ESAT News (may 17, 2017)
Defeating Al-Shabab militants in Somalia requires a “carrot and stick” approach that could eventually include political negotiations with the Islamist militants, the U.N.’s top official in the country tells Newsweek.
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, elected in February, has declared a state of war against the Al-Qaeda affiliate. The president offered a 60-day amnesty to disaffected members of the group in April and has pledged to eradicate it within two years.
Michael Keating, the Special Representative of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Somalia, tells Newsweek that while the offer of an amnesty was a good start, it would not be sufficient to placate the militant group.
Keating says that, as well as bolstering security, the Somali government must tackle the “deficits” that give Al-Shabab “oxygen.” “Those deficits include absence of rule of law, absence of basic services, soldiers and police not being paid and therefore being corrupt and delegitimizing the government,” he says.
The battle against Al-Shabab is currently being led by a 22,000-strong African Union force (AMISOM), which has succeeded in pushing back the militants from most of Somalia’s urban hubs since its deployment a decade ago. But Al-Shabab still maintains a presence, if not control, over many rural parts of southern Somalia, and regularly launches attacks on AMISOM bases.
Keating says that while the political situation in Somalia is improving, the plight of much of the population remains dire.
AMISOM is due to begin withdrawing from Somalia in 2018; one of the key priorities of Farmajo’s administration is therefore to prepare the Somali security forces to take over AMISOM’s responsibilities as it draws down, the newsweek report says.