Somalia marks major security milestones in battle to restore stability

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo address 36th Assembly of IGAD heads of states and government, July 2020. Credit: Villa Somalia.

Somalia is making major steps to restore peace and stability after decades of war. The range of more complex terrorist attacks have been curtailed drastically and the security forces have been much better equipped to deal with the security challenges on the ground, according to security analysts.

“The biggest security progresses we can point out are in Mogadishu in particular the range of complex terrorist attacks have gone down. This was witnessed especially in 2020. We used to see these attacks once a month in Mogadishu on hotels and restaurants,” said Omar Mahmood, the International Crisis Group analyst on Somalia.

The number of the large casualty terrorist attacks and storming of the complex security installations in Somalia dropped dramatically in 2020 compared to other years.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo swept to power in 2017, promising to restore security and stability in Somalia, which has been battling terrorism and a clan-based warfare for decades.

The most significant security sector gains could be attributed to the capture of Janale town, in the Lower Shabelle region.

The reductions of attacks by use of explosives in the first half of 2020 are credited on some part on Somali National Army and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) security operation Badbaado in the southern part of the country.

The success for the government and African Union forces came with the capture of Janale in Lower Shabelle in March 2020. The capture of Janale, 95 kilometers from Mogadishu, was a serious blow to the Al Shabaab, which has been behind the majority of the terrorist attacks.

The capture of the town reduced Al Shabaab’s capabilities of transporting explosives and fighters to the capital, Mogadishu.

Abdullahiqadar Ahmed, 34, a politician aspiring for a seat in the Somalia Federal Parliament in an election a date is yet to be set up, visited Mogadishu for the first time in December 2020.

Ahmed, a Somali who arrived in Mogadishu from Europe, said the image he had of the capital was that of death and destruction.

“When I got here, I stayed in a more secure and expensive hotel. I controlled my movement in the city,” said Ahmed, who is contesting for a parliamentary seat in the upcoming election. 

Ahmed moved out of his more expensive but secure hotel saying his own assessment of the security situation in the capital, Mogadishu, showed that indeed, it was getting better.

“I can go out anytime,” Ahmed told Horn Dispatch.

The Somali capital has enhanced security patrols and public confidence is increasingly improving.

Ahmed said he currently feels more confident in carrying out his political campaigns.

President Farmaajo’s mandate ends February 8.  For the better part of 2020, the Somali government has battled the COVID-19 pandemic and the type of election model to go in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. 

Despite the stalemate over the 2020/21 elections and political tensions, Somalia has recorded 2,433 security incidents with 3,099 deaths, the leading deaths were caused by battles and explosions between January 2020 to January 8th, 2021 according to the latest ACLED data.  

In the first six months of 2020 seven vehicle-borne improvised explosive device incidents were reported, with 93 casualties, mostly outside Mogadishu, compared with 27 incidents causing 895 casualties over the year 2019 as a whole, according to the United Nations panel of experts on Somalia.  

“The use of person-borne improvised explosive devices or suicide vests remained a concern during the reporting period, during which the Panel noted eight incidents, including two seizures. While person-borne improvised explosive devices are usually smaller than improvised explosive devices transported in vehicles, access to the desired target might be easier, particularly in cases in which Al-Shabaab has managed to infiltrate the target’s immediate environment.”

The US Africa command conducted at least three airstrike targeting the Al Shabaab since announcing that it had pulled out some 700 troops from the horn of African nation.

There have been 340 declared and alleged US drone strikes in Somalia since 2007, with the reported deaths of at least 2,500 alleged militants and claims of 300 civilian deaths, according to Airwars conflict data, a British security firm.

“Wider security potential gains were undermined through divisive and fractured politics particularly with the federal government and some member states. I think that’s a huge missed opportunity where something could have gone better,” Mahmood told Horn Dispatch. “The most clear example of this is the stand-off in the Gedo region where federal forces moved into the region and the priority was not al-Shabab but rather militias aligned to the Jubaland security forces. And we saw Somali forces facing off against each other there when a better use of that would been to focus on al-Shabab and in a group like that really thrives on these divisions.”  

In recent years, Somali government has been working hard to establish a functioning military to protect the country and its people from Al Shabaab and clan militias. 

“The past year has seen developments on the security front and Somali security forces have proved their increased capabilities. We have seen the forces attack, win and hold ground,” said Ambassador Francisco Madeira special representative of the chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and head of AMISOM. “This is a strong signal to al-Shabab and other armed groups that their days are numbered. A professionally trained and well-equipped Somalia security force is a game-changer in the fight against terror in Somalia.” 

“The Somali national army has been trained, trained for a country that had not had a stable government for decades that would take long before its impact is realized,” said Abdullahi Halakhe, security expert on the Horn of Africa region.

(Photo Credit: Villa Somalia)