For the past few weeks there has been an abnormal amount of targeted killings as well as bombings occurring in Mogadishu. The capital has been rocked by rampant insecurity because of the sustained attacks it has endured by Al Qaeda's local branch "Al Shabaab". The militant Islamist's have vowed to bring down the federal government and what it calls the "Apostates". The bombings last week mainly targeted restaurants and hotels popular with government officials, it proved the long held assertion that Al Shabaab had the time, discipline and access to the required resources for the execution of well planned terrorist attacks.
Top Somali military official appointed in 2012
The government was quick to dismiss the terrorists attacks as "Desperate" and not "significant". With such attitude to terrorism and Al Shabaab you would believe that the war has been won a long time ago. Perhaps the government officials are confusing their personal AMISOM security guards,with that of Mogadishu. With such statements it is not hard to be pessimistic whenever officials tout words like "Improvement in security" for the public.
The federal government indeed has a serious security problem despite having over several thousand AMISOM, SNA and other Security branches present in the capital. There can be an argument made about SNA having been able to curb some of its "Isbaro" problem that was so rampant under the TFG.
Well yes, illegal checkpoints are not present in Mogadishu anymore, that doesn't mean the SNA is credible or competent. Despite regularly working beside the slightly more professional AMISOM troops in the capital, the SNA still projects everything but professionalism.
There has been documented cases that point to the Somali security forces being disorganized as well as showcasing poor skills in the field. They are regularly seen as not paying attention to their surroundings in public areas as well as having a serious problem of addiction to drugs such as Khat. Even basic requirements such as wearing the proper uniform is a challenge, a challenge that is not being addressed by the military officials. Thus a culture of indifference and laziness is pervasive in the Security forces.
Indeed there are many institutional problems the SNA and the other security forces are facing. These institutional problems exists due to two factors. One is the lack of funding the Somali security services have to deal with. It is a problem for the government if they cannot guarantee constant monthly salary, rationing as well as sufficient bullets and firearms. The other problem is the lack of political will coming from Mogadishu when it comes to the Somali security sector. Indeed we have been hearing alot of complaints and criticism against the donor countries from Mogadishu. However funding is not everything when it comes to the Somali security sector.
There are other factors that are at least equally as important as providing firearms and salary. For example, the SNA suffers a lack of discipline. It is always imperative that there is a chain of command and someone that has responsibility for the SNA units, those are of course the army officials that have personally been handpicked by the president. Therefore any failure of behalf of the soldiers, must be immediately tied to the higher up officials. We saw that did not happen when the conflicts between SNA and civilians broke out in lower Shabelle.
Indeed it was a major eyeopener that Mogadishu was unable to clearly and swiftly punish those instigating violence and to quickly impose a curfew in these towns. Instead the fight was raging close to a month and allowed Al Shabaab to meddle and influence the fighting clans to "make peace". The government had to move the whole army to the outskirts of the town, basically admitting these uniformed men were bandits, and that the only way for peace to prevail in places such as Jowhar was expelling every soldier.
The incompetence that Mogadishu displayed was not easy to swallow. As a consequence the military officials faced no reprimanding or disciplinary action. Indeed there was no one taking the blame for this massive display of institutional failure in the SNA. We must ask ourselves then, if Mogadishu is unable to exert power over the army, let alone reform it. How will the federal government ever disprove critics that it can not govern the rest of the country?
Unless action is taken to tackle these problems, the country will be dependent on AMISOM for the foreseeable future.