In the last six months, the Somali National Army with the support of Community Defense Forces drawn from different clans have inflicted a heavy casualty toll on Al-Shabaab and recovered large swathes of territories in an unprecedented approach since the emergence of the militant group’s close to two decades ago. Since coming into office last May, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has demonstrated unparalleled commitment and determination to annihilate Al-Shabaab and proved more competent, knowledgeable and effective than his first term in office between 2012 and 2016.
Unlike AU-led operations in the past, the current
campaign has netted victories within a short time with minimal resources. These
victories are a prove that Somalia can rid itself of terrorism if there is a
genuine commitment by the country’s leadership and a deliberate decision by the
public to rally around the course for peace.
Even as we acknowledge and celebrate our gallant
forces for their exploits against Al-Shabaab, we should remain alive to the
need to continue our efforts in building a loyal, professional and strong force
capable of executing its mandate as provided by the Constitution. The SNA has
been undergoing a gradual transformation since its formal recomposition in 2000
following the formation of the first permanent post-civil war government in
A more pressing need is the planned take-over from the
African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) which is ending for April
2024. With just a year to go, the need to redouble efforts to realise this
milestone cannot be gainsaid.
Despite this transformation, clan dependencies and
loyalties still run deep within the national army. For instance, during April
2021 ‘uprising’ in Mogadishu, clan loyalties overrode national interests.
Sections of the SNA especially in the Middle Shabelle region moved to Mogadishu
and joined opposition forces in what almost resulted in full-scale fighting.
Such balkanization of the national army into clan lines affirmed concerns that
our army is still beholden to clans and is yet to transform and embrace an
absolute loyalty to the nation and not the clan.
Nonetheless, we should treat this as a learning curve
appreciating where we have come from; the sacrifices our forces have made and
the myriad challenges they have had to encounter. On this note, I wish to delve
into the rallying call for concerted efforts to build a competent nationalist
national army whose standards can comfortably meet international thresholds.
Every country around the world has a standardized and unified training
system for its security forces – this encompasses a unified curriculum which
not only covers the technical part of the training and the ethos of a disciplined
force but importantly national values, doctrines and principles. These sets of
values and principles are unique to every country and in line with its laws,
cultures, values and practices. In Somalia, the national army comprises
soldiers trained by Turkey, the UK, US, UAE and Eritrea. Each of these trainers
imparts different sets of values and also set their trainees apart from the
rest. It is no surprise that we have seen instances when UAE-trained soldiers
clash with Turkish-trained soldiers in Mogadishu resulting in a deadly exchange
SNA combat professionalism is notable and improving
gradually every year with support of international community and national level
but entrenching national values such as loyalty and patriotism is yet to be
adequately realised. There is still an overarching needs to instill these
values so that the military is guided and driven by higher national ideals as
opposed to ethnic and clan affiliation, political and personal interests among
This can be reached through improving and contextualizing
the National Security Architecture endorsed by parliament in 2017 to provide
well-balanced unification and standardization of the training curriculum of the
country’s security forces.
Remuneration and welfare
In acknowledging the need for a professional army
driven by national values and ethics, we must also be ready to allocate
sufficient resources to cater for their salaries, healthcare, family welfare
and post-service care. At the moment, the average salary for SNA officers is
about $200 coupled with a food ration share of about $40 per month. According
to the recently approved 2023 Appropriations Act, the Armed Forces is allocated
$113m which is an increase of about $20 million for the 2022 Financial Year.
Additionally, Parliament allocated a paltry $115,000 to cater for orphans of
SNA soldiers and the disabled. This fund is expected to cover the education of
these orphans among other needs thus it is clear that the amount is still very
little. Whereas there was a marked improvement in allocations to the military
to cater for their salaries, equipment and other expenses, the military welfare
vote is still way below par despite an increase from $53,000 in the 2022FY.
is perhaps among the few military units in the world actively involved in domestic
warfare. The level of attrition in terms of deaths, and physical and mental
injuries in addition to the loss to their families is therefore quite high. In
reforming the military therefore, we should pay attention to deliberately
allocating sufficient resources and support for their welfare in addition to
gradually building a veteran’s fund to cater for the welfare of our soldiers
when they leave active duty. A similar policy should be developed to cater for
housing and other support needs.
An effective and professionally functioning army is
dependent on a solid institutional framework which guides among others the
structure, serviceman promotion and personnel development, resource allocation,
legal framework, and oversight among other tenets. The Ministry of Defence, a
civilian component empowered by the Constitution to head the military must
continuously develop robust policies, laws and frameworks which ensure the
military function within an institutional set-up not influenced by favorism,
politics and personal or group interests. An established institutional
framework ensures that the military and police functions seamlessly even with
the change of government because a rules-based system is in place.
In conclusion, the journey to realizing a
fully-fledged and professional army in Somalia is still long but within sight.
Other countries in the world have successfully done it thus Somalia is no
exception. We can do and must do it.
AbdirahmanYusuf Ali is Social and Peace activist and founder of Uistaag Dadka iyo Dalka. He can be reached at