Hassan Sheikh: “The door is always open to those who reject al-Shabaab’s doctrine of destruction and embrace peace”


Zakariya Ismail HersiHE the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke on the Federal Government of Somalia’s (FGS) counter terrorism strategy and how this affects the continuing wave of defections from al-Shabaab. This follows the recent de-listing from the UN sanctions list of former senior al-Shabaab commander, Sheikh Mohamed Said Mohamed (Atom), the defection of Zakariya Ismail Hersi (Zaki), and the most recent defection, commander Hussein Dhubi in Luuq which took place on 15 January,and the steady flow of foot soldiers abandoning al-Shabaab.

The President unequivocally laid out his commitment to ensuring the safety of any defector who rejects al-Shabaab’s doctrine of destruction and violence and embraces the peace process: “I say to the many disaffected members of al-Shabaab: the door is always open to those who reject al-Shabaab’s destructive agenda and embrace peace.”

The President spoke about the recent defections of senior leaders from al-Shabaab: “Senior leaders of al-Shabaab have already defected, and the FGS has assisted them in removing the sanctions against them. I want to reassure the people of Somalia that this was not done lightly. Those leaders genuinely regret their previous actions. They sought and continue to seek reconciliation, particularly with those who were affected by their actions. They willingly speak out against al-Shabaab and its un-Somali, un-Islamic doctrine, and they paint a terrifying portrait of life within that unholy organization: cruelty, infighting, deception, corruption and worse. For these reasons the Federal Government is willing to engage with them, those who were once our enemies, and to assist in their assimilation back into the Somali community. The FGS will continue to speak to discontented al-Shabaab leaders to encourage them to choose peace.”

The President spoke about the recent defections of numerous al-Shabaab foot soldiers: “We are not only speaking to the leaders of al-Shabaab: many, many of the foot soldiers of al-Shabaab have also defected, and more are looking for a way out of the dark place in which they are trapped. We say to them: the door is always open to you, but you must reject al-Shabaab’s perverse creed. You will not be abused or killed. The Federal Government guarantees your safety. Somalia has a place for every one of you. We will help you to get an education or learn a trade or find a job.

“Reach out to us by any means, and you will find a willing ear and a helping hand. We know you joined for reasons that made sense at the time: you needed money for your family, someone you trusted told you to join, or maybe you felt it was the right thing to do to prove yourself a good Somali or a good Moslem. Maybe you did not even know what they were joining– many of those who have defected tell us of their shock when they realised what they had become involved and complicit in. But what you did does not have to dictate the rest of your life.”

The President addressed the people of Somalia: “I also have a message for the people of Somalia. Some of you are uneasy regarding reconciliation with former members of al-Shabaab. I want to reassure you. The Federal Government has a process in place, to recognize genuine defection. Defection comes with conditions:
• Recognition of previous crimes
• Rejection of violence and rejecting al-Shabaab
• Embracing a peaceful resolution to conflict
• A commitment to play an active part in re-joining a community and contributing to its welfare

“Those who defect are supported to acknowledge and deal with their actions through a process of supervised rehabilitation. And once they re-join the Somali community, they are constantly monitored by the Somali security forces to confirm their continuing commitment to rejecting al-Shabaab.

“Rest assured, those members of al-Shabaab who are unwilling to make those commitments and continue to revel in brutality, deception, extortion and depravity will be subject to the due process of the law. For this very purpose, new Counter Terrorism legislation specifically designed for the task will soon be passed into law.

“There are also some crimes which will not be subject to amnesty, and which will be subject to prosecution, crimes such as murder and rape. But even those who have committed such crimes could join the peace process after they have served their sentences.

But for those who choose the path of peace, I ask the Somalia people to accept the need for concession and to exercise forgiveness so that we can together close this dark chapter in Somalia’s history.”