Saturday, June 20, 2009
Al-Shabab: Somalia’s New Kharijites and Masters of Death and Destruction
Ever since Al-Shabab rose to power in the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, the rate of human decimation has been skyrocketing enormously such that no human being is immune from death, terrorism, chaos, violence, and insecurity. Al-Shabab is brandishing a perilous novel religious ideology that will engulf many places in the African continent and even beyond if not restrained in time. To countless fundamentalist-minded people and their sympathizers, the leaders of Al-Shabab are “saviors of Islamic spirit”. To those opposed to Al-Shabab’s religious extremities, the group is nothing more than a replica of Al-Qaida and the Taliban of Afghanistan struggling to overcome the threats of democracy and human freedom. The main reason Al-Shabab is waging a bitter war in Somalia is to ensure Western influence does not get a foothold in the Horn of Africa. It has indoctrinated thousands of Somali youth and attracted Islamic fighters from almost everywhere in the world. These "foreign guests" provide training to the forces of Al-Shabab in arms handling, mine laying, suicide bombing, and enemy surveillance. Western intelligence sources believe there is credible evidence to suggest the presence of 300 foreign Jihadi fighters in Somalia. Now we hear of an ex-Pakistani general leading the onslaught against Somalia's lame duck government. If such information is to be believed to the fullest, then, Somalia has obviously become a safe haven for terrorists from all walks of like. Unashamedly, the leaders of Al-Shabab have in the past mentioned the presence of these "guest fighters" in their domains.
Hiding under the banner of bringing pure Islam to the entire globe, a distance spanning from Alaska to Cape Town, the group whose name means “youth” in Arabic, invented innovations alien to the Muslim Somali: Khariji thoughts that deserve absolute rejection. Al-Shahrastani defines a Khariji as: “Anyone who walks out against (seeking to overthrow) the true appointed Imam (leader) upon whose leadership the Jamaa'ah is in agreement is called a Khariji. This is the case, despite whether the walking out (against the Imam) occurred in the days of the Rightly-Guided caliphs or other than them from the Tabi'een.”  (Wikipedia)
"According to Kharijite doctrine, not only descendants of the Prophet Muhammad and members of the Muslim aristocracy but anyone—even a slave—could become a caliph if morally and religiously pure. A caliph, to be legitimate (in accord with God’s will), had to be elected as the free choice of the entire Muslim community. An unsatisfactory caliph could be deposed or put to death. The Kharijites, both extremely pious and puritanical in religious practice and theory, also accepted only a literal interpretation of the sacred Qur'an (Koran). They developed their own laws and collections of Hadith—the Traditions, or Muhammad’s actions and utterances witnessed by his companions and transmitted by reliable authorities. Today a few hundred thousand Kharijites, usually referred to as Ibadites, dwell in North and East Africa, Oman, and Tanzania. Their puritanism and idealism have greatly influenced the present-day Wahhabi movement, which includes the majority of Saudi Arabians."
Since rising to stardom in 2008 when Ethiopian occupation forces departed Somalia after being bogged down in the capital city of Mogadishu, Al-Shabab has carried out on a wider scale assassinations of senior Somali government figures, tribal heads, and journalists it perceives as a threat to its existence. Just recently, a reputed government minister, Colonel Omar Hashi and Abdikarim Laqanyo, an astute 39-years old rising diplomat who was Somali ambassador to South Africa and former Somali ambassador to Ethiopia in Colonel Yusuf’s government, met their untimely deaths in the city of Beletweyne when a vehicle loaded with explosives and commandeered by a suicide bomber destroyed the hotel they were residing in. The explosion, as claimed by Al-Shabab, killed several dozen government soldiers and unsuspecting civilians that were caught in the predicament. A spokesman who spoke for Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. Al-Shabab claimed to have carried out the suicide bombing after obtaining credible evidence from its intelligence sources that the current government headed by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was hosting Ethiopian military officers planning strategic military operations against its areas of influence.
This gruesome and wanton incident that cut short the lives of many Somalis, surprisingly, utterly left Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys devastated, a man wanted in the West for crimes related to terrorism. A former colonel in the defunct Somali army, Sheikh Hassan Dahir was the former head of the rebel group al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, an Islamic militant group linked to terrorism in the 1990s. The former colonel is currently the head of Hizbul Islam that is opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Somali soil. Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected." Volume 3, Book 49, Number 861 of Al-Bukhari. “Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "There is a Sadaqa to be given for every joint of the human body; and for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of a Sadaqa (i.e. charitable gift) for the one who establishes justice among people." Volume 3, Book 49, Number 870 of Al-Bukhari.
The Somali Government of National Unity decried the collective atrocities being committed by Al-Shabab such that the Speaker of Somalia’s Parliament appealed to neighboring countries that include Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen and the member states of IGAD to send in military reinforcements within 24 hours to deter Al-Shabab aggression. Local media houses in Somalia reported seeing Ethiopian forces pouring in to Somalia upon receiving Somali parliamentary speaker’s pleas for immediate help. On the contrary, the Ethiopian has reiterated its stand in Somalia: that it can only intervene in Somalia with international mandate. On the other hand, the Kenya government is said to be amassing heavily-armed troops alongside its border with Somalia. Both Kenya and Ethiopia are host to thousands of Somali refugees displaced by Somalia's internal strife and both have territorial disputes with Somalia over the former Northern Frontier District in Kenya and the Ogaden region in Ethiopia claimed by Somalia.
Currently, the Kenya government feels the brunt of Al-Shabab aggression. The jihadi group made several incursions in to Kenya in the past. The downing of a military helicopter belonging to the Kenya military in the not so distant past has angered a section of Kenyan's and parliamentarians with many calling for Kenya's direct involvement in Somalia. While the intention of Kenya's military buildup along the long porous border it shares with Somalia may not be speculated, there is a great possibility Kenya may this time land troops inside Somalia. Both Kenya and Ethiopia have sizable military personnel of Somali decent in their military ranks. Supposedly, by borrowing a leaf from the saying, "send a thief to catch a thief" both nations could tactically utilize the strengths of their Somali citizens to overcome the fundamentalist aggression perpetuated by Al-Shabab.
The refusal by Al-Shabab to negotiate with any entity has further diminished the prospect for peace in Somalia. Despite the Somali government calling for moderation and reconciliation, Al-Shabab continues to kill, maim, and mutilate in the absence of a sovereign authority. Despite modern leadership qualities entailing communication, delegation, selection, and training, Al-Shabab’s mode of leadership rests on perpetrating pseudo-anarchism and territorial expansionism and unwarranted psycho-politico-socio-economic annihilation of human population and properties.
Consequently, the otiose Somali government lacks influence tactics and impression management techniques. Perhaps, the newly inaugurated moderate Sheikh Sharif is too inexperienced to win the hearts and minds of the opposition. Lack of horizontal thinking; the absence of theories and practice; the President’s inability to macro and micro manage the volatile Somali environment has left him in the lurch. Conceivably, majority of the men and women holding ministerial positions in the current government hold foreign citizenship which makes them unfit to govern a nation in a chaotic and frustrated atmosphere. One may may ask: do these leaders have mission and value statements and do they espouse concrete statements of intentions?
Undoubtedly, a nation is a massive organization that demands concrete planning and conceptualized responsibility. Failing to realize the motivational components of human behavior is cause for disaster. Factors that apply to leadership include communication, delegation, selection, and training. All attempts to have a fully-trained armed force have been shattered either because the government was unwilling to pull resources together or because the financial resources to deliver the projected figures were hard to secure. Why is it that every created government collapses before completing term of office? Those of you who follow Somali politics will recall how the previous governments headed by Ali Mahdi, Abdiqasim Salat, and Abdullahi Yusuf collapsed due to imprudent tribal politics and gerrymandering. All these political fiascos happened due to lack of religious and ethical considerations and the absence of organizational structure and culture.
In the Somali vernacular language, the word "Khariji" denotes to mean "to exterminate, to kill, to silence". Perhaps, it could be a good description that fits the callous actions of Al-Shabab because of the way they kill with impunity. For the two years Ethiopian troops were in Somalia beginning in 2006 until last January, majority of Somalis who were opposed to the dreaded Ethiopian presence, gave Al-Shabab a standing ovation because they brutally defeated them in street battles.
Ironically, the international community is not doing enough to overcome the growing threats of anarchy in Somalia. Instead of training a strong and reliable defense force that would secure Somali borders, all it has done is sending naval warships that protect Somalia’s coastline from the threats of piracy that cripple international maritime shipping. What they don’t realize is that piracy can only be overcome when Somalia gets a strong civil and national defense. As long as the international community is not fully committing itself to the problems inland and inside of Somalia, piracy and terrorism will continue to flourish unabated.