In a dangerous new political gimmick, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia proposes arming clan militia to fight Al-Shabaab.
It is a new menacing gimmick that will fuel more chaos in the country and is expected to have a minuscule impact on the stated target.
Mohamud wants to implement this plan in Middle Shaballe, Hiiraan, Galgaduud and Mudug. These regions experienced a wave of new violence since Mohamud returned to Villa Somalia.
The violence is multi-layer. It is not only between opposing forces and Al-Shabaab.
A major factor contributing to the violence is one clan fighting another clan. This part of the violence is instigated by people that Mohamud appointed to high positions in his cabinet.
Among them are Ahmed Moalim Fiqi and Mahad Mohamed Salad. Fiqi is the interior minister and Salad is the director of intelligence.
These two men spent decades instigating clan violence in Mudug and Galgaduud regions. Both men mobilized clan militia against each other for political power. The latest iteration is consistent with their historical patterns. Now it is on a national scale.
In Galgaduud, two clan militia clashed in Labo-Gale, a short distance from Galinsoor, clashing over the festering issue of land use and ownership on August 28, 2022. This clash led to dozens dead, and dozens more wounded.
Fiqi linked land use disputes to instigate violence between clans in pursuit of political power in the state before being appointed as the interior minister. Fiqi is replicating his craft nationwide.
In Hiiraan, a state previously out of the reach of Fiqi and Salad, Mohamud held up as progress for arming clan militia. The bulk of the fighting here is between clan militias feuding over resources, land use, and local politics. Fiqi and Salaad are fueling this violence to orchestrate a coup against Ali Abdullahi Hussein (Guudlaawe), the current regional leader. Fiqi and Salad preferred Abdullahi Mohamed Ali (Sanbaloolshe), whom they consider more loyal to Mohamud.
Mohamud’s top lieutenants have a history of not being interested in basic nation-building concepts. They are more interested in organizing clans against each other. Allowing Fiqi and Salad to distribute state weapons to clan militia will perpetuate more violence, instability, and insecurity.
Some western financiers may find the idea of arming clan militia for counterinsurgency appealing. However, the idea is deeply flawed and failed spectacularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The so-called Sunni Awakening in Iraq is an EXBIHIT A. Here, Sunni tribes were flooded with American weapons to fight Al-Qaida.
The tribes’ men gladly accepted the military hardware. The hardware ultimately ended up in the hands of Al-Qaida. This military hardware was the source of the Islamic State(IS) conquering Iraq.
The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan is another example. American war tacticians embraced the group as vital in the opening salvos of the Afghanistan conflict. It was a weapon provided to this group that ended up in the hands of the Taliban which ultimately contributed to the fall of Afghanistan.
A more local version with lower intensity in Somalia of arming clan militia to fight insurgency is Puntland Security Force(PSF). PSF was established to help with counterinsurgency in the Puntland region of Somalia.
PSF has since become a source of conflict in the region. The militia group clashed with regional forces several times in Bossaso leading to immense death and destruction.
The literature on arming clan militia for counterinsurgency is filled with examples demonstrating that the idea is erroneous and often produces an opposite outcome. It certainly increases violence and instability for the location population.
An alternative is to build a national army. There are 5,000 Somali cadets trained by Eritrea ready to be deployed. Mohamud visited them and confirmed that his campaign propaganda of these cadets being used as human fodders in the Ethiopia civil war was baseless.
The first step in building a Somali national army is to maintain the current schedule for African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) to depart Somalia. ATMIS is no longer a fighting force in Somalia, and it morphed into a different organization with parallel political and economic interests to those of Somalia. ATMIS has become a resource of cash for countries contributing troops.
Maintaining the current exit timeline for ATMIS from Somalia will free up tremendous resources including cash for salary increases and military hardware for the Somali national army. Hence, it is time to end ATMIS.
Unfortunately, Mohamud’s track record is less keen on building a national army to secure the country. He presented no plan to deploy troops trained by Eritrea. He is seeking modifications to extend ATMIS presence.
In the meantime, Mohamud occasionally presents dangerous political gimmicks. Proposing to arm clan militia is the latest. He is more interested in collecting money for personal wealth and serving a small group of political loyalists. Both corrupt political practices foment more chaos in Somalia.
Author is a Technology Entrepreneur and long time civic leader. He tweets @fuguni. Follow him for more in-depth analysis.