US support for Somali Army sustains political instability

Mogadishu ( PPM) ⁠—The United States resumed a limited support for the Somali National Army. The rationale for this decision is to continue the fight against Al-shabaab. In a country that has yet to create a central command post for armed forces support for select groups of armed militias paid in the name of the Somali Army undoes the core stabilisation strategy for Somalia.

The US Embassy in Mogadishu views troops controlled by Federal Government as legitimate force deserving of training and operational support. This policy drives a wedge between the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member States for several reasons. The Security Architecture that was unveiled in London Somalia Conference in May 2017 mandated the Federal Government to work on  the creation of an inclusive security apparatuses and national army. The Federal Government has not brought this goal into fruition: neither Jubaland forces nor Puntland Defence Forces come under the command of Mogadishu-based Somali National Army.

Puntland State fights Al-shabaab and ISIS on two fronts but the United States does not support Puntland forces. “US policy towards Somalia is reminiscent of its noughties policy to support warlords to form counterterrorism alliance when the warlords’ militias were terrorising civilians” says a Somali journalist in Mogadishu,  who asks to be quoted anonymously.

The outcome of this divisive policy is breakdown of trust and collaboration between the Federal Government and Federal Member States that Mogadishu looks upon as outside its sphere of influence.

Somali National Army is made up of clan militias (Photo Reuters)

The pre-1991 Somali National Army was politically controlled by the military regime that used it to overthrow a civilian government in 1969. It was an instrument of oppression used to keep the regime in power. Clan militias that filled the vacuum after state collapse reflect exclusive, clan make-up. Not all Somali clans had clan militias particularly social groups classified as minorities. It is the task of politicians to create an exclusive national army.

While dependency upon AMISOM continues the US assistance for certain forces in Somalia sows seeds of a future conflict. How can Somaliland be persuaded to give the Union a second chance if the South is still mired in a latent political conflict and still retain a government protected by African peacekeepers? Rebranded clan militias cannot become a national army in a country whose leaders ignore the need for genuine political reconciliation.

© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020 

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