As the world struggles to come to terms with last week’s bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, questions abound as to the most effective way to deal with the Somali-based terror group Al-Shabaab.
The weekend attack, which has been termed as the deadliest terror attack in Somalia, has left at least 300 people dead and scores of others badly injured, with the director of Amin ambulances, a local emergency response company, fearing that the death toll may rise since more people are still missing.
Rescue workers, who are still busy at the scene, say the actual number of fatalities may never be established because the intense heat generated by the explosives has burned most of the victims to ashes.
Reports indicate that the attack, which happened right at the center of Mogadishu, involved a truck filled with hundreds of kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives. The horrific attack is alleged to have been carried out by al-Shabab, although the group is yet to claim responsibility.
A Lasting Solution
Since the ongoing civil war broke out in Somalia more than two decades ago, the country has suffered numerous horrendous attacks by the jihadist group, which recently swore its allegiance to the Iraqi-based terror network al-Qaeda.
Despite the concerted efforts between Somali forces and foreign peacekeeping troops from the African Union and the U.S., the attacks continue to happen and the terror group appears to be getting even more lethal in its assaults.
The organization has even taken its war across the Somali borders to neighboring countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, in retaliation to their involvement in the ongoing peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Although the peacekeeping forces have managed to dismantle the group to a large extent, the war appears to be far from over. So, the question that many East Africans are asking themselves is: What will it take to completely stamp out al-Shabab?
According to some experts, the best approach will be to first of all identify the reasons why the terror organization appears to be growing more resilient every day. These experts maintain that local and foreign troops in Somalia have for a long time been blind to this fact, which has consequently worked to their disadvantage.
They further argue that the government of Somalia together with its donors, including the United Kingdom and the United States, has mainly focused on using force to fight the terror group, while neglecting other more sustainable approaches like developing political unanimity and lawfulness within communities.
Conversely, the Somali government has failed to exhibit a comparative value to the terror group in many parts of the country. For instance, al-Shabab often presents itself as the custodian of justice in Somalia, operating mobile courts in many parts of the country.
In most instances therefore, Somalis prefer to go to the group for arbitration because they are assured of getting instant justice. What’s more, the group is now employing the same strategy in other sectors such as health, security, and business.
And so, for the government of Somalia to weaken and eventually defeat al-Shabab, it must come up with an inclusive security plan that focuses not just on the military might but the broader inclusion of political and social dynamics.
by Fredrick Ngugi