Fail­ure to pay sol­diers threat­ens So­ma­lia’s war on al-Shabab

Daily Trust - - INTERNATIONAL -

So­ma­lia’s in­abil­ity to pay and even feed its sol­diers threat­ens to un­der­mine years of hard­won mil­i­tary gains against Is­lamist al-Shabaab rebels, with cor­rup­tion sap­ping morale and weak­en­ing the army in the war against the mil­i­tants.

In the past two months the al Qaeda-aligned group has stormed an African Union (AU) peace­keep­ing base and re­cap­tured sev­eral small towns from re­treat­ing So­mali sol­diers in Lower Sha­belle re­gion south of the cap­i­tal, Mo­gadishu.

While no one ex­pects the rebels to re­gain swathes of ter­ri­tory they lost since AU and So­mali sol­diers pushed them out of Mo­gadishu in 2011, there are fears that years of ef­forts to re­form the army may come un­done as un­paid sol­diers de­fect, erect check­points to ex­tract bribes, or lose the ap­petite to fight.

The non-pay­ment of salaries, stretch­ing up to six months for some troops, has strained re­la­tions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and for­eign donors, such as the United States and Euro­pean na­tions, who have in­vested bil­lions of dol­lars to sta­bilise So­ma­lia and stem the spread of rad­i­cal Is­lam from the Horn of Africa.

“Com­mand­ing un­paid troops is a prob­lem as your or­ders fall on deaf ears,” said Colonel Farah, a mil­i­tary com­man­der in south­ern So­ma­lia who says dis­grun­tled sol­diers have set up illegal check­points to shake down civil­ians.

“You can­not ask them to go with you to the front line. They say, ‘What are we dy­ing for?’,” Farah told Reuters.

A So­mali army soldier keeps guard as a tank rolls past af­ter they cap­tured the town of Barawe dur­ing the sec­ond phase of Op­er­a­tion In­dian Ocean Oc­to­ber 6, 2014.

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