The world must support Somalia against terror

In Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the dualities depicted in his pairing of contrasting concepts may serve as a perfect metaphor for Somalia’s struggle to be a peaceful and prosperous country.

A country that, contrary to as it’s officially termed now under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, is not a threat to itself nor the rest of the world.

Somalia is classified as a fragile nation recovering from over two decades of civil war, yet GDP grew by 4 per cent in 2021. The World Health Organisation reported in 2023 that 2 out of every 3 people living in Somalia suffer from some form of psychological disorder, yet Belgium and South Africa have higher suicide rates according to World Population Review report.

In 20 years, Somali people suffered terrorism unleashed by Al-Shabab. Yet, Somalis have pushed back the terrorists with marginal assistance from the outside world in the past six months. These dualities present a silver lining for pursuit of a secure and peaceful Somalia.

As exhibited by the Somali people and the federal government, there’s a palpable, strong will to rid the nation of the menace of Al-Shabab.

This includes ongoing public uprising and government-sanctioned military offensive which has liberated large swaths of territory, formerly safe haven for the terror groups, in HirShabelle and GalMudug states of Somalia.

After the liberation of a territory from the terrorists, stabilisation and holding forces should provide much-needed public services, from rebuilding debilitated infrastructure to establishing a sense of community ownership in the administration of their local affairs.

So far the Federal Ministry of Interior, Federalism and Reconciliation is doing a good job in engaging local community leaders and providing basic services, despite having very little resources.

What’s truly needed is a sense of urgency by Somalia’s international partners on two fronts, increasing the speed and scope of support to liberated territories, and scaling up military offensive to ensure a nationally coordinated effort to defeat Al-Shabab. United Nations, African Union, European Union and the United States have spent billions of dollars in the last three decades to respond to humanitarian needs and nation-building efforts in Somalia.

However, there’s been no opportunity as golden as the one presenting itself in Somalia now.

First and foremost, there’s a genuine nationwide uprising exacerbated by public desire to be free from Al-Shabab. Majority of Somalis are convinced that freeing the country from Al-Shabab is a noble cause. Secondly, there’s proof that citizens are actively involved in liberation efforts of the government.

Thirdly, President Hassan Sheikh and his administration have illustrated willingness to spend an immense political capital, coupled with significant success, on the war against Al-Shabab.

While the conventional wisdom of many politicians nowadays is to deny success if they’re not party to it, it’s my humble belief to advocate for what is in the long-term national, regional and international peace and security interests. It is incumbent on Somalia’s international partners to assist the government of President Hassan Sheikh with the military offensive as well as stabilisation and governance undertakings of all of Somalia.

While this is costly in the short term, failure to do so is far more expensive for the global community.

Developing an extensive, but short-term, Marshall plan to complement existing government efforts in stabilising newly liberated territories is essential.

Being mired in an existential war against a militant terrorist group with explicit Al-Qaida affiliation, Somalia can simply become another Afghanistan if inadequately supported by the West. Or become a model for defeating terrorism in other countries.

The choices are stark and the window of opportunity is closing fast. The right call is urgently needed to avoid the cost of inaction or inadequate action. The hearts of Somalis are already in this war, it’s high time to win the minds. And soon.

Mursal Khalif is a member of Somalia’s Federal Parliament, serving on the parliamentary national defence committee.  

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