Al-Shabaab and Drought – by: Muuse Sh. Yuusuf

undefinedHalkaan ka akhri

Muuse Yuusuf
Friday, July 15, 2011

The helping hand of Al-Shabaab

The decision taken by Al-Shabaab to allow international aid agencies to operate in some of the regions under its control such as Baidoa city to provide relief and humanitarian assistance is a revealing story that should not be left without some comments. For those with short memory span, remember those days when Al-Shabaab used to ban all foreign aid charities’ work in their regions in the pretext that these organisations were “infidel and un-Islamic” entities that were determined to convert their fellow Somalis to Christianity? Well, Al-Shabaab arrogance and stubbornness seem to be fading away as their grip on power is being weakened by a mixture of inner power struggle, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the gradual disintegration of his Al-Qaeda network and the international community’s determination to defeat global terrorism networks. The decision has exposed that Al-Shabaab is at its lowest ebb and that it is only matter of time before its gradual disappearance from Somalia’s political map. Indeed, gone are those days when the movement boasted of its power by desecrating the shrines of Sufi saints, by mob-lynching women adulterers, and by bragging their determination to implement Sharia. By allowing foreign aid agencies, it is highly probably that agents of anti-terrorism will infiltrate in the Al-Shabaab structure to destroy it within. Loads of CIA operatives will ensure that its leaders are eliminated, followed by a popular uprising against the movement.

As the recent history of Islamic fundamentalism movements in Somalia (the Islamic Courts Union etc.) has shown, it is very likely that some of the movement’s hard-line leaders, such as Mukhtar Roobow, will succumb to the new pressures, which will force them to welcome and bless foreign aid agencies as heroes saving Somalis from starvation. Remember how Sheikh Sharif, the current president, was once a fierce opponent of the presence of foreign troops in Somalia (AMSION/Ethiopia) but only to change his mind later on, praising them as saviours and protectors of Somalia from Al-Qaeda. Indeed, it is AMISOM forces, the same old enemy, which is saving his government from certain collapse in front of monster Al-Shabaab.

The irony of the situation is that Al-Shabaab and its Al-Qaeda/Wahabiya-imagined is unable or are unwilling to intervene in the current drought, which is sweeping across the county, in order to save hundreds of thousands from starvation. Consequently, Al-Shabaab leaders are now being challenged intellectually by the same masses that they have been oppressing for so long. The populace are now asking them the following hard nosed questions:

  • What can you and your Wahabiya-Al-Qaeda-inspired can practically do to help us out of this devastating famine?
  • And do not tell us that God is punishing us for being bad Muslims because we have been faithful to and observant of your draconian way of Islam, which included chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning women adulterers to death, two phenomena that have never been part of Somalis’ mystical Sufi Islam?
  • Surely, god is not so stupid and cruel to punish those who obey his laws as we have doing?

Al-Shabaab leaders are struggling to find some answers to these legitimate questions, but so far have failed to come up with any solution except to invite the “infidel” organisations and their powerful logistical networks to help out hundreds of thousands of Somalis. Pragmatism has overtaken the rhetoric of distorted principles and dogmatic beliefs!  For the masses, as they could not get convincing answers from their oppressors, the only thing they can do is to escape to neighbouring Christian countries, such as Kenya; at least these countries allow Muslims and non-Muslims to seek protection from natural disasters and wars.

Somalia under the spell of the atheist USSR President Siyad Barre and his foreign minister, Omar Arte Ghalib visiting Lenin’s museum (1)

Once more, and as I have been doing in my recently articles, I cannot help but to analyse the Al-Shabaab-Drought discourse through the lenses of what happened in 1970s Somalia. The country was under the grip of a powerful military junta that dismantled what it called a “corrupt and tribalist” civilian government. Since coming to power in 1969, the junta had been vigorously pursuing its economic and social development agendas applying its scientific socialism ideology, which it borrowed from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). As a revolutionary movement, it did not tolerate any dissent either ideological or political exactly as Al-Shabaab is doing right now.  Those who are old enough to remember know very well of the fate of those Saudi-Wahabi influenced religious clerics who opposed the junta’s family law, meant to promote gender equality in this conservative country. They were put to death immediately after the infamous national security court had convicted them of treason and crimes against the principles of the “blessed” revolution.

As though God was punishing the 1970s Somalia for allying with the atheist USSR, devastating drought hit the country in 1974-75. The drought dubbed as “abaartii daba-dheer” was the longest and worst in the living memory. It caused an unimaginable death of humans and animals. The military junta was in power for 4 years and was under the spell of “scientific socialism” exactly as Al-Shabaab is now under the fervour of Wahabiya-Al-Qaeda inspired radical political Islam. Fortunately, the military junta had a powerful partner, the USSR, which immediately provided humanitarian aid and logistical support to the regime. Indeed, it was the airlifting of thousands of Somalis by the USSR planes that helped save many lives. Without them thousands of lives could have perished. Atheist Soviets did help their friend in need at a time when Mother Nature was unleashing its destructive force.

Although the mighty USSR would betray Somalia during the Ogaden war and indeed led socialist forces to defeat the proud Somali National Army hence denying the realisation of Somalis’ dreams of liberating the occupied territories, both the military junta and its atheist Soviets proved that well-organised human societies can manage and cope with natural disasters or what other believe as God’s act of punishment against the unfaithful. However, the imposing question is: can Al-Shabaab do any thing about the current drought to help out the needy? And if not, why invite “infidel” Western organisations that the movement has been vilifying for so long? In other words why invite the same Devil?  And by the way, would it not have been prudent and humane to have allowed the aid agencies to work in Al-Shabaab controlled areas earlier so that practical, logistical and organisational structures could have been put in place in order to prepare for the oncoming drought?

The fact of the matter is that Al-Shabaab leaders are now learning the difference between preaching dogmatic beliefs and boasting about implementation of Sharia in Somalia and the difficult task of governing a tribal society in a harsh drought prone environment. They are also learning how they cannot operate in isolation from an inter-connected world where images of starving children are beamed across the globe through TV screens. Ironically, the “infidel” is coming to save Al-Shabaab and its populace! A painful reality to digest for the leaders!!

In conclusion, it seems though Al-Shabaab is on its way out of Somalia’s messy politics, and therefore, in my humble opinion, the TFG and the international community, should ensure legitimate governance structures are in place, which are capable of taking over from the declining force. This is to prevent power vacuum and anarchy.

Muuse Sh. Yuusuf

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