Somalilandsun – The Somali language is the one of fields of contestation for the Somali Federal Government and Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. When the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) commander, General Tuuryare, publicised the newly coined acronym, UGUS ( Ururka Gumaadka Ummadda Soomaaliyeed ‘ organisation for massacring Somali people) . Al-shabaab media outlets used the same acronym but changed the second word into gumeeyay ( degraded) as in Ururka Gumeeyay Ummadda Soomaaliyeed ‘the organisation that degraded Somali people’ ) to refer to federal government security forces. Who is taking the language war seriously and using every trick in the propaganda rule-book effectively?
NISA leaders have decided to call an anti-Al-shabaab campaign conducted in Mogadishu an immunisation campaign as reflected in the headline of the story posted in Radio Mogadishu website: Ololaha talaalka ka hortaga UGUS oo galabta furmay ( immunization campaign against Al-shabaab started in the afternoon ). The headline makes one wonder if Somali scientists have discovered a counter-terrorism vaccine.
NISA commander has instructed Mogadishu-based journalists to call Al-shabaab UGUS but Al- shabaab has threatened journalists who call it UGUS. Through NISA the Somali Federal Government has been exploring ways to influence reporting by correspondents for websites, radio and TV stations. This is not the “bold, legal war” General Tuuryare vowed to wage against Al-shabaab .
Al-shabaab monitors Somali Federal Government TV and websites for ideas to put a spin on stories; its journalists have used a video clip from the Somali National TV, showing NISA commander sitting by an ad for Kenya-based mobile-phone based money transfer, MPESA, and another picture with a story about inauguration of a bank in Mogadishu, showing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud jubilantly holding a US banknote he had withdrawn from a cash machine of the new bank with the headline Daawo Sawirro:Madaxda DF-ka Oo Isku Bedeshay Tabeeleyaal Wax Lagu Xayaysiisto!!. ( See pictures: Leaders of the Somali Federal Government become billboards ).
As Al-shabaab loses more territories its propagandists are concentrating on strategies to exploit communication foibles of the Somali Federal Government. Al-shabaab calls suicide bombings camiliyad istish-haadi ah ( martyrdom operation) although victims of its attacks are people in a market or in a bus or students in a college, for example.
The Somali Federal Government will lose the language war if it does not stop giving Al-shabaab opportunities through careless coinage of terms or campaign themes. In one speech General Tuuryare advised people who “think to have contracted UGUS disease to go to the district office and tell them you need to have a medical check up about UGUS disease.If you test positive , you will be cured of it; if you test negative you will be given a preventive medicine”.
NISA should leave to the Ministry of Information the task of reporting or drawing up communication plans to respond to Al-shabaab’s relentless language war.