Somalia’s heroes need leadership and genuine assistance – UM

Turkish trained Somali National Army Unit parading after graduation from the Turkish Military Academy in Mogadishu. Photo: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – The foiled terrorist attack yesterday cost the lives of many civilians, yet the damage would have been far greater had the courage of the Somali National Army (SNA) not stood in the way. Members of the SNA stationed around the Presidency fought bravely in the dark against determined Al-Shabaab operatives who security officials privately confirmed were targeting the Presidency itself.

In the process of defending the Presidency, SNA members lost their lives, and some were wounded. The Somali people must pay tribute to their courage and selflessness. When most of us run away from violence, they are the on the front line and ready to pay the ultimate price. Yet despite unparalleled courage, the SNA and the rest of the Somali security apparatus are poorly financed and led by political appointees who are either past their best or totally unsuited to the role.

Somalia’s security challenge is keeping it poor and its people trapped in uncertainty. Despite no major attacks since the Nasa-Hablood hotel tragedy immediately following the disaster that was the Zoobe attack last year, the fear of violence is still present. This is compounded by attacks like yesterday which clearly demonstrate that Somalia is still prone to sudden guerilla like urban attacks in major centers including Mogadishu.

Security is the Somali Government’s number one priority and its major public spending. Yet for this investment, the returns are far too little. The average soldier earns $100 and gets rations. The SNA hierarchy is also poorly paid but benefit from other perks, including ghost workers which are illegal according to insider sources at the Ministry of Defence. The recent attempt to clean this up with biometric registration by the Ministry of Finance is ongoing but at a slow pace which needs to be accelerated. In comparison, AMISOM soldiers earn over a $1,000, are better equipped, fed and engage in less dangerous activities which are sector based. This is something the Somali Government needs to address as it plans for AMISOM transition.

The SNA, Somali Police Force (SPF) and National Intelligence Agency (NISA) need to harmonize training, improve information sharing and work together on national security. All three groups face the same challenges of lack of financing, equipment and training. Therefore, they have no time to waste on petty pointless competition especially against a united enemy determined to undermine them and hurt the Somali people and nation.

Somalia’s partners have supported the security sector generously. Yet, despite all this, they have failed to harmonize the Security sector training and the UN Arms embargo still forces Somalia’s soldiers to fight with AK47’s against improvised explosives and human bombs. The Somali government is also still struggling to turn Somali soldiers from militia clansmen into a united national defense force despite the many meetings on this issue between President Farmaajo and the heads of the federal member states. This is something that must be overcome if Somalia is to achieve real security.

Somalia’s heroes, its soldiers, demonstrated during yesterday’s attack their raw courage and commitment to defending Somalia. Their courage and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Yet, without meaningful political and operational leadership and genuine targeted assistance, these acts of courage will be single events that produce no broader progress. This must never be allowed to happen as it is symbolic of wasted lives and not the progress the Somali people need.