeting: Develop analytical, conceptual and organisational elements to investigate and address the root causes of the conflict to help ensure long-term success in peace building and the application of conflict resolution skills; Developing frameworks for sustainable peace in Somalia by understanding the root causes of the conflict Overcoming obstacles to effective communications between the contending parties Identifying facilitators for peace, setting a realistic timetable for mediation, evaluating success and failure; 3.4.   Develop a culture of and constituency for peace in Somalia Both nations need to discuss how can they mobilise their populace for peace and develop a culture of  peaceful co-habitation  . Towards this end, religious leaders must open dialogue on ways and means to  Educate the public on the need to show wisdom on dialogue related to the conflict;  Advocate for restraint of citizens in the use of arrogant propaganda that demeans / demonises races & tribes; Reinforce capacities to fight back blasphemy and irreverence to cultures, beliefs, human bonds in all occasions; Develop a methodology for psychosocial rehabilitation of IDPs, refugees, returnees and ex-servicemen. 3.5.   Building bridges between peoples, religious organisations and the state   An important task in bringing the work of the two nations to fruition is the capacity of the religious organisations to bridge trust and confidence with their respective governments. They need to discuss how this can be facilitated if the organisations are to remain credible in the eyes of the public and the international community. Building peace bridges between the peoples of Somalia focuses on extensive peace and civic education. Civic education is learning about and appreciating one’s rights, duties, obligations and responsibilities as a citizen and the immediate rules, laws and governance structures  within which one exercises citizenship is the first and fundamental step in peace and development participation. Their religion, culture, language, history and human make-up tie the people of Somalia are one. The religious leaders   need to discuss how this cultural, spiritual and historical strength can be deployed to promote people-to-people peace and reconciliation. It is vital to build trust and confidence among the population and the facilitation of a process designed to achieve peace in Somalia. The empowered involvement of grassroots groups is of crucial importance. 3.6.   Healing the wounds of war and displacement: Conflicts and genocide result in human displacement. People in the border have exercised migration as a major source of livelihood security in the recent past. The psychosocial, economic and socio-political sources of vulnerability that led to the massive displacement of children, women and men and options for reversing this horrendous human calamity must be treated as an agenda item. Psychosocial trauma management xii  Reintegration and rehabilitation xiii   Advocacy and empowerment xiv   

  Costantinos 597  | The Ascent and Tenacity of al Shabaab: Martial Guardianship, Diplomacy, Alternative Conflict Management    References and endnotes  AFP. UN to cut 1,000 troops from Somal  ia force (  The East African, 31 May 2019, Al Jazeera. Daughters of al-Shabaab  (27 Nov 2018,    Alder, Emmanuel, Seizing the middle ground  , (   European Journal of International Relations  , V.3, 1997)  Anyadike, Obi. Countdown to AMISOM withdrawal: Is Somalia ready?  ( IRIN, Kampala, 28 February 2017)  AU (African Union). Somalia holds high-level security conference to deliberate on a security transition plan  ( Mogadishu, 4 Dec 2017)   BBC, Somalia Profile  , (BBC. 2015, )  Bruton, Bronwyn. In Somalia Talk to the Enemy  (Washington, New York Times July 24, 2010) Costantinos, Berhutesfa, Political transition in Africa  , (Washington, DC., GCA, 1996)   Costantinos, Berhutesfa. Peacekeepers’  withdrawal from Somalia – A Somali Success Story or a new lifeline for   Global Terrorism   (  Respublica Litereria,  Academia  , 2006, RL Vol XI No CCCXIII, MMXVII ) Kelley, Kevin J and Aggrey Mutambo. Push in US to stop Kenya’s bid for UN sanctions on Shabaab   (  The East  African   9 Aug 2019, fbgcHs0CBUBjaJ1VTfL8oN.dl4KoNy6HB7rHUfiIQ ) Mutambo, Aggrey. Kenya’s plea to UN to classify Al-Shabaab a terrorist   (  The East African  , 31 Jul 2019,, C.; Thomas, G. & Wohlgenant, T. The Role of Alternative Conflict Management in Community For- estry  ,  (Rome, FAO, Forests, Trees, and People Program Phase II Working Paper No. 1 , Sept 1994 ) Shire, Mohammed Ibrahim.  Negotiating with Somalia’s   al Shabaab: It’s   the traditional elders, stupid   (TRT, 8 Jul 2019, accessed 10 Aug 2019, ) Snow, Shawn,  AMISOM withdrawal tests U.S. mission in Somalia  (CFC, 9 Nov 2017)  Tawane, Abdi AMISOM is leaving. What it means for Somalia  (  International Policy Digest,  20 Nov 2017) i   Since its birth in 2006, al Shabaab has been regularly orchestrating acts of terrorism throughout Somalia. Widely regarded as second to Nigeria’s Boko Haram in its use of violence in Sub  -Saharan Africa, Al Shabaab was in 2017 recog  nised as Africa’s most deadly militant Islamist group by Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). In Oct 2017, the group was credited with carrying out the world’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11, claiming the lives of 587 people and inj  uring hundreds more. Years before it subscribed to Al Qaeda’s ideology and hardened its callousness and outright brutality, Al Shabaab was susceptible to reaching a negotiated ceasefire to end Somalia’s bloody civil war. However, through a series of seriou  s missteps executed by previous Somali governments, the window for a peaceful negotiation was never opened.   ii   The rebel group said it would stop attacking Kenya if Nairobi pulls its troops from Somalia. However, it is hard to see that happen, as it will be viewed as a victory for them. For now, the game of cat and mouse between Kenyan security  forces and al-Shabaab continues with no sign of an end anytime soon.   iii   Osman, who was nicknamed Engineer Yarisow (“Young Engineer”), had tried to clean up the city an  d rebuild its battered infrastructure. Ben Fender, the UK’s ambassador to Somalia, pledged to help to continue the reconstruction work that Osman had begun.  Al-Shabaab was chased out of Mogadishu in 2011, but the capital is still hit regularly by the militants, who retained control of large swaths of the countryside. Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, a spokesperson for the  president, said the mayor’s death would unite Somalis in the fight against extremism. “We extend our condolences to the  family and friends of the mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, and we share our grief regarding this painful death with the entire Somali public,” he said in a statement. The US mission to Somalia in a tweet called Osman “an excellent partner

  Costantinos 598  | The Ascent and Tenacity of al Shabaab: Martial Guardianship, Diplomacy, Alternative Conflict Management    and tireless advocate for the people of Mogadis  hu and all Somalis”. Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of mourning for the mayor, ordering flags be flown at half-mast  . iv    Officially, under the UN, terrorism is seen as a global threat but only Al-Qaeda and ISIL are listed are terror  groups. Previous bids to have the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency listed was opposed by the US and the UK over fears  Nairobi would want to be delisted as a participant in the Somalia-   Eritrea sanctions regime. Kenya’s troops are part of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) forces. Amisom was established in 2007 with troops  from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda deployed in south and central Somalia     v     Al-Shabaab carried out two major attacks in Mogadishu using 28 improvised explosive devices, said the review. Last week, a former Somali foreign minister was among five people killed in a car bombing in Mogadishu that was claimed by the Shabaab. AMISOM has troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda deployed in south and central Somalia.    vi   . Nevertheless, U.S. forces have already stepped up strikes against militants. In early September, U.S. forces launched a series of three airstrikes against al Shabaab. Moreover, on Nov. 9  th   , U.S. forces conducted another strike killing several Shabaab militants, according to a recent AFRICOM press release. Officials at the State Department do not support any further withdrawals below the UN mandated caps. The U.S. supports a conditions-based AMISOM drawdown that is tied to the stand-up of capable, professional Somali security forces     vii   The AU Special Representative emphasised unity of Somali leaders, as a key prerequisite for achieving lasting  peace AS security reforms could not be effectively implemented in the absence of unity. Extreme poverty, insurgence, intolerance, entrenched community grievances, ideological competition and violent extremism are some of the important  factors influencing the recurrent volatile political and security environment. The unity of the Somali leadership is needed for these challenges to be tackled comprehensively, concurrently and with renewed determination and urgent provision of resources from the international community to enable Somali forces to execute their respective mandates successfully     viii   In recent years, a range of external actors has played a role in training the SNSF. These foreign actors include the  European Union, Turkey, the UAE, U.S. and a private security company, Bancroft Global. Although their help has been valuable, the lack of consistency and proper coordination of training was a challenge to the SNSF.   ix   Since the killing of Godane in 2014 and the ascension of his protégé, Abu Ubayda, the group’s position on the  government remains unchanged. Both sides are stuck in a deadlock, unable to shift the dynamics of the conflict.   x   For instance, in 2008, Oromo elders persuaded leaders of the armed group Oromo Liberation Front to sign an agreement to hold peace talks with the Ethiopian government. Similarly, during the final years of the South African apartheid regime, religious leaders led by Desmond Tutu successfully mediated first-time negotiations between different  factions and the apartheid regime    xi   Hassan Dahir Aweys, Al Shabaab’s former spiritual leader, defected in 2013 aft  er having a falling out with Al Shabaab’s top brass. Initially, he was reluctant to surrender but following months of negotiations with government officials   –   facilitated by traditional elders of his clan   –   Aweys ultimately surrendered later in 2013 and has been in government custody since. In a similar vein, Mukhtar Robow, a co-founder and former deputy leader of al Shabaab, surrendered in 2017.   xii   The agenda is to mitigate the effects of trauma through creating an enabling environment for social counselling, trauma management and re-establishing livelihood security to returnees.   xiii   The most serious human distress and trauma arise from material deprivation. The loss of property, the lack of shelter, food, fuel and water are often legitimate causes to deprive people of the mental preparedness for survival. Here the objectives are to assist in the development of the necessary programme environment, strategy, organisational framework and process for integrated area-based and community-based development it is also to develop in tandem with other organisations, poverty alleviation programmes in selected districts where the conflict has hit the hardest and enhancement of local capacities to undertake endogenous development;    xiv    The advocacy underpinning a conflict-rehabilitation-development continuum must be established. The meeting must chart out new policy, strategy, and programme development exercises are needed to ensure a comprehensive and coherent  policy environment for going back to the status quo ante. It is necessary to address the issue of mass awareness, state  preparedness and support of the international peace-loving community in creating a national consens


Publication Date: 2019
Publication Name: Respublica Litereria

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