The high-profile defection of one of Al-Shabaab’s most important and influential high-profile members, Mukhtar Robow, also known as Abu Mansour, is a welcome relieve for the Somali Government and its people. This was made very clear in the statement from the Government released by the Ministry of Information. The defection of Abu Mansour attracted global media attention because he is arguably one of the most high-profile defectors and the first under the new administration of President Farmaajo who extended an amnesty to all those fighters who defect within the amnesty timeframe.
There is much public debate concerning the reasons and timing of the defection of Abu Mansour but it is clear that he has been at ideological and physical war with Al-Shabaab for over 5 years. In his statement to the press on Tuesday 15th August 2017, Abu Mansour articulated his differences with Al-Shabab which he helped to establish and later lead as the second in command under Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed by a US airstrike in September 2014. He made clear his ideological and tactical differences with Al-Shabaab and that he is currently engaged in discussions with the Federal Government of Somalia. What he did not say was SORRY. He also did not ask for FORGIVENESS from the Somali people whom he victimised brutally during his time with Al-Shabaab alongside his former colleagues.
The clear absence of remorse from Abu Mansour continues to spark heated public debate about his religious views which many suspect are still violent. However, this cannot be assumed as it is the duty of the Government to work closely with all defectors to de-brief them and present a better prospect outside of the mindless violence and terror in which they were engaged, especially, through de-radicalisation programs and strategies.
A condition for defection must continue to be that all those who benefit from such a program must denounce their violent ideology. They must also work with the Somali Government to overcome the persistent security challenges that are as a result of the actions of their former associates in terrorist groups, including Al-Shabaab. The defectors program, including the President’s amnesty, cannot be an easy and opportunistic substitute for justice and protection from prosecution for the most violent terrorists who hold the future of Somalia and its people hostage.
While the Somali Government is publicly pleased with its coup against Al-Shabaab, many questions remain about the future of Abu Mansur in Somalia unanswered.
In the past, high level defectors such as Hassan Dahir Aweys and Mohamed Said Atam were settled abroad, given high profile posts in Government and kept under house arrest. However, as the Government struggles to rid Somalia of the terrorism and extremism that hampers its development, a new approach to both rehabilitating and resettling defectors effectively is most urgently needed. The case of Abu Mansur will be the ultimate test for the Somali Federal Government. The Somali people and the rest of the world are watching closely.