By Dr. Mohamud M. Uluso
Wednesday – February 9, 2022
Under colonial rule, Somalis fought for their political and civil rights and for self-governance. The preamble of the post-independence Constitution emphasizes the followings:
Firmly decided to consolidate and protect the independence of the Somali nation, and the right to liberty of its people, in a democracy based on the sovereignty of the people and on the equality of rights and duties of all citizens;
Determined to cooperate with all peoples for the consolidation of liberty, justice and peace in the world, and in particular with those peoples with whom they are linked by history, religion, culture and political outlook for the creation of a better future.
The consolidation of democracy has been cut short by rampant corruption, nepotism, injustice, and sham elections espoused by the civilian government that came into power in 1967. The public revulsion and dismay, and the killing of the president of the nation paved the way for the bloodless coup of the armed forces led by the Somali National Army (SNA) on the early morning of October 21, 1969. Major General Mohamed Siad Barre became the unelected supreme leader of the Somali democratic Republic which replaced the Somali Republic.
The military regime suspended the democratic constitution, the political parties, and the right of the people to free speech, political associations and assembly, and the habeas corpus. It established the National Security Services (NSS) – an intelligence agency – modelled on the former USSR intelligence agency – KGB, and the National Security Court (NSC) to deter all kinds of democratic claims and manifestations. Although NSS was responsible for foreign and domestic intelligence, it focused on domestic intelligence for protecting the regime rather than protecting the citizens and the country. The military regime ruled for 21 years, leaving behind the experience of authoritarianism.
The Somali state was transformed into a police state that made spying on citizens its highest priority by establishing a network of security structures with unlimited powers of arrest and indefinite detention of citizens without due process. The security network with power to arrest included the courts, the NSS, the Police, the members of the ruling junta – the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), the Mayor of Mogadishu, the Attorney General, the Presidential guards Kofi Cas (the red berets), Police force, custodial corps, the Dhabarjabin (backbreakers) and the Hangash of the military police, paramilitary force Gulwadayaal (Victory Pioneers), the investigative department of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), the regional and district security committees, the governors and commissioners. All had the power to arrest but not the ability to release the arrested without permission from higher authority.
NSS had special jails all over the country. The most notorious jail was in Mogadishu, dubbed “Godka (Dungeon, Hole) Jili’o.” Other notorious jails were NSS Headquarter, Mogadishu Central Prison, Lanta Bur, Labatanjirow, Burweyn, and Mandhera Jails.
The corruption, state monopoly of the economy, incompetence, and pervasive injustice of the military regime caused the deterioration of the living standard of the people, loss of hope, and the rise of armed rebel movements that ousted the despotic regime in January 1991. After ten years of statelessness and twelve years of transitional governments, Somalis had to negotiate new social contract for new republic that shuns the abuses, malfeasances, and incompetence of the ousted despotic regime and remains faithful to the letter and spirit of the Provisional Constitution approved on August 1, 2012.
Article 3 (3) of the 2012 Constitution states the following principle of the new republic:
“The constitution of the federal republic of Somalia promotes human rights, the rule of law, general standards of international law, justice, participatory consultative and inclusive government, and the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and an independent judiciary, in order to ensure accountability, efficiency and responsiveness to the interests of the people.” Article 4 (1) states, “After Shari’ah, the constitution of the federal republic of Somalia is the supreme law of the country. It binds the government and guides policy initiatives and decisions in all sections of government.” No authority can take action that isn’t in compliance with a law. The challenge is the elected leaders want to rule according to their whims and interests rather than according to the constitution.
The constitution permits the establishment of five security institutions – the Somali National Army (SNA), the National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA), the Federal Police Force (FPF), the State Police Force (SPF), and the Federal Custodial Corps (FCC). Paramilitary and Militia forces are prohibited, while regulated private security companies are allowed. The constitution provides roadmap for establishing the new security forces.
Article 130 orders the federal parliament to enact laws that govern the security agencies of the federal government. But, ten years passed without fulfilling those constitutional mandates. This failure undermined public confidence and raised the dreadful expectation for civil strife.
Article 111H establishes the independent National Security Commission with the responsibility of establishing civilian oversight and monitoring mechanism over the performance of the security agencies and redress of abuses committed by their personnel. Three of the guiding principles for security forces listed under Article 127 are (a) to uphold the constitution (b) to respect the rule of law, democratic institutions, and fundamental rights of the citizens; (c) to practice transparency, accountability, and political neutrality.
The constitution requires that the members of the security forces are trained on the implementation of the constitution, the laws of the land and the international treaties approved by the federal parliament. The purpose of the training is to inculcate the security forces that they are not loyal to the president, the commander in chief. Again, this constitutional mandate hasn’t been implemented.
In December 2018, former Minister of Internal Security and current Minister of Justice held press conference announcing the closure of Godka (Dungeon) Jili’o for good. Unfortunately, the closure announcement was boldfaced lie probably intended to fend off the criticisms of the international human right defenders.
Similar to the security network of the ousted military regime, NISA created and controls different paramilitary forces that are outside the constitution. It operates worse than former NSS and uses dilapidated, unlivable jails.
It secretly and unlawfully recruited about 7,500 young Somalis sent to Eritrea. Despite the complaints of their parents, NISA has yet to provide clear answer about the fate of the young Somalis suspected of participating the Tigrayan war of Ethiopia.
Although all security and paramilitary forces are involved in domestic politics in support of usurper president Farmajo, NISA cares and leads Farmajo political interests, assaulting opposition politicians, carrying out rigged elections, orchestrating two-year term extension, and fomenting political crisis to delay elections or to steal parliamentary seats for Farmajo supporters. NISA officials, including the director General Fahad Yasin, accused of the assassination of the female intelligence official Ikram Tahlil Farah who lived within NISA headquarter perimeter are rewarded with parliamentary seats stolen in broad daylight, which is an affront to fairness, accountability, and justice.
For inexplicable reasons, the representatives of Western Intelligence agencies assigned to Somalia between 2017 and 2022 closed their eyes on the violence and wrongdoings committed by NISA and reported by reputable international organizations. They successfully excluded NISA from the efforts of security reform. There is reasonable assumption that the western intelligence officials were aware of NISA’s violent attacks against former presidents and former Minister Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, in which innocent civilians were killed and their dead bodies dishonored. This is a clear prima facie evidence that Western Intelligence Agencies oppose the democratization of NISA.
On May 2, 2017, nine days before the London Conference between the Federal Government and the International Partners of Somalia held on May 11, 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued report titled “Human Rights priorities for Somalia’s new government.” The report laid out the human right violations committed by the Somali security forces and the long-delayed security reform. The violations mentioned in the report are indiscriminate attacks, murder, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extortions and looting.
The report urged the Somali Government and the international partners to seriously pay attention to the security reform, suggesting concrete recommendations to address documented human right violations and ensure accountability and improved justice. Sadly, nothing has been done in the past five years.
In particular, the report singled out NISA’s broad powers to arrest, detain, and torture citizens without legal basis. It also pointed out that the federal parliament, the ministries of internal security and defense, and the judiciary system have been denied to exercise oversight over the Security forces since Farmajo took them control and became “a de facto warlord.”
It is public knowledge that Fahad Yasin former NISA Director General and now National Security Advisor to usurper President Farmajo works improperly with state security services of Qatar and he has never been accountable to anyone. Recently, in an open letter, he confessed his exclusive allegiance to Farmajo’s will and directives, instead of fidelity to the constitution.
US, UK, EU, Turkey, UAE, France, Qatar, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia supported NISA and knew its wrongdoings. In particular, US, Qatar, and Eritrea supported NISA in the last five years in which NISA committed the most egregious crimes against opposition, journalists, and innocent civilians, unlawfully recruited young Somalis whose fate is unknown for almost 3 years, and assassinated female intelligence officer Ikram Tahlil Farah and many other officials without accountability. Those foreign countries bear responsibility for the assassination, violence, and crimes committed by NISA in the last five years.
Journalist Ayanle Hussein Abdi, owner of “Hanoolaato Media Network” interviewed credible witnesses – Abdullahi Mohamed Nur, Abdisatar Hassan Ali, and Abdisalam Yusuf Guled, who recounted the atrocities NISA committed against them and others. The Interviews, conducted in Somali, are published in YouTube Channel “Hanoolaato” for public information, awareness, and reaction.
Western Intelligence Agencies should support publicly and actively the dissolution of the irreformable NISA to pave the way for the establishment of new intelligence services faithful to the constitution and rule of law and capable to deliver professional domestic and external intelligence services. Well thought laws, well trained and vetted leaders and personal, oversight and monitoring structure, and financial and technical support will guarantee the improvement of security and justice in Somalia.
Dr. Mohamud M. Uluso