SOOMAL: DISPATCHES FROM A NOMAD

Resurgent terror attacks in Mogadishu risk pushing residents out of city

In Summary

• The deadliest attack occurred in Mogadishu last Saturday, when an al Shabab suicide bomber blew himself outside a government office before others moved in and started shooting indiscriminately. 

• Hassan Mahad, one of those residents, says although he has survived many attacks, he now feels the situation is getting worse.

A file photo of Somali soldiers patrolling the streets of Mogadishu.
A file photo of Somali soldiers patrolling the streets of Mogadishu.
Image: FILE

Somalia is back in the news again albeit for the wrong reasons following a fresh wave of violence and bloodshed by militants, who have killed around 60 people and wounded more than 100 others in March alone.

Most of the attacks were in Mogadishu, the capital. Two attacks took place in Beledweyne and Goof-gadud. Al Shabaab was behind eight of the total 9 attacks in March. 

The attack in Beledweyne on March 2 was claimed by the Islamic State ISIS, which has lost its grip in Syria, its main headquarters.  God forbid should ISIS run towards Somalia, where they have a fringe presence, we will have more insecurity problems.

DEADLIEST ATTACK

The deadliest attack occurred in Mogadishu last Saturday, when an al Shabab suicide bomber blew himself outside a government office before others moved in and started shooting indiscriminately. 

In this particular attack, at least 20 people, including Somalia's Deputy Minister of Labour, died. That figure also included the five terrorists killed in the attack as well as the suicide bomber who blew himself in the car.

Some of the battle hardened residents of Mogadishu who have endured years of conflict have started feeling the heat of the increased attacks and are contemplating leaving.

Hassan Mahad, one of those residents, says although he has survived many attacks, he now feels the situation is getting worse.

"Mogadishu has become so insecure of late. I have never felt so unsafe. The biggest problem is you don’t know which car is about to blow up. You cannot differentiate a government soldier from an al Shabaab militant because they wear the same uniform. I survived several attacks this month. I plan to leave the city anytime now," he told Soomal column.

The most gruesome attack happened in Goof-gadud village of Bay region on March 13. Suspected al Shabaab militants attacked a livestock market apparently because villagers there refused to pay them extortion money. At least eight people died and 40 others wounded.

Even the Presidential palace, Villa Somalia, did not escape the onslaught. On March 2, they fired mortars into the most secure compound in Somalia injuring two people.

To rub salt into the wound, Somali soldiers have been complaining of lack of payment. There have also been threats by Uganda and Burundi, who have the biggest number of peacekeepers  in Somalia, to pull out because of a planned drawdown of 1,000 soldiers by the UN, which funds the peacekeeping mission ahead of the 2020 withdrawal.

INTO THE FIRE

I warned before that Somalia is not ready to defend itself against these militants. If Amisom peacekeepers withdraw, there is no question the country will slip back into the hands of the terror group . For Somalis, that would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

A Mogadishu-based think tank recently issued a report on the government performance in the last two years. In the report, the government performed dismally on security and in coordinating with the Federal States. The latter is critical for improving security in Somalia.

The government must refocus its efforts on improving security because everything else is dependant on peace. The country cannot achieve any significant progress without relative peace.

It is, therefore, baffling that as the country is faces these serious security challenges, we hear about plans to drill oil in Somalia, even though the country has no legal framework to manage the resource. We don't want more trouble with an oil curse. 

MISPLACED PRIORITIES

A few days ago, Somalia issued a statement about Golan heights siding with Syria following US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Israel sovereignty over the disputed Golan heights. This might sound a good international affairs issue to jump into.

But does your statement really matter when in your own backyard your people are being butchered left and right by al Shabaab? 

Somalia must get its priorities right and stop behaving as if it’s a normal country because it is not. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo must do more to improve the lives of his people. 

The best present to his people would be to improve security. That should be his top priority — not Golan heights, drilling of oil or infighting with Federal States — because the recent security relapses, in particular in Mogadishu, is indeed worrying