The war between the Somali government and Al-Shabaab has persisted for years, as both sides vie for control. In August 2022, the Somali government commenced a fresh offensive against Al-Shabaab, capitalizing on the discontent within the influential Hawiye clan towards the insurgency. This operation has yielded significant territorial gains in central Somalia, representing the most substantial progress since the 2010. Government soldiers, along with clan militias, have successfully eliminated Al-Shabaab militants from vital regions. However, the establishment of stable forces to maintain control in the reclaimed territories remains a challenge, leading to government forces' withdrawal from key cities.
Withdrawal from cities such as Eel dheer, Masagawaay, Budbud, and Gal'ad, which had been retaken from Al-Shabaab, poses a setback as it exposes these areas to potential re-infiltration. To address this challenge, sources indicate the government has formulated a new strategy: creating local militias to secure the liberated territories and prevent Al-Shabaab's resurgence.
According to sources, the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA) has taken responsibility for overseeing the registration and organization of these local militias, commonly referred to as "Macwiisleey." However, experts have argued against implementing this particular strategy, citing its potential consequences.
Professor Mohamed Haji ingriis , with his extensive knowledge of historical and global perspectives, asserts that such militia groups have not achieved significant success on a global scale. "Rarely has any country benefited from deploying local militias to counter insurgent movements. This approach has consistently failed," he emphasizes.
Moreover, Professor Mohamed highlights the failure of the colonial British in their attempt to employ clan militias against the Dervishes. This ill-fated strategy resulted in the Dervishes retreating into the Nugaal valley, only to regroup and ultimately force the British to retreat towards the coastal regions. "We must recall how British colonial authorities used local clan militias against the Dervishes," he adds, emphasizing the historical precedent of failure.
While there may be some immediate advantages to involving local militias, as witnessed before while securing many parts of central Somalia, it is crucial to weigh the potential consequences before proceeding. One significant concern is the risk of a lack of proper training, oversight, and chain of command. This could result in the abuse of power by these militias, leading to serious human rights violations and undermining the rule of law.
According to Professor Mohamed H.Ingriis , "the Somali government should adopt a new approach that takes into account local knowledge and expertise, integrating these militias within the Somali army auxiliaries." In another words, this approach will require to be carefully crafted to ensure that there is a strong central command and army control structure, preventing the militias from operating separately.
Without effective central control and coordination, there is a heightened risk of factionalism and power struggles, which can greatly undermine stability and hinder lasting progress. "It is imperative that local militias never operate independently from the overall command structure of the army," stresses Professor Mohamed H. Ingriis.
Furthermore, analysts believe arming local militias without proper vetting and screening procedures could inadvertently lead to the formation of proxy militias aligned with various interests, complicating the situation and potentially fueling further violence.
While the Somali government's new strategic approach of engaging local militias to secure areas captured from Al-Shabaab initially appears promising, its long-term effectiveness and consequences necessitate thorough analysis. While the Central regions success is encouraging, it is crucial for the government to evaluate potential concerns such as human rights abuses, factionalism, and potential clan conflict dynamics.
To ensure the positive outcomes of this strategy, robust oversight, proper training, and coordinated efforts with Somali National Army are essential. By striking a delicate balance between empowering local communities and maintaining unified command structure of army, the Somali government can harness the potential of local militias to effectively combat Al-Shabaab and build a more secure future for its citizens.