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Document Abstract
Published: 2011

Comparing Somalia's al-Shabaab and Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army: a toxic mix of religion, politics and violence

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Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) and Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army could in principle be regarded as soldiers of the same struggle: both of these militant groups have a comparable goal of implementing religious law (Islamic rule in Somalia and the Ten Commandments in Uganda).  

This paper argues that both HSM and LRA emerged out of specific circumstances, and any meaningful responses will also have to deal with those circumstances. The paper indicates that military operations have not been effective in eliminating the problem of insurgency, and underlines the following points:

  • in a community where societal problems are widespread, it is easier for groups such as HSM and LRA to mobilise and radicalise their followers
  • a short-sighted approach that relies only on eliminating ‘suspected terrorists’ may not work if the structural conditions that motivate individuals to join these groups are not addressed
  • the key to successful counter-insurgency is winning over the local population - this calls for an integrated socio-economic and political approach designed to address the local population’s needs and make them feel secure

Conclusions include:

  • relying on military responses alone will simply strengthen the appeal of militant groups and introduce new cycles of terrorism
  • a victory is not about the destruction of the insurgent fighters, but the construction of a supporting local environment
  • correspondingly, success in dealing with insurgency must be assessed by the extent of the community’s support for the intervention
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K. Emmanuel

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