Somalia: On Sunday al-Shabaab released a new photo report showing its leaders, including spokesman Ali Dheere, distributing Zakat in US dollars in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia.
ITCT Associate Jasmine Opperman says, “Though the Somali government has implemented heightened security measures in Mogadishu, sustained attacks in Mogadishu, show al-Shabaab resolve and intent. Continued attacks are attributed to al-Shabaab control of areas in the proximity of Mogadishu, allowing movement and to some extent freedom to use main roads leading into the capital. More than this al-Shabaab is reliant on collaboration, even by silence, on its presence and assimilation into communities surrounding Mogadishu. Shadow government functions are the ideal vehicle to gain some level of acquiescence from these communities in dire need of not only security but socio-economic support. For now sustained level of attacks by al-Shabaab in Mogadishu show the group’s success in a current two pronged strategy of attacks and gaining sufficient support from communities, though such support do not necessarily reflect allegiance to its extremist ideology.”
“The severity of a Somali state in search of social cohesion and control is evident in the manner which al-Shabaab is able to persist not only with attacks, but also creating alternative government structures”, Jasmine adds. “al-Shabaab does not necessarily have popular support in Somalia, but those rejecting its ideology, tactics and forced recruitment simply lacks a state capacity and societal cohesion to revert. Hence, a situation of silent acquiescence for survival or official exploitation (read corruption and irregular activities) to serve individual interests has become institutionalized within society. Individual and/or tribal associations and bonds have replaced hope of a Somalia in the process of becoming a consolidated functioning state. al-Shabaab presents no better alternative, is extreme in behavior and does not shy away from viewing citizens being killed as collateral damage. Yet simultaneously, time has allowed the group to become a permanent feature of the Somali landscape, integrating into local communities and even convincing some sectors of community life that its executions are just. Hence, the execution of people not adhering to its ruthless ideological behavior is sold as the outcome of a court proceeding and/or the paying of taxes carries with it the benefit of security, not to be found anywhere else. Somalia is in need of some level of social cohesion and institutional stability in in order to counter one of the more sophisticated extremist groups on the African continent, al-Shabaab. The Government needs tangible indicators of progress in the daily lives of the Somali people, such as health care, food supplies, education and a non-compromising stance towards corruption, which are of equal importance to countering al-Shabaab complemented by a security force trusted by all. Relying solely on force via AMISOM, foreign training and assistance as well as drone attacks are all providing a glimmer of hope quickly overshadowed by the next al-Shabaab attack or seizing control of areas. The absence of a Government projecting an enterprise of consolidation and soft and hard power projection are a luxury commodity for al-Shabaab, and they do not shy away in using such commodities to its own benefit.”