Growing radicalization
among youth in Somalia
By Lilla Schumicky
PhD Candidate/ University of Bradford/ Peace Studies
Africa Conflict Monitoring Group Coordinator / University of Bradford
UNDP Somalia Intern
ACTED Area Coordinator / North-West Kenya
Radicalization among youth is currently
increasing in Somalia, especially after the
Ethiopian intervention in 2007. In order to
mitigate the radicalization among youth, it
is crucial to understand the motivations
and contributing factors. Once they are
deconstructed, community based, bottom up
approach national interventions could
decrease the level of radicalization, through
prevention, rehabilitation and
 The Islamic Court Union (ICU) took over control of
South and middle Somalia in 2006
 Mass engagement of youth in fighting appeared,
after the invasion of Somalia by the US supported
Ethiopian troops, which have overthrown the ICU
in 2007
 From both national and international environment
youth joined various armed factions in order to
defeat the invaders
 From the diasporas in the US and Europe youth
started to ‘disappear’ and moved back to Somalia.
In 2007, 23 youth moved from Minneapolis to
Somalia according to the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA). 8 persons were judged on court for
recruitment of youth
Various armed factions
 The ICU had a specially established youth wing that was under the
command of a small group of people lead by Sheikh Muhtar Robow–
Hizbul Islam
Ahlu Sunna
 ICU was commanded by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Dahir
 Sheikh Sharif is the current minister of the Transitional Federal
Governement (TFG)
 Hassan Dahir Aweys has formed the other main opposition group:
Hizbul Islam
 Most youth both locally and internationally joined al-Shabaab or
Hizbul Islam
The major groups
Hizbul Islam & al-Shabaab
Hijbul Islamiya and al-Shabaab are sharing common ideology
and interests
Both are mainly supported by the diaspora and external actors
such as Eritrea. However recent terrorist attacks such as the
Shamo Hotel Graduation attack in December 2009 offset the
support by the diaspora.
Both are fractions originating and a type of continuation of ICU
HI is militarily less organized
HI has a more centralized leadership
Al-S’s leadership and military officers are trained foreign
fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Chechnya linked
to al-Qaeda
Al-S has different units operating separately
The major groups
Hizbul Islam & al-Shabaab
It is an increasingly feeble and unreliable alliance of various armed groupss
Stated interests:
To fight the West’s puppet government the TFG, which is considered to be infidel
To fight all of its supporters such as Ahlu Sunna and AMISOM
To uproot all external / international interventions in any form such as humanitarian or development aid,
military support etc
To introduce a strict version of Sharia law
To fight the Global jihad beyond the border of Somalia and spread it first to the neighboring countries such as
Kenya and Ethiopia and than to Africa and the West
To support other jihadist movements in different Muslim countries such as Palestine
HI and al-Shabaab is fighting each other in order to gain economical control over strategic points
HI Hidden interests:
To control Mogadishu hence its leader – Awey belongs to Ayr clan, which is a sub-clan of Hawiye and one of
the most powerful in the capital city
Personal bad feelings towards the current president – ‘Awey was left out of the deal’ while establishing the
current TFG
Al-Shabaab ‘s hidden intrests
To support farmers of the Rahanweyn clan and Leysan sub-clan from where Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu
Mansur – the leader is originating from by banning food aid distribution by aid agencies such as WFP
Causes and contributing factors
45 percent of the population is below 14 and
years and the median age of the Somalia’s
total population is 17.5 (CIA Factbook).
A three level analysis is provided in order to
capture the possible angles of the
motivations of joining on individual, social
and institutional levels. These three are
interlinked and it is not possible to
separate one from the other; however
dominant causes can be identified on all
three levels.
Causes and contributing factors
Individual level engagement
Linked to the psychological status of the mind
The whole society, which has been impacted by the war became brutal and brutalized in
the same time
Traumatisation is caused by the separation of family members, torture and rape,
frequent displacements, lack of financial support and adaption of a new way of life from
the nomadic society to the displaced and aid dependant society
These factors lead to depression and sadness that further acts as being the only solution
for all problems.
Lack of hope: The sixteen failed peace-talks the two previous and the third currently
failing government
Growing anger and bitterness towards the international community due to the lack of
support encourages global jihad against the West
War caused the fragmentation of the nuclear family; child abuse became rampant
Feeling of Revenge (disappearance of the traditional xeer)
Participation is based on money, the promise of money and khaat According to the
Kenya National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse a daily $300 000 is paid
by Somalis for the drug.
Guarantee from the various factions that they will have the freedom to loot, extort and
rape. The looting is officially part of the salary and subsidizes the low wage which is not
paid regularly.
Causes and contributing factors
Social level engagement
 High rate of unemployment - about 80 percent in
Mogadishu according to SAACID
 If the nuclear family has enough funds then they
may buy a gun, most frequently AK47 machine gun
 Families decide to dedicate one of the sons for a
security job
 Environmental destruction took considerable part
of the lack of unemployment and lack of
Causes and contributing factors
Institutional level engagement
 Cheap human resource that is easy mobilize and recruit
 Ideology, the Salafi-Wahabbism, which lies along Sayid Qutb’s
philosophy that emphasizes the implementation of an extremely
strict version of sharia law
 al-Shabaab becomes the family of the youth where is relative
security and order can be found
 Proliferation and the extremely easy access to small arms – forms of
 Radio game shows, which were run by the Shabaabs in Southern
Somalia, AK 47s, hand grenades and anti tank landmines were the
prizes for the winners if they could correctly answer questions
related to the Quran. The host of the quiz show has said:
“The reason the young men were rewarded with weapons is to
encourage them to participate in the ongoing holy war against the
enemies of Allah in Somalia,” AFP news agency quoted al-Shabab's
Sheikh Abdullahi Alhaq on the prize-giving ceremony.
DDR in Mogadishu
 Initiatives to decrease the number of participants
in various armed groups have been taken since
2001 in the form of Disarmament Demobilization
and Reintegration (DDR) programmes.
 Three DDR attempts took place solely in
Mogadishu between 2001 and 2007.
 It is traditionally comes along with Security Sector
Reforms (SSR) after when a peace agreement is
signed and major direct violence is ended.
(Negative peace -> aiming toward positive peace
decrease structural and cultural violence Galtung
DDR in Mogadishu
First DDR in 2001
 Funded by the Italian Government through
UNESCO it has demobilized and provided four
months vocational training for 225 militiamen
 It has not contained any of the elements of DDR
such as disarmament, demobilization or
reintegration and was in fact purely the
remobilization of militiamen into the police and
official military forces after vocational training.
 The main desire of the militiamen was to find
gainful employment after training where they were
ready to participate
DDR in Mogadishu
Second DDR 2003-2004
 Characters of the II. DDR: bottom-up grassroots
programming, with strong international
 Three hundred participants 150 were from the civil
society and half of them were women
 The aim of the involvement of the women was to
encourage them not to buy guns for their sons and
make them understand that there are other ways
of earning living but encouraging them to join
 At least one, working automatic weapon had to be
handed over, in order to be able to participate on
the training
DDR in Mogadishu
Third DDR 2005- 2006
 512 freelance militiamen were provided with micro
credit and vocational training
 In 2008 when a Tracer survey was conducted forty
percent of them were still employed despite the
dire circumstances and extremely bad security
situation (full-blown insurgency in the capital)
 It had a long-term effect because participants were
saying: “I gave up robbing people,” “I care about
myself now and don’t like bad deeds,” “I have a free
life and know between good and bad,” ”I have
character to live with people,”
 Community-based and community-owned approach
of the entire DDR programme.
Arms Violence Reduction Project
In spite of this success of the previous three DDR programmes the donor community is not
committed of funding further DDR programmes in Somalia; yet UNDP has further
developed it into Arms Violence Reduction Project (AVRP).
The main justification of AVRP is that Somali people are prisoners of a cycle of armed
violence from, which is extremely hard to break out of. The community is influenced
by impunity and weak justice system – the sharia courts are no longer functioning in
many places.
Prevention would be realized in non-violent conflict management and cure in
rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-militiamen into the society. The project would
consist of three phases:
1) Security diagnosis where the type of violence, the nature of conflict and the
endogenous resources will be identified.
2) The set up of community security plan by consulting with community
members on district levels.
3) Execution of the activities by entrusted local NGOs
The plan has been prepared in 2008 but funding hasn’t yet arrived. Instead the
financial support goes towards the extremely week Transitional Federal Government.
However the TFG is not in the position to implement any kind of DDR in Somalia.
Radicalization of youth is currently increasing due to
the various individual, social and institutional
external and internal push factors.
DDR in a form of bottom-up approach with
community based ownership could be one of the
possible solutions for the mitigation of
radicalization of youth in Somalia by targeting
each push factors on the various levels, and aiming
towards prevention, demobilization and
Thank you for your attention
[email protected]
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Growing Radicalization among youth in Somalia