by Muuse Yuusuf
A victim of an act of desperation
Suicide car-bombing is a frightening new phenomenon that has instilled fear in the hearts and minds of many Somalis who feel confused because it has never been part of their Somali culture. So far over 12 suicide bombings have been carried out by young Somalis, the latest being yesterday’s truck bomb attack which has targeted the ministry of education.
Believe it or not this is the second time the terror organisation Al-Shabaab has targeted an educational institution or an event with educational significance, including the Shamo Hotel bombing on 3 December 2009. The latest barbaric act which has killed many innocent people, including students – although Al-Shabaab would like to portray it as a sign of its strength – is actually an act of desperation, which should not be allowed to distract attention from the on-going efforts by the TFG and the international community to defeat this terror organisation. Indeed, Al-Shabaab is at its lowest web and is between two hard rocks, for the following reasons.
Revolutionary movements have spiritual leaders or mentors that inspire them to fight on in the most challenging and difficult circumstances. In the case of Al-Shabaab its mentor was Osama Bin Laden. As we know the ideologue’s body was dumped unceremoniously in the sea and has probably ended up as a feast for the sharks, a fate not to be wished for loved ones or indeed to any human being. As human nature dictates, right now Al-Shabaab leaders are probably broken hearts and are grieving for the loss of their spiritual leader. They are going through painful and uncertain times and can not see light at the end of the tunnel. Gone are those days when Al-Shabaab could seek an inspiration from Bin Laden’s rhetorical promise of victory, martyrdom and the ultimate installation of a global Islamic Caliphate. Gone are those days when Al- Shabaab could count on Bin-Laden inspired jihadists coming all the way from far places as Chechnya and the USA. This is a time when the Arab world has rejected Bin Ladin’s message of global Jihad, its people choosing democracy and freedom over religious tyranny and other forms of dictatorship.
The movement has made enemies, imagined or real, indigenous or foreign. Its strict interpretation of the Islamic Sharia has aliened many Somalis who have never been subjected to such draconian laws. It has invited the wrath of the peace loving Sufi folks after Al-Shabaab desecrated and destroyed sacred Sufi shrines. Sufi militiamen are now up with their guns, determined to restore dignity and pride to their humiliated sacred places, like Sheikh Mohamed Biya Maalo’s shrine and mosque in Mogadishu.
Quite recently, the terror group has expelled Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Amin, the grandson of the late Sheikh Hassan Barsane, the great Somali national hero, from his base at Jilyaale/Mukhtar in the middle Shebelle region in an attempt to dismantle centuries’ old tradition of the Salahiya Sufi order in the region. This will make more enemies for the Al-Shabaab & Co. However, the truth is that Sufi mystics have converted Somalis to Islam not by means of violence and terror as the global Jihadist are doing today but through tolerance, love, and spiritual healing that won them millions of disciples. Therefore despite the current threat posed by the terrorists, Sufi orders and their millions of followers are very likely to remain strong organisations in Somalia in the foreseeable future.
The bombings in Uganda and Al Shabaab’s constant threats to neighbouring countries have mobilised a formidable international force that is determined to wipe out a monster in the making. Unmanned US drone airplanes are decimating leaders of the movement, as other forces are smoking out Al-Shabaab from their strongholds across Somalia.
And lastly, the Al-Shabaab conglomerate is deeply divided and the notorious Somali factionalism along tribe, ideology, or business interest lines is threatening its very existence. Indeed, assassination attempts against senior Al-Shabaab leaders by others have been reported, and it is this virulent factionalism which will ultimately lead to the self-destruction of this monster organisation.
Al-Shabaab will make noises now and then but its prime time in power has ended. The challenge for the TFG and peace loving Somalis is how to fill in the power vacuum that will arise once Al Shabaab has disintegrated into factions.