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Time to defeat terrorism is now

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Abdisaln Omar  Hadliye
Sunday January 15, 2017

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers under the Africa Union Mission in Kismayo, Somalia on November 20, 2015. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A large part of 2016 was dominated by terrorist violence across the world aimed at weakening governments, crippling enabling institutions and frightening ordinary law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of many nations, including my own, Somalia.
Then the new year began with more opportunistic attacks in Turkey and Somalia as if a reminder of the continuing challenges ahead. But how do we respond?

Terrorism is not confined to one space or group. Terrorism and its perpetrators have not only murdered a big number of innocent people globally but have also created international political disunity on matters as wide-ranging matters.

They have also created costly and regressive intercommunity tensions and heightened security measures. The real lesson from all this is that nowhere is safe unless everywhere is safe.
It is difficult to understand and comprehend terrorist actions, especially when they are just mindless brutal acts against innocent civilians like in the Berlin Christmas Market, the Istanbul nightclub in the New Year or the Mogadishu car explosions a day later. However, on closer inspection, these tactics are the best signal of the defeat of terrorism itself on a physical level as its operatives seem to fully understand that they cannot take on legitimate and organised state security apparatus head on. Even if they could, they would have no public support or confidence.

In the case of Somalia, there are misleading discussions in sections of the international press about al-Shabaab’s resurgence, especially in this period of historic elections. It is important to remember that al-Shabaab’s main goal is to dismantle the legitimate government through violence and the fact that newly elected MPs will shortly elect a Parliamentary Speaker and then a new President in Somalia is clear evidence that there is no such resurgence.

More importantly, both the Somalia government and its resilient people will never allow for this to occur. All around the world there is evidence that terrorists can kill and destroy. Nowhere is there evidence that terrorists can take over a whole country and then build a better system supported by society. In recoiling at the horror it creates, we must not lose sight of the ultimate futility of terrorism.
Defeating terrorism is an international priority which requires cooperation, partnership and diverse but common approaches to confronting a joint enemy of peace and progress.
At the regional level, given the threat posed by al-Shabaab and its potential affiliates and partners, the need for collective action cannot be more urgent. Furthermore, al-Shabaab’s dwindling capabilities and spectacular recent military setbacks in the form of the killings of many high profile members and defections to the government, makes this an opportune time.

Across the Horn, most Governments, including Somalia’s, have developed and adopted a Countering Violent Extremism policy. Regional organisations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union, alongside partners like the United Nations, are also working on region wide strategies to promote a partnership approach to tackling the issue. However, the most effective strategy to address international terrorism globally is to strengthen security institutions and construct better alternatives to the visions of the terrorists.
No one nation can defeat terrorism alone or insulate itself from it in this age of globalisation and diverse means.
In Somalia, the security sector capacity building and reform process is going well and with the support of our brothers in the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and the Arab States, alongside our many valuable partners in this key area, we are confident that Somalis will soon be able to take full control of their national security. The Somali security professionals I have met are committed to not only their own national security, as they evidence on a daily basis alongside Amisom troops and police, but that of the region and the world.


Terrorism globally must be defeated militarily, ideologically and spiritually. In Somalia, al-Shabaab is opposed to the idea of government and democracy. They much prefer top-down tyrannical autocracies which define policies and laws simply as rights and wrongs according to their own misguided interpretations.
This is the height of madness and, rather than comply, we have chosen to bravely move forward to a more equitable structure of governance to give the Somali people the best possible opportunities for progress. Democracy, on the whole, has served many African States well and we must protect and promote its values to drown out and discredit the counter narrative of violence.

Terrorism relies on sensational lies and radicalisation to exploit the most vulnerable in our societies. This, in its self, is an unforgivable crime which we must challenge directly with viable opportunities in the forms of skills, education, jobs and community development. All these noble ambitions require regional and international partnership to bring to fruition effectively. So, we must all challenge each other to play our part for a safer region and world.
In Somalia, alongside our diverse and valuable partners, we have militarily defeated al-Shabaab with a thousand cuts. Now we must renew our resolve, with the confidence that comes from understanding that terrorists can only inflict costs; they cannot achieve strategic victory. Defeating the terrorists will take time and call on even greater efforts in and within partnerships, resource mobilisation and sustained political leadership.

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