By Carla Bernardo - IOL - Cape Town - The Somali government was open to talking to terrorists who had nationalist ambitions in a bid to reintegrate them into society, said the country’s Minister for Planning and International Cooperation on Friday.
“We are talking to those with nationalist ambitions but not those who have transnational fundamentalist ambitions,” said Abdirahman Yusuf Ali Aynte during a panel discussion at the 2015 World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF-Africa) taking place in Cape Town.
Ali Aynte, a former journalist and the founder of his country’s only think tank, discussed the reintegration of terrorists into society once conflict had ended.
In using his own country’s experience as an example in tackling the root causes of conflict and terrorism, Ali Aynte named decentralisation of government and reconciliation as factors which had, thus far, rendered positive results.
On reconciliation, Ali Aynte said Somalia was willing to talk to so-called terrorists who had feelings of marginalisation, ambitions of nationalism, or had joined the likes of fundamental terror organisation al Shabaab because of socioeconomic related issues.
Once identified and engaged, these individuals would begin a process of reconciliation and reintegration with the communities they had once terrorised.
Through these processes, Ali Aynte said the Somali government had managed to decrease al Shabaab’s control of the country from 60 to six percent.
“Many of them have left violent extremism but it can be a challenge to keep it that way,” he said.
For those who had interests beyond the Somali border, Ali Aynte said government would continue fighting them in order to send a clear message that terrorism would not be tolerated.
Ali Aynte added that Somalia’s decentralisation approach was a means to tackling the issues that fueled terrorism, namely poor governance.
“We have taken a decentralisation approach to our governance which allows a substantial number of people to participate in the political process,” he said.
“If they had issues with government, they can now become the government.”
Ali Aynte said since decentralisation, which now consisted of 18 regions, there had been an increase in political participation of between 400 and 500 percent.
He compared 21st century Somalia to that of the 1970s and 80s, stating poverty was not the only driver of terrorism and conflict because in earlier Somalia, a communist-type government had managed to instill hope in the country’s poor youth.
“They didn’t give them money but they gave them hope. The government had galvanised the youth for the greater good,” said Ali Aynte.
He added that for today’s Somali youth, of which he had met youngsters who said that “it is the same whether I live or die” and who had chosen terrorism as an escape from a “hopeless life”, providing them with the chance to do something meaningful for their country could assist in keeping them from turning to the likes of al Shabaab.