Mogadishu Analysis: General Massimo Mingiardi and the New Somali Army in 2014
Mareeg.com-Mogadishu is a city undergoing a massive economic boom that has not been seen for two decades. There are new hotels, housing complexes, restaurants, and taxi companies opening up each day. More than 60,000 Diaspora Somali have returned to take advantage of the business opportunities that are now available. The Somali Diaspora has been joined by regional investors from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, as well as India, Egypt and China. More than 20 European, Asian and African countries have opened embassies in Mogadishu, which indicates how much varios governments are interested to capitalize on the ongoing reconstruction of Mogadishu and Southern Somalia.
On the political front, the United Nations has relocated permanently in Mogadishu for the first time in 21 years. This important fact alone has boosted the confidence of many Somali and foreign entrepreneurs to return to Mogadishu. The United Nations has also created the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) under the senior British diplomat, Ambassador Nicholas Kay as Special Envoy.
On the security front, the decision made by the EU Council that on February 2014 the EU Training Mission for the New Somali Army will be relocated from Uganda to Mogadishu under Italian Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi will heavily boost Somalia’s rebirth.
In particular, it should be noted that General Mingiardi, an Italian career soldier, is seen as “Somalia expert” by the EU, Italy and US military establishment. General Mingiardi has deep knowledge about Somali culture, internal clan dynamics and the nature of the insecurity in Mogadishu. His selection is an indication of the growing re-engagement of former colonial power Italy in Somalia. Therefore, General Mingiardi will be tasked with cementing not only Italy’s formal return to Somalia after 21 years but also effectively building a singular Somali Army from the assorted clan militias throughout Southern Somalia.
Similarly, the Turkish government’s continued efforts to rebuild the damaged roads and essential infrastructure of Mogadishu is bearing political fruits. Turkey, more than any other nation, is seen by Somali to have directly contributed to the ongoing reconstruction of Mogadishu’s schools and roads. From rebuilding hospitals to garbage collection, Turkish companies and humanitarian agencies have accomplished a genuine miracle in Mogadishu. As result, Turkey now enjoys a special status in the country among Somali government and Mayor of Mogadishu. Part of Turkey’s success is the collaborative model where it works with Somali government, business community, clan elders, and regional governments and Somali professionals such as engineers in the reconstruction of the country.
In fact, Turkish companies have hired hundreds of former Somali civil servants, engineers, doctors, and teachers (many of them from overseas) to work in their various projects and offices in Mogadishu. Consequently, the International Airport (now managed by a Turkish company Favori LLC) and Seaport are fully operational, generating significant employment and millions of dollars of revenue for Mogadishu and the TFG. Turkey has also made clear it seeks in 2014 to widen its economic interests in Mogadishu by building mega shopping malls, manufacturing outlets, construction companies, petrol stations and housing units to take advantage of the returning Somali Diaspora.
Of course, the ongoing economic and political progress that has made is only possible because of the crucial military defeat of the Al-Shabaab and AlQaeda terrorists in 2011 by the combined African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), Transitional Federal Government forces, and the widespread anti-Shabaab sentiment among the 1.5 million residents of Mogadishu.
However, the Al-Shabaab criminals are still able to exploit many disgruntled and unemployed teenagers, minority clans and religious extremists who have been left out of the political and economic benefits of peace in Mogadishu. The Al-Shabaab has used the frustration and ignorance of these marginal groups to cause chaos with sporadic attacks against civilians and public infrastructure, especially cowardly suicide car bombings (recently outside the Jazira Hotel on January 1, 2014).
Yet, Al-Shabaab terrorist organization is disintegrating fast. The fighters can longer move freely in Mogadishu and Southern Somalia. The violent Jihadist ideology of Al-Shabaab now lacks any support among ordinary Somali. However, despite the fact that the Al-Shabaab has been defeated military, they remain committed to the mass killings of Somali civilians and professionals. In fact, the Al-Shabaab believe they have no future in Somalia and so have now chosen to conduct target assassinations of “soft targets” such as Somali doctors, teachers, foreign humanitarian workers and Diaspora Somali who have come to partake in the reconstruction efforts in Mogadishu.
As such, the aim of the EU mission under General Mingiardi in 2014 is to solely strengthen the capacity of the Somali security forces to provide consistent law and order and protection for Mogadishu. Unlike the previous model of reliance upon the AMISOM forces to fight the Al-Shabaab and simultaneously provide security, the EU mission has one determined goal: to secure Mogadishu district by district and then the outlying regions in South-Central Somalia.
In this respect, General Mingiardi will work with Ambassador Kay and UNSOM, the TFG and AMISOM to provide significant resources for the recruitment, training and organization of the Somali Armed Forces on the ground in Mogadishu. Each Somali Army recruit will now be held accountable directly to General Mingiardi for all his equipment, uniform, and training. Any Somali recruit who fails to fulfill the training regiment and expectations will not be paid and retain.
The EU mission will also for the first time begin the selection of new Somali officers to takeover running the Somali Army once the training mission is completed. Unlike the current aging Somali military leaders who have been appointed by the Hassan Sheikh government, the new Somali Army officers will be recruited directly by General Mingiardi, who has already begun preparations to send delegations out to Southern and Central Somalia clans.
Consequently, by the end of 2014 Somalia looks set to have a professional National Army and Officer Corps that can meaningfully provide adequate security and dependable law and order. Simultaneously, the eventual transformation of UNSOM under Ambassador Kay into a peacekeeping mission will also cement the overall efforts of the United Nations in overseeing Somalia’s political stabilization and transformation in time for the expected General Elections in 2016 to choose a new democratic government in Somalia since 1960s.