Al-Shabaab blamed for being threat to Somalia's quest for peace and stability
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Qaida linked militants, the Al-Shabaab, still remains the biggest existential threat to Somalia's quest for peace and stability, United Nations observed on Thursday, amid endless raids targeting civilians and security forces.
Throughout the Holy month of Ramadan, Al-Shabaab has continued to unleash terror across the country, although most of the raids have been effectively thwarted by diligent Somali security forces, who work closely with allies from AMISOM and the US.
For instance, Danab troops repulsed an attack targeting their camp in Gedo on Thursday, just a day after Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] troops in Bilis Qooqani thwarted an attack waged by the militants against regional Jubaland forces.
In his speech at the UN Security Council, special envoy to Somalia James Swan insisted that Al-Shabaab threats continue to "evolve" despite the fact the the group has been significantly degraded by elite forces in the ongoing crackdown.
Al-Shabaab, he noted, inflicts "intimidation and violence not only through Improvised Explosive Devices, mortar attacks and assassinations, although these continue". Also, he added, "They deploy extortion, illegal commercial activities and criminal tactics".
Cases of forceful taxation have been reported across the war-torn nation, with reports indicating that the money is used to among others, pay the over 5000 active fighters and purchase weapons from friendly nations which are believed to be sponsoring terror attacks.
The UN wondered why the group would not heed to calls by the Secretary General Antonio Guitteres for ceasefire. In March, Guitteres asked all armed groups to shift focus to the first against Coronavirus, which has literally grounded economic activities across the globe.
"We regret that al-Shabaab has not embraced the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire, and that their terrorist operations continue unabated," read the statement in part.
"In regard to the specific IED threat, Somali security forces would benefit from additional support to counter this deadly menace. I look forward to the briefing by the Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service later in this session," added the UN envoy.
Despite his threats from the group, security forces have managed to liberate strategic towns across Somalia, a move which however, gives hopes that someday, the group will eventually lose ground and surrender, he said.
On of the major tremendous takeover is the liberation of Janaale town in Lower Shebelle, which had been used as a source of income, given it's economic growth boosted by agricultural activities in the region, he added. Security forces seized the town on March 16.
"Somali-led forces have held the town since then, and efforts by the Federal and South West State authorities to return governance, justice, rule of law, and stability to the town, are ongoing, supported by UNSOS and UNSOM and other partners," Swan said.
He also lauded institutional reforms within the security forces, which have seen the United States reinstate aid to SNA, after months of withdrawal. All security forces are paid through bank accounts contrary to the previous approach where they were asked to queue.
The envoy also acknowledged the support by African Union Mission in Somalia, whose 20,000 troops have played an indispensable role in pushing the militants out of their hideouts in a bid to establish a functional state in Somalia, after decades of civil war.
The AMISOM troops are set to leave the war-torn nation in 2021, a reason why the United Nations is keen to boost capacity building within the Somali National Army [SNA] and the country's police force.
"I welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to revise the Somalia Transition Plan to update the timelines and identify key tasks and gaps in response to the evolved threat from al-Shabaab," he said. "The Government has signaled its commitment to reinforce the Comprehensive Approach to Security, and we also welcome that."
Regrettably, Swan added, COVID-19 has slowed international partner training necessary to generate forces needed for the fight against al-Shabaab which may impact the pace of future operations. Somalia is set to hold first ever universal suffrage polls later on in December.