By Mohamed F Yabarag
Last Friday’s Al Shabaab attack on Villa Somalia is the clearest indication that there is a complete security breakdown in Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s government. Had the incumbent decided to come out a few minutes earlier to perform his prayers in the mosque, the country could have the first dead president since the troubles started two decades ago, and since the assassination of the late Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke on 15th October, 1969. The fact that some of the terrorists have managed to enter inside Villa Somalia following a huge double suicide explosion at one of the main gates, and had to reach all the way to the mosque and kill a former security general and a senior government official shows that nobody is save at the presidential palace anymore. The minister of interior, who was believed to be in the mosque according to reports, could have been Al Shabaab’s biggest scalp had the terrorists who entered the mosque took a little time to identify their target accurately.
The recurring broad daylight attacks on government institutions, its personnel and other important public targets by Al Shabaab terrorist group has increased at an alarming rate since the current Islamist-leaning government of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud came to office. What happened in Villa Somali on Friday is a total failure on the part of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s administration that only a few months ago ousted former Prime Minister, Saacid, for failing his duties on issues related to national security. Government failures are usually measured on the collective performance of its ministers, including those in charge of big portfolios such as security, foreign affairs and economy. The minister of national security, who was ironically instrumental in the dismissal of Premier Saacid, and should have been the first to be sacked, had retained his post in mysterious circumstances as President Hassan fought tooth and nail to keep his man in the government. Most Somalis were intrigued about the behavior of President Hassan in this saga. Some even sensed a foul play. One might be tempted, therefore, to ask as to why a minister whose portfolio has dismally failed to protect the citizens of Mogadishu and its immediate environs is clinging to this important post. Something is amiss here. To say there is a lapse of security at villa Somalia is an utter understatement.
The security apparatus in Somalia lies in tatters and there is a big possibility that some terrorist operatives have access to Villa Somalia, or maybe inadvertently incorporated into the presidential guards and other national security agencies. Some are even pointing the finger of blame to the top officials of the government for facilitating this massive security breach. The fact that the terrorists were reported to be wearing the same uniform as those of the presidential guards is further evidence to support this theory.
If Al Shabaab can reach the corridors of power with such ease, then something big is wrong with intelligence gathering capabilities of the security apparatus of the Somali state. Without any shadow of a doubt, the security personnel of Villa Somalia is infested with moles and Al Shabaab sympathizers who want to see the country slide into a complete anarchy and chaos. No wonder why the UN Monitoring Group has insisted on the restoration of UN arms embargo on Somalia, which was lifted early last year by the Security Council. In its report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group recommends either restoring the full arms embargo or at least tightening notification and reporting requirements related to arms deliveries. This is an indictment to Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s government who failed both Somali people and the goodwill of international communities in equal terms.
In the same report, The Monitoring Group continued and identified a number of issues and concerns over current management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), which point to high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution. Without any shadow of a doubt the trust bestowed to the current government headed by President Hassan by the international community is fading away fast, and the prospect of the country sliding back to the dark days of warlords, civil strife and man-made famine is now more likely than ever before.
If President Hassan has to arrest this violent trend and regain the confidence of the Somali people and that of the international communities who recently casted doubt over his leadership, with the US intelligence chief even calling him a week President, he needs to react now and fast by dismissing the minster of national security forthwith. This should be followed by a wholesale vetting on the country’s national security apparatus, including its top leaders. Defectors from Al Shabaab terror group, often paraded in front of TV cameras before hastily integrated into various security apparatus, should be thoroughly screened and should not be given important posts for a long period. Finally, officers of high caliber with proven intelligence gathering skills, selected from all Somali clans, and not only from dominant Hawiye clan, should be recruited to lead the nation’s security apparatus. If all exhausted and security problems of Mogadishu continue to persist, major government departments should be relocated to other safer places like Puntland. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland has never declared to secede from Somali. The culture of nepotism based on clan favoritism, the main feeder of security problems, must cease immediately if the country has to move forward. Somalis have so many enemies – both in and outside of the country. Any weakness on the part of Somali government, and there are many right now, will mean vultures descending into the country and finishing us off once and for all. This is time to act and perch Al shabaab operatives from within the Somali government.
Mohamed F Yabarag
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