Africa Defense Forum
ADF is a professional military magazine published quarterly by U.S. Africa Command to provide an international forum for African security professionals. ADF covers topics such as counter terrorism strategies, security and defense operations, transnational crime, and all other issues affecting peace, stability, and good governance on the African continent.

Somalia Offers Amnesty to al-Shabaab Members

Zakariya Ismail Hersi, a former senior al-Shabaab commander, speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]


Somalia’s president has renewed an offer of amnesty to members of the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabaab.

In January 2015, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said his government will ensure the safety of al-Shabaab members who acknowledge their crimes, reject the militant group, and embrace Somalia’s peace-and-reconciliation process.

Mohamud also said his government will help defectors learn a trade or find a job. The announcement came after the defection of al-Shabaab’s former intelligence chief, Zakariya Ismail Hersi, and what the government said is a steady flow of foot soldiers abandoning extremism.

Mohamud said some crimes, such as murder and rape, are not subject to amnesty, but he added that those who committed such crimes could join the peace process after serving their sentences.

Hersi denounced the extremist group during his first public appearance after surrendering to the Somali government. Hersi said the group’s leaders had misled militants into fighting a distorted form of jihad, and he vowed to persuade fighters to renounce violence and to surrender to the Somali government.

Until his defection, Hersi, also known as Zaki, served as the head of intelligence for the Somali-based al-Shabaab. He is the most senior al-Shabaab commander to surrender to the Mogadishu-based government since Said Atam, head of al-Shabaab in the Puntland region, surrendered in June 2014. Another leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, surrendered in June 2013.

Al-Shabaab once controlled much of southern and central Somalia and imposed a harsh form of Islamic law that banned music and led to public amputations for accused thieves.

Government and African Union troops have recaptured most of the territory, but the militants still were able to kill several members of Parliament in 2014 and launch two major assaults on the presidential palace. The Somali government first offered amnesty to al-Shabaab fighters in September 2014, after al-Shabaab’s top leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in an air strike.

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