Mogadishu (UM) – The National Security Adviser’s bizarre Twitter rant against the VOA for its coverage of Al-Shabaab extortion rackets in Somalia yesterday was very damaging. Abdisaid Ali, the Somali National Security Adviser responded to a VOA investigative report by Harun Maruf which exposed the extent to which Al-Shabaab are financing their operations through collection of taxes from legitimate business people in Somalia, in particular in Mogadishu. The story is one of fear for the Somali businesses and ruthless efficiency by Al-Shabaab which insiders claim to have had a brilliant 2017 financial year. Yet, the National Security Adviser, accused the VOA of glorifying “AS (AlShabaab) criminal activities to provoke a state of terror in the minds of Somali public.” He continued to say, “VOA should not be a sensationalist fear monger and we should not let ourselves forget all victims of terrorism.”In subsequent tweets, the National Security Adviser appears to have back tracked after public comments to say that Al-Shabaab should not be given the “oxygen of publicity.”
VOA glorifies AS criminal activities to provoke a state of terror in the minds of Somali public. This narrative of VOA would only benefit the extremists. VOA should not be a sensationalist fear-monger and we should not let ourselves forget all the victims of terrorism. https://t.co/kGcpOg7VlQ
— Abdisaid M. Ali (@4rukun) December 4, 2018
In case the National Security Adviser forgot, the existing public fear is real and without publicity by credible journalists and organisations like VOA the victims he claims to be supporting will be hidden and forgotten. Silence benefits both Al-Shabaab and incompetent policymakers alike. VOA’s publicity of extortion opens the issue wide and is now generating public discussions on the security sector reforms in Somalia. It is correct that Al-Shabaab cannot launch conventional wars like they used to but they are still very active and, through fear and violence, controlling influential sections of the population that the government cannot yet offer protection to. If the National Security Adviser is worried about the victims, he will find a way to advise the President to accelerate the reforms he and his government are supposed to be leading to gain public trust and secure this country. The Somali people do not live in Villa Somalia, drive around in bulletproof cars and spend wasteful hours in academic discussions about their security; they live the reality. It is they who are threatened. It is they who pay with their lives.
The VOA report does not glorify Al-Shabaab activities but brings to the leaderships attention how in Bakara market, a few miles from the Presidency, Al-Shabaab are extorting the Somali people while their government boasts of better tax collection and improved security. The National Security Adviser and his security colleagues should stop insulting the Somali people’s intelligence and better understand the new protracted asymmetric war in and respond accordingly.