Peace is Freedom – Somalia’s encounters with Al- Shabaab
On Saturday October 14th this year, Somalia experienced its largest and most evil terror attack ever. This could have marked the darkest day in the nation´s history; instead it was transformed into a day of unity. A truck bomb exploded at the busiest time of day, in the busiest part of Mogadishu, Zoope. More than 350 people were killed and several hundred were wounded. The number of body parts were buried in rubble was uncountable, making it a desperate and challenging job to identify the dead. There are still many people missing.
This terror attack has catastrophic dimensions when you look at the number of victims and material damage; it has to be considered as one of the world´s most extensive terror attacks carried out by a suicide bomber. The truck bomb was BIG, its explosive ingredients – acid, gas and metal pieces.
Somali authorities claim that Al-Shabab stood behind this massacre, but Al- Shabab have not claimed responsibility for the attack. Is this because they did not accomplish what they expected or the large number of dead and wounded?
Usually, a terror attack like this, gains massive media attention, and actions of solidarity and unity from around the world. Terrorism is considered one of today’s greatest threats. Social media circulates their hashtags and shares our pictures. There was no such response after the massive attack on Mogadishu. This along with the lack of attention in the media, gives the impression that this mass murder was of lesser importance to the rest of the world. The Somali people didn’t wait sympathy, instead they rose up themselves and created the attention they wanted. Suddenly several world leaders offered their condolences. Capital cities like Paris, Istanbul, Minneapolis and Toronto showed their solidarity by flying the Somalian flag. In spite of Somalia’s 27 years of civil war and conflicts between various clans, there had not been a single incident with the victim count as high as it was in Mogadishu on October 14th. This day of blood and despair has become Somalia’s day of unity, its own “Unity Day”. Maybe, we finally understood that without peace there is no freedom. Therefore, we have to challenge Al- Shabaab as the ones who are threatening peace.
Conflicts between different clans initiated the outbreak of the Somalian Civil War in 1990. These conflicts are still present. Now, clan conflicts have reached political dimensions because the country’s system of governing is based on clan size and clan needs. Somalia’s foremost hindrance to reach stability is clan conflict, not Al- Shabaab. In the meantime, Al- Shabaab is taking advantage of the situation and using it in an optimal way to cause human suffering. People are scared. They have seen what Al – Shabaab has done to the weakest and that they are getting away with their actions. People feel powerless, weak authorities were not able to provide protection against Al- Shabaab. But this terror attack was about to change everything. The authorities handling of this event would prove to be exceptional.
Three days of national mourning was declared.
It was clear in the first seconds after the attack that the blood banks could not meet the demand for transfusions for the wounded. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo asked people to give blood and within minutes hundreds of volunteers had lined up outside hospitals. The President, the Prime Minister, Hassan Kheyre and the Major of Mogadishu, Thabit Abdi Mohamed, were among the first leaders out on the streets, donating blood and taking part in the rescuing actions, being good role models. Their outstanding enthusiasm and care motivated Somalians around the world, not only in Somalia. Somalians in all corners of the world spontaneously demonstrated their repulsion for Al- Shabaab. Fear had vanished and people wearing red head scarfs walked through streets demanding “no more blood, enough is enough”. A National Rescue Committee was founded. The Somalian diaspora started collecting money. Before the terror attack, there was a political conflict of interest between Federal Authorities and regional leaders, this originated in a quarrel between Quatar and the Emirates. But this conflict was no hindrance in that they contributed economically, with food, medicine and knowledge. Suddenly the clan differences took second place and regional conflicts disappeared.
In a Somalian context, this kind of common effort and mobilization is rare. That’s why October 14, is now seen as Unity Day. On the background of Somalia’s long depleted resources the authorities deserve praise for the way they have handled this devastation. Now, the pressing question is, what is it going to take to retain the peaceful collaboration?
How can we sustain this much-needed process of peace, when the basic needs of individuals are not met? How can we bring clanism and Al- Shabaab together when public institutions and institutions of law are dysfunctional.? When the clan has to take responsibility as protector and provider of care?
Nothing is impossible.
Almost nine months ago, an historic Presidential election took place in Somalia. The people’s needs won over the existing power of the clans. The Somalian people elected Mohamed Abdulahi Farmaajo to be their President. He was considered the right man for the right job. The President appointed Norwegian- Somalian, Hassan Kheyre, to be his Prime Minister. These two leaders have different qualities and qualifications that brilliantly complement each other. Now that we have the leaders we need, the Somalian people have to take their own part in the responsibility for establishing lasting peace.
- I believe knowledge is the solution. In schools and at home children need to be taught values and told stories that can contribute to a peaceful society. Al- Shabaab was born of the people. They are living with the people. They are married to the people. Everybody knows each other. The final encounter with Al- Shabaab has to start in people´s homes, in families. People have to have the courage to point out the murderers and the brainwashed recruiters among them.
- Approximately seventy percent of Somalia’s population is below the age of thirty and poverty and unemployment among the younger generation in Somalia is skyrocketing. We have to create jobs and meaningful activities for young people to diminish social differences, provide an alternative to poverty and thus prevent the recruitment of Somalian young people to Al- Shabaab.
- The authorities must have the courage to take action in sectors, with businesses that employ young men and women must be rewarded and praised. The private sector must be induced to have a certain percentage of their employees be under a certain age.
To maintain the unity of October 14th, the authorities must have the courage to values of the new Somalia as a unified nation? What binds us together as a nation that weighs heavier on us than the clan and family? Only then can the unity of October 14th 2017 be maintained.