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United ONLY in their opposition to Al-Shabaab | Abdinasir Egal

The recent bombings in Kampala can be characterized as being Al-Shabaab’s waterloo. Al-Shabaab has made strategic blunder by internationalizing the Somali conflict. As of late, some in the foreign policy circles were encouraging the Obama administration to adopt what they termed “constructive disengagement”. It has become all too clear for the United States policy makers that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is incapable and unwilling to resuscitate the Somali State. This is sentiment echoed by Professor Ken Menkhaus at hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in June 17, 2010 and by Jeffrey Gettleman of New York Times in a interview with PBS NEWSHOUR. Some policy makers were even entertaining the idea of the United States living with the presence of Al-Shabaab or their eventual takeover of Somalia. Any notion of coexistence is over now in light of the Kampala twin attacks and the “constructive disengagement” policy is being shelved. Already, President Obama promised to “redouble” efforts against Al-Shabaab. President Museveni made good on Obama’s promise by announcing that Ugandan government will send 2000 more troops to Mogadishu. New term is being floated to describe this “new” approach towards Al-Shabaab. This is called “constructive engagement” (euphuism for foreign intervention). If history is anything to go by, there is nothing constructive about foreign intervention in Somalia. The country is again at crossroads and ramifications of any intervention will be felt beyond the Somali borders.

Somalia might again find itself at the place it was in 2006.The stakes are now even higher for Somalis living both in and outside the country. What will Somalia’s political players make of this new reality? We can with degree of certainty predict how Al-Shabaab, the West and their African counterparts will react but what about domestic players? The most significant of the domestic players are the TFG, Ahlu Sunnah Waljama, Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, the Somali Diaspora, the deposed warlords and the general public. What will these players do if the offensive against Al-Shabaab intensifies and Al-Shabaab’s power is either severely diminished or completely eliminated? Will they talk together and work towards common goal in order to save both their country and nation? Every Somali must ask him/herself these questions and contemplate. We must also revisit history and see if the current situation bears any semblance to the past.

It was 1991 when the Somali State imploded and the Barre regime was ousted. The government was overthrown by slew of rebel movements that drew their support from specific tribes. All rebels had one common goal which was to oust President Barre. The general public championed Barre’s ouster. Success came when the President finally vacated Villa Somalia. However his departure caused more problems than it solved. This was largely due to lack of common vision and goal among the tribally-affiliated rebel movements. People prayed for an end to Barre’s regime but nobody ever asked themselves who and what will replace Barre’s administration? To illustrate the situation which Somalia faced in 1991, we must take look at the leadership of the rebel movements. The leadership consisted of men who were after power and were willing to whip tribal passions into frenzy of murder. They had no strategy in cooling off tribal passions and saving their nation from self-destruction. They believed in zero-sum game. General Aidid Farah, Colonel Abdullah Yusuf, Colonel Omar Jees and Abdirahman Tuur exemplified the Somali leadership. The public in their hasty to rid themselves of the Barre regime bought into the message that was being dictated to them by the leadership of that era. Nobody asked themselves what would life be like after the Barre regime is gone? To be fair, during his reign, Siyad Barre have eliminated, imprisoned, or maliciously discredited all Somali leaders that had any national following. Somalia was without national leader. Somalis must now ask themselves the questions generations before forget to ask? Who and what will replace Al-Shabaab? Any answer has to consider the quality and the vision of those Somali leaders and political entities that oppose Al-Shabaab. There is one commonality that unites them and that is their opposition to Al-Shabaab. Regardless of your loyalty to one group, think dispassionately about the Somali situation and ask yourself who has my best interest in their heart?

Abdinasir Egal


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