Mr. President, you CAN fix the Army – UM

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo addressing the Army. Photo: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali National Army (SNA) is the single greatest opportunity and obstacle for achieving security in Somalia. The SNA must regain all the Somali territories held by Al- Shabaab very quickly if they are to be taken seriously by the Somali people and the international community. The SNA needs support and supervision and President Farmaajo’s residence in the Ministry of Defence is a good start for this.

The President living and working in the Ministry of Defence is a morale booster and a signal that the Commander in Chief will no longer be a bystander in SNA reforms. Instead he will oversee, direct and lead the changes needed for the SNA to be fit for purpose to defeat Al-Shabaab and fulfil their duty to the Somali people and nation.

The SNA for too long has acted above the law and beyond the control of its civilian leaders. Now they must be brought back to the real world and be better managed, organised and held accountable for their actions and performance.

There are many in the SNA who are committed to the values and duty of defending the nation against its enemies but they are let down by some who are unable and unwilling to work with them. These include very corrupt senior SNA officials, including undeserving Generals, who are concerned about how many cousins they can employ and how much money they can make from stealing from their own institution and soldiers. The courage and sacrifice of the few has historically saved the many and in Somalia this is the case. However, achieving security and development at this critical time requires a mass movement led by the majority which unites the country against its ememies. There can be no room for spoilers and exploiters.

During his residence in the Ministry of Defence President Farmaajo must communicate to the senior officials of the SNA and Ministry of Defence itself that he will not tolerate division, corruption and indiscipline. The Ministry of Defence and SNA must work together and with other government Ministries to biometrically register all soldiers for account payments. This will reveal the real number of the SNA and ensure all soldiers are fully paid. For too long cash-handling by senior SNA officials has been the curse that had kept soldiers in poverty and plummeted their morale. This also made Somalia more insecure and untrustworthy to international partners.

President Farmaajo must personally lead the organizational reform of the SNA to make them fit for purpose. These reforms must not shy-away from sacking incompetent Generals and Soldiers who only joined the the Army for titles and a salary. SNA must be ready to reform fully and engage the enemy on the frontline. The SNA must also be integrated and be a national force.

President Farmaajo is right to eat with his soldiers daily because it is only by sharing their experiences and listening to their concerns that the needs of the SNA for training, equipment, adequate salary and care can be addressed. Somalia can only be defended by its army. For a sustainable future of stability, the SNA needs to reform and perform. This is the only way they can win back honour and public trust.

The Commander in Chief must leave the Ministry of Defence with a plan for a successful legacy of reform and military and security success. The people expect nothing less than this. Mr. President, you can fix the Army.