Kenyan experts call for new tactics to degrade Al-Shabaab
The international community must employ new and innovative strategies to degrade Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab, Kenyan security experts told Xinhua.
The Al Qaeda allied militant group has in the last four years waged a fierce battle with Africa Union and Somali forces over control of a large swathe of the Horn of African nation. The militant group has also exhibited a profound capacity to mutate and carry out attacks inside Somalia and neighboring countries despite a combined military offensive to degrade its infrastructure.
During the holy month of Ramadhan, Al-Shabaab intensified attacks against civilians and African Union troops in Somalia. In retaliation, the AU forces backed by U.S. drones attacked Al-Shabaab strongholds in southern parts of Somalia. A two-week military offensive against Al-Shabaab has led to the death of 72 militants, among them, key leaders, according to AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Despite the loss of its military commanders, Al-Shabaab’s resilience came to the fore on Sunday when it dispatched a suicide bomber to attack the heavily guarded Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu. So far, 15 people, including a Chinese Embassy staff, have been confirmed dead after the attack on the luxurious hotel that is frequented by foreign nationals and senior Somali officials. Security analysts agreed both the Somali government and the international community must brace for a prolonged battle with Al- Shabaab militants.
Fred Nyabera, a Kenyan peace and security expert, noted that previous efforts to eliminate Al-Shabaab had minimal success hence the need for a paradigm shift. “Somalia’s fragile status for the last two decades is to blame for widespread terrorism that has spilled over to neighboring countries. Militias and warlords have thrived since the collapse of Somalia’s nation state,” Nyabera told Xinhua Monday.
The expert blamed geopolitics and competition for natural resources for fuelling conflicts in the Horn of Africa nation. He said the international community has failed to devise effective strategies to diminish the capacity of Al-Shabaab to wage war against a legitimate Somali government and civilians. Nyabera also faulted the West for its over-emphasis on hard power to eliminate Al-Shabaab and its affiliates.
“The West has in some ways contributed to the failure of Somalia state largely because of imposing military solutions that are not workable. As a result, groups like Al-Shabaab have sprung up to resist what they view as Western domination in terms of thought, ideology, economy and culture,” said the expert. He regretted that a feeling of marginalization among Somali youth has exposed them to the false grandeur promised by Al-Shabaab and other radical groups.
The expert said Al-Shabaab insurgents have exploited local grievances, instability and weak policing to intensify attacks against African Union troops as well as civilians in Somalia and neighboring states. Nyabera stated that Al-Shabaab is desperate to remain relevant hence its recent attack on soft targets like Jazeera Hotel.
“Al-Shabaab is seeking attention and wants to prove to their Al-Qaida affiliate they are still strong and capable of establishing a caliphate in the region. We must bear in mind that Al-Shabaab’s murderous ideology is driven by hatred for anyone who oppose their cause,” Nyabera remarked. He said Somalia can reclaim its past glory if the international community scales up support to rebuild the country’s political, economic and security architecture.
Nyabera stressed that a tactical melding of soft and hard power is key to defeat terrorism and civil disruption in Somalia. “There is need to combine community intelligence with strong military response in order to root out Al-Shabaab militants. Community and religious leaders in Somalia must be involved in countering violent extremism,” said Nyabera. He added that effective border surveillance, regional intelligence sharing and robust deradicalization programs for the youth will deal a fatal blow to Al-Shabaab.
Kenyan Islamic scholar, Professor Hassan Nandwa, stressed that a political solution to the Al-Shabaab menace was urgent. He told Xinhua that Somalia will remain insecure so long as a political solution is not found, and neutralizing Al-Shabaab forces alone shall not be enough. “There should be efforts to arrange for negotiation with them and have a national dialogue using the tribal platform and religious leaders,”Nandwa said.