Mogadishu (UM) – In a statement released last night, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo sent a defiant message to both Al-Shabaab and the Somali people arguing that yesterday’s terrorist attacks will not deter the Government from its fight to defeat terrorism in Somalia and to rebuild the country. This strong message was well timed and appears to have been released after much consideration. Yet, it does not answer the most fundamental question that the residents of Mogadishu keep asking themselves: Why do these explosions keep happening? It is even more worrying when it happens mainly on the only road the government uses on a daily basis.
In the fight against terrorists, attacks against the government will most certainly be opportunistic and aimed at causing much devastation in a short space of time to terrorize the people and to send the clear message that the other side is not defeated and still operational. The best response to these is preparation and plans in advance of an an attack. Currently, all the Somali security forces do is guard check points with AK 47’s and place road blocks that slow down traffic and create an even more volatile situation in the event of an attack. The courage of the Somali security forces, working for poor pay and risking their lives daily, is commendable. But the dangerous incompetence, ignorance and arrogance of their commanders and their advisers is deadly. Poor leadership and vision is why these violent but predictable vehicle attacks happen in often the same places on one stretch of road. The President and Prime Minister must understand that a statement condemning the attack or a late night visit to the wounded in a hospital will not make the public feel any safer or soldiers morale and better. The public needs answers.
The key questions the President, the Commander-in-Chief, must ask his security leaders are: Why do these explosions keep happening? Where are they being made? Who is making them? And why, is it that there is always rumors of explosive laden vehicles spread by the security forces but nobody ever knows where they are or what the target is? Why is modern technology not used? What about sniffer dogs in the main junctions in Mogadishu? Why are they not learning lessons from the past attacks?
The President and Prime Minister always repeat the public must work with the security services but the security sector leaders must create institutions and systems the public can have confidence in and trust. Partnerships can’t work on just one side.
The security sector is unnecessarily hierarchical and there is little respect and collaboration among the rank and file of officers and operatives. Obsession with status, clan and political security appointees and demoralized soldiers on the ground are hurting effective operations. This government must undertake a skills audit of senior security officials. It must also bring a plan to connect intelligence gathering at the national and locals level to inform operations that should, if done well in this way, keep the Somali people safe. Keeping Somalia and its people safe depends on credible intelligence gathering and evidenced based action; but so long as the senior security leadership continue to be obsessed with the stripes on their uniforms, medals on their chest thanks to the 4.5 clan system and how many evenings a week they see the President and Prime Minister for pointless chatter, nothing will get better.
The Somali people are sick and tired of condemnations and politicians’ tears for victims: they just have no value anymore. If the President and Prime Minister want the respect of their people in security policy they must earn it by doing a better job of leading on the reforms and delivering a secure nation to the people. If they simply focused on this, there would be no need for statements and late night visits to the hospitals to meet with tired victims who just want the government to do its job in keeping them safe.