Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Al-Shabab admit to public cruelty and abuse of power

By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu, December 26 –The notorious Al-Shabab militants have finally admitted to mistreating the public blaming their barbarism to recent crushing defeats in the hands of the poorly funded Somali government and their backers African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

In a rare public appearance in the agricultural rich district of Afgoye, 30 km west of the capital Mogadishu, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf aka Shongole, a senior Al-Shabab commander warned his accomplices of a severe blow to their fading rule should they continue mistreating the public.

Al-Shabab rose from obscurity into power by default as an off-shot of the once powerful Islamic Courts Union which controlled Mogadishu and large swathes of land in southern Somalia between mid 2006 to late December after rooting out a US-backed coalition of warlords who had divided up Somalia into a patchwork of fiefdoms.

“The reason the Mujahedeen’s have failed to emerge victorious against the infidels is largely due to the bad relationship between the public and Al-Shabaab. If we are stronger than the public we should remember that Allah is also stronger than us… We need to fairly treat the people if we are to succeed,” Shongole was quoted on local radio on Saturday while addressing residents of Afgoye town, which they recently usurped together with Hizbul Islam their former copy-cat Islamist gang who were in charge of the sleepy town along the shores of river Shabelle.

The latest remarks by Shongole, a close confidant of Al-Shabab Commander Ahmed Abdi Godane – who is rarely seen in public and is believed to moving around dressed in a woman’s veil -- is short of admitting constant public mistreatment, killings, robbing and rape as they stand accused in the public opinion which has unfortunately became a way of life in many Al-Shabab held regions of southern Somalia.

Analysts say Shongole’s remarks is not likely to change the groups cruelty against the public largely due to the unlettered nature of the thousands of their underage militias who only believe in enforcing their strict application of Sharia law devoid of wisdom unto the war weary public many of who adhere to the more tolerant Sufist belief.

From the southern port city of Kismayu to the central regions of Somalia where Al-Shabab’s autocratic rule extends, the group is accused of widespread human rights abuses contrary to the same Islamic belief they so adamantly claim to adhere to.

For the ordinary Somalis who languish in poverty and have nothing to eat as a result of Al-Shabab’s ban on humanitarian aid agencies. Many have either fled or a contemplating fleeing from areas controlled by the group not knowing what next to expect in the immediate future under Al-Shabab’s terrible reign.

Just 15 km from Afgoye where Shongole was speaking, Al-Shabab militias were reportedly robbing people around the Elesha Biyaha internally displaced persons (IDP) camps located along what has come to be known as the Afgoye corridor in the humanitarian circles where the worlds biggest concentration of IDP camps are located with more than half a million people living in squalid camps in a 20-mile stretch of land along the busy Mogadishu-Afgoye road.

Many of these poor IDP’s were actually rooted from their homes in Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab’s unsuccessful attempts to unseat an interim government struggling to assert its authority in a country that has virtually become a byword of anarchy with an incessant war that span for 20 years since the ouster of the last central government in 1991.

Witnesses said heavily armed Al-Shabab militias riding heavily tinted vehicles kidnap anyone seen coming out of the various Hawala’s or money transfer companies located in the camps to secret locations where they lock their victims, robbed them of any US Dollars they had been sent by relatives abroad before beating them up in the pretext of punishing them for cooked-up crimes according to their scriptures.

“Al-Shabab militias kidnapped him and drove to an undisclosed location where he was robbed, kicked and accused of being a spy for the government and AMISOM. He had gone to pick our monthly bill of $100 sent by our sister living in the US. He was released in the evening and threatened to be killed if he revealed what happened to him. He has fled to Mogadishu and left us without food. There are many other victims of this daylight armed robbery,” said a young Somali teenager, speaking by phone from Elesha IDP camp sounding really worried.

If you thought this is to much wait until you hear of other merciless acts committed by Al-Shabab militias who seem to simply be getting away with anything they do in Somalia.

A poor potter is still struggling to survive from a harrowing experience with Al-Shabab after his tongue was cut-off with a live electricity wire for apparently being suspected to be a spy after he was spotted carrying goods several times on his wheelbarrow for a client from the insurgent held sprawling Bakara market to the government-held Hamarwayne district.

And as if that is not enough, they recently killed 2 pastoralists near Kismayu for refusing to pay Zakat or alms. A Mogadishu teenager was shot dead by an Al-Shabab militiaman after he refused to pick up his hair after it had been forcibly clipped. The reason, he had kept an un-Islamic hairstyle.

“If these ridiculous crimes are anything to go by, Shongole and his accomplices have a right to be really worried because Al-Shabab is slowly fading away. Since it is an ideological belief it is very hard to fight it head on. Their inhuman treatment of the same public who supported them yesterday will deprive them of recruits and the economic muscle they badly need. They stand no chance and the likes of Shongole cannot redeem their already bloodied hands with any public relations gimmick,” a Somali analyst said declining to give his name for his own safety.