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4 December 2017, Djibouti – The IGAD Security Sector Program (IGAD SSP) in close cooperation with the IGAD Special Mission to Somalia (IGAD SMS) has today kicked off a 5 days training on “Counter Radicalization, Disengagement, and Reintegration” being held in Djibouti for Somalia religious scholars, traditional leaders, CSO representatives, and relevant ministries.

The official opening ceremony was presided by Commander Abebe Muluneh, Director of IGAD SSP, who welcomed the participants and by Ambassador Tewolde Gebremeskel Director of IGAD Peace and Security Division who officially opened the training. Sheikh Ali Dahir, speaking on behalf of the Government of Somalia and the delegation, applauded IGAD and the support for Somalia especially in organizing such kind of training that brought together scholars for common understanding in defeating Al-Shabaab.

Commander Abebe, in his opening remark, expressed his gratitude to the Government of Djibouti for Hosting and the Government of Japan for their generous financial support in making the training a reality. He further highlighted that the militant group Harakaat al-Shabaab al-Mujaahidiin (Al-Shabaab) remains the most immediate threat to the peace, security and stability of Somalia and the region. Major offensive operations by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army against Al-Shabaab have equivocated since July 2015, which marked the last phase of Operation of Juba Corridor. Although the Government of Somalia with regional and international support are doing a lot in tackling Al-Shabaab, the terrorist group continues to carry out regular complex attacks in Mogadishu, typically by deploying a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device followed by an assault by four to five so-called suicide gunmen, against hotels and restaurants. One of the deadliest attack in Somalia’s history was on 14 October 2017 through a massive blast caused by a truck bombing in Mogadishu killing at least 512 and insuring 316. Commander Abebe pointed out that engaging with key community members that include religious leaders, the youth, and women hand in hand is very important in tackling the narratives and messaging of Al-Shabaab.

The objective of the training is 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. The training brought together 50 participants from all the regions of Somalia who are religious scholars, representatives of CSO from women association, and ministries such as the religious affairs, interior, and defense. High level and well-versed religious sheiks are expected to share their knowledge and experiences as well as form a common understanding on the various aspects of the subject matter. Accordingly, the following topic and area of focus are laid out in the agenda for discussion and debate over the coming days:

  • –  Understanding extremist narratives and the damages caused to the people of Somalia in contrast to the mainstream Islam narratives;
  • –  Actors and vulnerable targets of Al-Shabaab radicalization and methods of recruitment methods (trends, patterns, processes, and causes of radicalization);
  • –  Factors conducive for the spread of Al-Shabaab extremist narratives – how extremists’ ideology and propaganda attracts vulnerable groups (recruitment, affiliation, infiltration);
  • –  Methods and means of disseminating extremist narratives and recruitment by Al-Shabaab and ways to detect and counter them;
  • –  Role of religious leaders, clan leaders, media and civil society in community disengagement, disseminating counter narratives;
  • –  Promoting the importance of solving conflicts/differences through negotiation and peaceful ways under the teachings of Islam;
  • –  Mechanisms to counter radicalization and violent extremism: IGAD and Somalia PCVE strategies; and
  • –  The role of government, community, CSO and other stakeholders’ engagement on the acceptance of defects’ for reintegration and rehabilitation.

    The training is expected to enhance the knowledge of the participants, who are representatives of the community, to further be able to use tools to displace Al-Shabaab propaganda and wrong influences.

    Given the importance of community in Somalia society and roles of their leaders, IGAD strongly believes that community based de-radicalization is irreplaceable 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 overcome Al- Shabaab and its narratives and subsequently remove the threats this group is posing to Somalia and the region. The training, is therefore, one of the efforts geared towards bringing about change in this regard. Consequently, IGAD will conduct the second phase of this training targeting more delegates of representatives of the various community who will, in turn, pass the knowledge to their communities at the grassroots level.

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