Time to consider negotiating with al-Shabaab in Somalia?

Al-Shabaab oo la wareegay saldhiggii ugu weynaa ciidamada Kenya ee Gobalka Gedo

The use of force hasn’t worked, and negotiation is one of several non-military options for preventing terrorism.

‘I knew how to found al-Shabaab, I know how to finish them.’ This was a 2018 statement by Mukhtar Robow, former deputy leader of Africa’s deadliest terror group – al-Shabaab. At the time, a United Nations Security Council report noted that at Robow’s instigation, 20 senior al-Shabaab members defected to the Somali government. He himself officially surrendered in 2017 and tried to enter mainstream Somali politics the next year.

His attempts were however short-lived due to his subsequent detention by the government. The government’s action arguably eroded trust that could have helped attract defectors and manage the problem of terrorism through non-military means.

Negotiating with al-Shabaab is one of several non-military options. It can complement existing counter-terrorism approaches in a country where using force to deal with al-Shabaab is yet to deliver a lasting solution. As attacks and fatalities increase, it is worth re-examining the possibility of political settlement through negotiation.

It is unsustainable for African states and Western donors to keep funding only military responses

11 Jun 2019  /  by Akinola Olojo