9 May 2018, Kismayo, Somalia – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Security Sector Program (IGAD SSP) in close cooperation with the IGAD Special Mission to Somalia (IGAD SMS) has successfully concluded a two days training for Somalia religious scholars, traditional leaders, CSO representatives, and relevant ministries on “Counter Radicalization, Disengagement, and Reintegration of Terrorist” held between 7-8 May 2018 in Kismayo, Somalia. This training was the first ever event conduced within the soil of the Federal Republic of Somalia.
The official opening ceremony was presided by H.E. Abdiaziz Sheikh Hussien Dayib – Focal point of P/CVE to Jubaland State of Somalia, H.E. Koshin Abdi Hashi – Deputy Coordinator of P/CVE at the Office of Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia, H.E. Abdirasheed Ibrahim Mohamed of The Minister of Internal Security of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Commander Abebe Muluneh – Director of IGAD SSP, and Eminent Islamic Scholars Dr. Sheikh Mohamed Shakul and Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Mohamed.
Commander Abebe, in his opening remark, welcomed the participants and expressed his utmost gratitude to the Government of Somalia and the Jubaland Administration for facilitating the attendance of relevant participants and hosting this important training. He also thanked the Government of Japan for their generous financial support in making the third round training a reality. He further emphasized on the need to highlight on the correct and true meaning of the religion Islam so that extremist groups could not be able to misuse and abuse the religion. He pointed out that this kind of program is hoped to provide convenient platform to openly discuss the issues of faith, religion, and the correct interpretations of Islam to reach a common understanding at a community level so that the leaders are able to teach others to eventually defeat the narratives of Al Shabaab and other radical groups.
H.E. Abdirasheed thanked IGAD and appreciated the effort being made to the regional response in fighting Al-Shabaab. He highlighted on the work the Ministry is doing and assured of his Ministry’s commitment and the Government of Somalia in providing the necessary mechanisms to enhance the capacity of its officials, and the community to eradicate and counter the narratives of extremist groups. He further highlighted on the National Defector Rehabilitation Program that has significantly implemented a drive towards defection and rehabilitation through the implementation of cohesive outreach program called “Be Among Your People” in an attempt to encourage coordination and continue the successes of the program as well as supplement it by ensuring accurate and timely information in reaching both potential defectors and the wider public on the program.
This training is the third and final round conducted within the project under the theme “countering violent extremism and terrorism in Somalia”. The objective of the project was to contribute to the fight against radicalization and countering terrorism in Somalia by providing knowledge, tools, and common understanding to traditional leaders in mobilizing the community through counter radical narrative that familiarize the dangers of religious extremism messages of Al Shabaab and other groups. The first activity was carried out in mid-2016 for 51 Somali youths with the title “Training of Trainers (ToT) on Countering Radicalization and Entrepreneurship skills”. Consecutive three trainings, this being the last, were carried out under the theme “Counter Radicalization, Disengagement, and Reintegration of Terrorist” benefiting a total of 160 religious and traditional leaders from all regions of Somalia. Given the importance of community in Somalia society and roles of their leaders, IGAD strongly believes that community based de-radicalization is important and provides a venue for trust based and sustainable intervention. IGAD also believes that unless more sensitization and fundamental work of disengagement is done with various communities, it is not possible to fully effectively defeat extremist narratives and remove the threats terrorist groups pose to Somalia and the region. This training, was therefore, one of the efforts geared towards bringing about change in this regard.
The training had a full house participation of 50 participants from all the regions of Somalia who are religious scholars, traditional leaders, and representatives of CSOs including women association, and relevant ministries such as focal points for P/CVE, religious affairs, interior, defense, and Office of the Prime Minister. High level and well-versed religious Sheiks Dr. Sheikh Mohamed Shakul and Sheikh Ibrahim Sheikh Mohamed shared their knowledge and experiences as well as form a common understanding on the various aspects of the subject matter. During the two days training, the following topic and area of focus were thoroughly discussed and debated over:
- Actors and vulnerable targets of Al-Shabaab radicalization and methods of recruitment methods (trends, patterns, processes, and causes of radicalization);
- Understanding extremist narratives and the damages caused to the people of Somalia in contrast to the mainstream Islam narratives;
- Methods and means of disseminating extremist narratives and recruitment by Al-Shabaab and ways to detect and counter them;
- Factors conducive for the spread of Al-Shabaab extremist narratives – how extremists’ ideology and propaganda attracts vulnerable groups (recruitment, affiliation, infiltration);
- Role of religious leaders, clan leaders, media and civil society in community disengagement, disseminating counter narratives;
- Countering extremist ideology with right Islamic ideology (how did it all start? who initiated and started? contextual analysis – different methods, measures, and interventions)
- The role of government, community, CSO and other stakeholders’ engagement on the acceptance of defectors for reintegration and rehabilitation.
- Challenges and opportunities for disengagement and reintegration (looking at the factors of resilience to extremism and radicalization)
Over the two days, all participants highlighted and emphasized on the need to fully understand the real and true teachings of Islam by providing the resources and platforms to counter those who provide wrong and misinterpretation of the religion and further called for a united front to eliminate those individuals and groups who claim to represent and do harm in the name of Islam and other religions.
The training is believed to enhance the knowledge of the participants, who are representatives of the community, to further be able to use tools to displace Al-Shabaab and other extremist narratives and wrong influences. This particular training aimed to reach more representatives of the various communities by going in the ground who, in turn, will pass the knowledge to their communities at the grassroots level.
The training in Kismayo, the town where we found to be very peaceful and free from Al Shabaab influences, has really given us a lesson to mobilize and popularize our efforts in preventing and countering radical ideas, violent extremism and terrorism so that the people of Somalia would be able to utilize their full potential and resources.
The training was concluded by Commander Abebe Muluneh and H.E. Koshin Abdi Hashi with a high note to collectively defeat and counter the narratives of extremists groups. Participants were awarded certificates for their successful completion of the training by Dr. Shakul, Sheikh Ibrahim, and Commander Abebe.
The IGAD delegation and training participants were privileged to be hosted for dinner by the Jubaland Administration President, H.E. Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe), at his State House whereby he thanked IGAD for taking this initiative and conducting the training in Kismayo. He called for a more robust approach in handling this problem with the right program, methodology and technical knowledge.