Monday, September 15, 2014

WE SHOULD NOT WASTE AL SHABAAB’S CRISIS



Last week terrorist group Al Shabaab lost its leader Muktar al Zubeyr “Godane” to an airstrike launched by the US, throwing the group into a crisis that the region must take advantage of to ensure peace and stability in the future.

Al Shabaab, meaning the youth, is an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) who were routed by the Ethiopian army in 2006. The ICU were a group of sharia courts that came together to form a rival administration to the Transitional Federal Government.

Al Shabaab has previously pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and under Godane, has sought to spread its brand of terrorism around the region, with deadly attacks in Kenya and Uganda.

Godane, who had a $5m bounty on his head, had purged many of his lieutenants and analysts think that it will be some time before the group is back on its feet.

This week the group announced a successor Ahmad Umar, who it can be expected will unleash more of the same. 

For the region who are the terrorist organisation’s first line of attack the unsettling -- however temporary, of the group is an opportunity that cannot go begging.

"The obvious thing would be to step up military operations in the short term. Put the group under intense pressure and hope to weaken them severely by death or defections of their fighters. Some observers have suggested that many of the rank and file are not in the fight out of any ideological conviction but see it as a source of livelihood. This tells you something about the desperate economic situation in the country...

This last point is where long term efforts have to be targeted. A resuscitation of the country’s economy is the only sustainable way to deny these terrorist organisation the foot soldiers to promote their deadly agenda.

But for the economy to have a chance peace and stability has to be restored to the country, which for more than a quarter of century has not had a coherent government. This is easier said than done as Al Shabaab is not the only group opposed to the seating government.

The African Union Mission Somalia (AMISOM) work propping up the government is a step in the right direction. War situations are often fluid and it would be foolhardy to put a definitive time frame to the exit of the foreign troops, but it is imperative that they work themselves out of the job by training law enforcement agencies to keep the peace but also the critical bureaucracy to run the war torn country.

The Somali people are the best people to sort themselves out and maintain stability. We should not lose sight of the fact that AMISOM is only there to nurture that process.

An even longer time initiative would be to resolve the issues that lead to the popping up of terrorist groups around the world. At the heart of the issue is the economic inequalities prevailing in the world that mean that for certain populations there is no hope for betterment of their living standards. This desperation feeds very well into the agendas of anarchist groups like Al Shabaab.

"So a regional force might pummel Al Shabaab and leave them for dead in the sands of Somalia, but soon another group, maybe even more ferocious, God forbid, will rear its head to take their place if the underlying issues are not tackled...

As long as these global inequalities persist, that lead to unfair political arrangements, there will always be a terrorist eager to be recruited.

Some circles may rejoice at the taking out of a major pillar of world terrorism, but those in the thick of things know that Godane’s demise may only offer momentary respite before its back to business as usual.

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