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Somalia’s transitional government is attempting to impose an overall command structure on a disparate collection of militias from different clans in the Gedo Region, where the various groups have been gaining ground from militant Islamist group al-Shabaab.
Militias who were trained in Kenya and Somalia have joined those of pro-government Islamist group Ahlu Suna wal Jamaa to fight the insurgents in the areas bordering Kenya and Ethiopia.
The Transitional Federal Government’s Minister of Defense Abdihakim Fiqi this week met officials of the anti-Al-Shabaab groups operating from Luq and Bohol Bashir districts and asked them to appoint a financial committee consisting of five people, and a judicial committee consisting of two people. The committees are to oversee the respective sectors during operations in the Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions.
Fiqi is reported to have also met with Ethiopian officials, when he facilitated the release of the commanders of the pro-government forces in the Gedo region who were arrested by Ethiopia more than a month ago. The minister wants the forces to have more structure for their military activities and keep them on a tighter leash.
The minister is reported to be acting on orders from Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who wants to improve the structure of the local security forces. The premier wants to ensure the pro-government forces in Gedo receive their pay regularly, just like the ones in Mogadishu. Forces in Mogadishu are now behind the premier, and they joined the public to condemn the Kampala Accord that states he should resign in thirty days.
Suleiman Isak, a retired intelligence officer who provides private security consultancy on Somalia, believes it will be difficult for the TFG to impose its own military structure in Somalia, particularly in areas outside the capital.
“These militias were previously under the command of war veterans who will fight against any system that takes the power of controlling the local militias from them,” he said.
“The clans will also not agree on one commander who should control the forces. The pro-TFG forces in Gedo region are mainly from Gare, Marehan and Rahanweyn clans, who are hostile to each other. It will be difficult for the TFG to bring them together,” he added.
However, the TFG was able to secure the loyalty of Mogadishu’s “freelance militia”, who were previously under the command of former warlords. The soldiers no longer obey their clan elders and warlord commanders, as they receive their pay directly from the government.
The Farmajo administration was also able to enhance cooperation between AMISOM (the African Union peacekeeping mission) and TFG forces in Mogadishu. The government may be intending to use similar techniques of empowering the forces to have a structural command and push the Gedo offensive towards the Bay, Bakol and the Juba regions, which are held by Al-shabaab.
Ethiopia Wants to Train more Militiamen
Meanwhile, Ethiopian officials reportedly asked TFG and ASWJ officials to recruit 1000 people for military training in Doolow. The training is expected to be of a short duration (40 days).
Ethiopia is reported to be worried about al-Shabaab insurgents returning to Gedo and areas that are close to its border if the current ASWJ and TFG forces stretch their forces too thin when they continue to advance. The new recruits will therefore be left behind and tasked with guarding the previously seized positions. A number of Ethiopian forces will also back the forces in case of any retaliatory attacks by the insurgents.
Al-Shabaab is known for tactically withdrawing forces to launch attacks from different positions.