The Somali National Army (SNA) has been informing the public about a huge number of Al-Shabaab militants who were killed in their recent operations. However, these numbers have been met with criticism, with many people claiming they have been exaggerated and manipulated to misinform the public about the progress of the fight against Al-Shabaab.

Most of the SNA operations were conducted in collaboration with international partners, including the U.S Africa Command. Despite this, there is a huge difference in the number of Al-Shabaab militants reportedly killed, with the U.S Africa Command releasing a much smaller figure in press statements. These differences have sparked criticism from politicians and intellectuals.

On Wednesday, the Somali Ministry of Information released a statement claiming that over 100 Al-Shabaab militants were killed in joint operations with US Africom, in El-Qurac and Gel-Libaah.

“The Somali National Army Forces supported by US Africom conducted an offensive operation against Al-Shabaab at Gel-Libaah and El-Qurac located along the border of Galgadud and Middle Shabelle regions. In the operation, the forces killed over 100 militants, destroyed their hideouts, and seized weapons,” reads the statement from the Ministry of Information.

Contrary to the statement made by the SNA, the U.S Africa Command released a statement confirming the operations and said it has killed only 5 Al-Shabaab militants, which seems to be a small number compared to the figures released by the SNA.

“Working with the Somali National Army, U.S. Africa Command’s initial assessment is that the U.S. airstrike killed 5 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed,” reads the statement from the U.S Africa Command.

On July 9, 2023, the Somali National Army claimed to have killed 40 Al-Shabaab militants and arrested six others in a joint offensive operation conducted with the support of US Africom Forces in Welmorow, located approximately 40 kilometers away from the Afmadow district in the lower Juba region.

However, the U.S. Africa Command has confirmed the operation, stating that it conducted targeted airstrikes in self-defense against Al-Shabaab. According to their statement, only 10 militants were killed, and no harm was inflicted on civilians.

“At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted three collective self-defense airstrikes overnight in a remote area near Afmadow, approximately 105 kilometres north of Kismayo, against al-Shabaab terrorists,” reads the statement from U.S Africa Command.

Somalia’s Ministry of Defense Spokesman, General Abdullahi Ali Aanod, previously asserted that the Somali National Army, in collaboration with international partners, had eliminated over 200 Al-Shabaab militants in one week, making it an average weekly figure in their fight against Al-Shabaab.

The Ministry of Defense had earlier claimed that the National Army had killed over 3,000 militants within eight months, a significant loss to the group, considering there are an estimated 7,000 Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.

in 2019, Federal Government of Somalia established an office for “unifying messages” on stabilization, aiming to coordinate various ministries within the Federal Government and international partners to share accurate information regarding the fight against Al-Shabaab with the public. 

However, amidst these contradictions in the statements from Somali ministries and international partners about the outcomes of operations against Al-Shabaab, sharing accurate information with the public is considered irrational.    

There have been challenges regarding limited access of information by the Communications and Media unit in the Ministry of Information. The Federal Government of Somalia’s Communications team seems to play little to no role in releasing statements or providing operational information to the public.

Call for Honesty and Access to Accurate information 

In response to the discrepancies, Somali politicians and intellectuals have called for honesty within the government ministries and the Somali National Army regarding the progress of the fight against Al-Shabaab.

Abdirahman Abdishakur, the Special Presidential Envoy on Drought Response, stressed the need for honesty and transparency, particularly within the government ministries. 

“If there is to be honesty, the government must be transparent with its people. We should begin by openly sharing information with the public, and our ministries must demonstrate utmost honesty and prioritize sharing the right information to the people,” he stated.

Accurate information plays a pivotal role within government ministries as it fosters public confidence and trust. It is essential to provide the public with access to reliable information concerning the fight against the Al-Shabaab militants. 

The differences between Somalia and its international partners in reporting the number of militants killed during operations have led to confusion among the public. Many are left uncertain about whom to believe and how to assess the actual progress made in countering the Al-Shabaab threat.

These contradictions raise alarm as it occur only a few months after the Somali Ministry of Information organized a meeting to create awareness against misinformation, disinformation, and fake news. The information being disseminated by the same Ministry appears to contradict the data provided by international partners, particularly concerning matters related to Al-Shabaab.

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