How Macawisleey is the Perfect Antithesis of Al-Shabaab

A group of Macawisleey men taking instructions.
A group of Macawisleey men taking instructions.


Who is Macawisleey and how do they operate?

√They have freed large swathes of land from the group in Hirshabelle and Galmudug in recent weeks, drawing attention from the government, the Somali people, and the international community.

The militia which emerged out of necessity 15 years ago and has been engaging al-Shabaab in low-intensity conflicts in isolated and remote areas that are largely unknown to Somali media, they have demonstrated their effectiveness against the group, ultimately driving it from areas it had been occupying for years.

Macawisleey initially emerged following al-Shabaab’s constant extortion and looting of rural populations particularly in the provinces of Hiraan, Galgaduud, and Middle Shabelle. For years, they have been operating by mobilizing only when they perceive threats from al-Shabaab as such they do not have permanent bases, organized leadership, regular forces, or external support.

Following the deliberate destruction of their homes, telecom towers, and boreholes by al-Shabaab in the last weeks, the militia reemerged with strength and determination. They are fighting for the same cause that Somalis have been fighting for centuries: their families, lives, property, and dignity.

So far, they are self-armed, self-organized, and self-funded. The Somali government or any other entity hasn’t provided them with any military support and only uses light personal rifles.

Macawisleey has been able to beat al-Shabaab at their own game by employing the same guerilla warfare strategy al-Shabaab has been utilizing against the federal government forces. They have been successful at targeting safe havens and remote hideouts deep within al-Shabaab territory, safe havens the group has been depending on ever since they were driven out of urban areas by government forces. Furthermore, the Macawisleey with their deep knowledge of the terrain have been able to undermine the group’s strength by sabotaging supply lines and have been successful at staging ambushes and raids.

The Somali government must seize this moment

An 80-year-old man who fighting on the frontline
An 80-year-old man who fighting on the frontline

The militias lack much-needed resources, are poorly organized, and are ill-prepared. They mainly comprise of livestock herders who were forced into taking up arms due to al-Shabaab’s cruelty. They operate in remote areas with no hospitals, good roads, and telecommunications. To hold liberated areas and to keep the heat on al-Shabaab, they desperately need sustained government support.

The Somali government must not hesitate to assist these ordinary people who chose to defend their livelihoods.

Without adequate government support, clan militias will eventually get weary of fighting and could end up negotiating with al-Shabaab.

Due to their fear of grass root uprisings, al-Shabaab has always been reluctant to engage in a full-scale war against clans and now is desperately attempting to reach a settlement with them. If al-Shabaab is successful in negotiating and resolving conflicts with the revolting clans, it will be a missed opportunity that might not easily come again.

As fed-up and willing locals rise, the government must seize the opportunity. However, to avoid the creation of problematic new groups, the government must diligently engage with clan militias and observe their operations at every step of the way by, for instance, organizing the militias under official military leadership.

It is important to remember that Macawisleey are simply ordinary citizens who are being forced to take up arms and have been successful despite the fact that many analysts, officials, or ill-advised ordinary citizens are opposed to them.

All those who took up arms were grappling with their daily lives, such as herding their own livestock or farming their own farms in the middle of a drought. Every Macawisleey is eager to resume their normal lives once they are free from the scourge of al-Shabaab. They don’t pose any threat to Somalia’s national security because they are merely defending themselves from a group out to end their lives.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication. 

Omar Abdi Jimale
Omar Abdi Jimale
Omar Abdi Jimale is a Ph.D. Political Science and Public Administration student at Necmettin Erbakan University, and commentator on Somalia’s political and security issues.

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