By Mohamed Adan Samatar
“…The calls from an unknown number had been coming for weeks, but Osman, a household-goods trader in the Somali capital’s largest market, disregarded them — until he got the text message.
“Will you pick up our call? Yes or no. This is the mujahideen,” it said. The mujahideen, the Islamist militants, al-Shabab. He knew right away what they wanted: to capture him in a protection money racket that the extremist group has been expanding across Somalia for years.
“My heart could barely pump blood in that moment,” said Osman, 45, a father of seven, who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used out of fear for his life. “If I don’t pay, they kill me.” (Faruk and Bearack).
Such horrific calls of intimidation and racketeering practices by Al-Shabab terrorist group are common occurrences in Somalia, especially in the capital of Mogadisho, with deadly consequences if one fails to comply or ignores their demand. Occasionally, business owners and elderlies are summoned to attend hearings or meetings in Al-Shabab controlled areas to carry specific directives or to ban them from participating in certain government activities such as electing their tribal representatives in the government.
These daily summons are communicated through media by the terrorist group with the knowledge of the federal government. The government counters the announcement by forbidding these vulnerable, under duress innocent citizens to participate in these extra judiciary activities or face the consequences of being jailed, instead of protecting them. Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.
The Al-Shabab group was ones weakened, and it was losing ground before the current regime of Villa Somalia put their guards down wittingly to consolidate its power grab schemes and to prop up loyal regional leaders to secure hand picked MPs to cement his return.
This blatant neglect emboldened Al-Shabab and enabled them reclaim lost territories and expand their authorities. Al-Shabab also infiltrated government institutions and business communities by largely investing in real estate business.
“ …The Shabab, the Somalia-based militant group that is Al Qaeda’s most powerful ally in Africa, is not only collecting millions of dollars in tariffs and payoffs but moving the money through local banks and even investing it in real estate and businesses, according to a new United Nations Security Council report.” (Dahir).
On the northern frontier, a once partner-Somaliland Republic found its footing after dissolving their failed union with Somalia. Currently, Somaliland intensified its efforts to secure recognition by employing smart foreign diplomacy of engagement, which brought them new friends and won them a worldwide respect.
Among their new friends, Taiwan comes to mind after they established a diplomatic relationship most recently, which was lauded around the world including the United States of America.
On the other hand, to Somalilanders a prolonged or delayed recognition is not a deal breaker.
Dahir, Abdi L. “Feared Shabab Exploit Somali Banking and Invest in Real Estate, U.N. Says.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 11 Oct. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/10/11/world/africa/feared-shabab-exploit-somali-banking-and-invest-in-real-estate- un-says.html.
Faruk, Omar, and Mark Bearack. “‘If I don’t pay, they kill me’: Al-Shabab tightens grip on Somalia with growing tax racket.” The Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/if-i-dont-pay- they-kill-me-al-shabab-tightens-its-grip-on-somalia-with- growing-tax-racket/2019/08/30/81472b38-beac-11e9- a8b0-7ed8a0d5dc5d_story.html. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
By Mohamed Adan Samatar