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09/16/2022 Somalia (International Christian Concern) – According to a recent report by Al Jazeera, the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab is providing basic services to citizens in a campaign that is beginning to gain them popular sympathy in the east-African country. Al-Shabab is linked to the transnational al Qaeda terror network and has grown into destructive power in recent years.

The recent report discusses how al-Shabab establishes a parallel legal system to address private citizens’ legal concerns. It is a swift and cheap alternative to the official Somali judicial system, in which cases can drag on for years, and legal fees often bar people from entry in the first place.

Al-Shabab, on the other hand, seems to be taking a page from the al Qaeda playbook in its judicial efforts, winning the local populace over by providing a quick and cheap forum in which to bring legal complaints. Al Qaeda is known for its softer approach to local populations, often providing basic services such as safety, roads, and education where the local government cannot step up to the plate.

Last year, the Biden administration appointed a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, a geographic region that includes Somalia, to address ongoing insecurity in the region. Earlier this year, Ambassador Mike Hammer replaced David Satterfield in the position.

As ICC wrote when the position was first created, the region merits significant attention. From tense disputes between countries over water rights to violent ethnic and political conflicts within countries, the region has been experiencing increased tension in the last few years.

While much of this violence originates in ethnic or political strife, the region has also witnessed significant persecution. Eritrea, for example, aggressively suppresses the free practice of religion and has garnered a well-earned reputation for being among the worst persecutors in the world. Prisoners of conscience often languish in Eritrean prisons for years before their cases are even heard, suffering unimaginably inhumane living conditions and regular incidents of torture.

Ambassador Hammer would do well to consider how the United States could work to promote religious freedom. There is no simple fix for persecution, but the ability to freely practice one’s religion is a basic human right and one that must not be forgotten as the United States works toward peace and stability in the region.

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