Last week has shed light on the shady underbelly of Somali politics which has loomed in the background for decades in Muqdisho. The dark forces which refuse to remove their grip of Somalia and attempt maintain shackles around her ankles have been dragged out into the spotlight.
From the Banaadir Regional Court’s list of six espionage spies to the spreading of fake videos and news on social media about violence in the capital. The state of affairs in Somali politics currently looks like a scene from the US elections 2016 and Russian spies!
Let’s delve further into these accusations and events to understand.
The Infamous Six
On April 15th, the Banaadir regional court called on six suspects to appear in front of the court facing charges of “leaking national security information” and “spying to foreigners“. The list defendants include Matt Bryden, Rashid Abdi, Colin Robinson, Kheyre Abdirahman Raage, Emmanuel Deisser and David Hopkins. But just who are these men?
Matt Bryden is a name that has continuously reappeared in Somali affairs in the last decade. Mr Bryden previously worked for the UN Monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea, and now works as a Strategic Adviser for Sahan Research based in Nairobi. He has been accused of working with multiple foreign international agencies and using his position to gained access to sensitive security information. He has been accused of consistently attacking the ability of Somalia to govern itself, downplaying and undermining Somali national security and political stability. Some sources from within Somalia also claim he worked on behalf of multiple foreign dignitaries and opposition politicians to obtain sensitive state information from his position of influence. He was banned from Somalia in 2018 by the Farmaajo government.
Similarly, Colin Robinson has also been accused of espionage by the Somali government. He describes himself as Defence and Military analyst. Robinson also worked for Sahan Research broadly advising the Somali Armed Forces on security which involved tracking the forces and developments, analysing their significance and providing recommendations to international donors. The government accuses him of leaking sensitive security information to foreign countries during this role with access to sensitive military information.
All other defendants listed by the court are or were employees of Sahan Research which itself has been accused by the Somali government of using its position of influence as a research institute to access sensitive government information and use such information in malign manner.
All those accused deny all charges made against them.
The Fake News Campaign
As many users of Twitter and other social platforms are aware, there has been an upsurge in misleading or inaccurate disinformation including videos and tweets being shared. The most recent being several MPs claiming that the former police chief was under attack in Shiirkole, with a ‘Mogadishu Uprising’ which many on social media claimed was a revolt in the capital. Over multiple nights, we saw claims of attacks which led to unfortunate death of an innocent mother named Hinda. She left behind 12 children.
The attacks were adamantly denied by the Minister of Security on Somali National TV the exact same night such claims were made explaining the government has no interest in attacking the poverty-stricken area of Shiirkole to detain Saadaq Joon. The infiltration of fake news was so bad that Somali clan elders had to attend meetings with the Prime Minister to gain reassurances that the government had no intentions of attacking or detaining Saadaq Joon.
Additionally, we have seen many on social media with large followings using their platform to spread hate or inaccurate events to project civil unrest. Again, the Somali government has reiterated that peace prevails in the capital.
What to Conclude
When one sees the narratives of the opposition MPs in Muqdisho and Twitter users who share the same arguments and disinformation to support those narratives, it is quite evident that there is seems to be a sophisticated global network focused on dismantling Somali political stability. The question is, how can we tackle this onslaught of inaccurate information?
While there is not much we can do stop those people from exercising their freedoms including freedom of speech, we can use our own freedom of speech to counter their narratives against the Somali government and its people. We can create our own network of accurate information to ensure individuals are not mislead by false narratives.
This can be done through writing articles, spreading accurate tweets and sharing videos of actual real-time events on the ground.
One does not need to be a supporter of the Farmaajo administration to see the dangerous of civil unrest in the capital. After years of fighting, a war as a result of a disinformation campaign would be disastrous for Somalia and would send the country back to 1991.