Espionage, Security And Mercenaries In Somalia

The Benadir Regional Court issued a warrant to six individuals for involvement in a series of criminal activities related to spying and divulgation of government security information.

Most of these people work or have ties to Sahan Research, a think tank founded by a British-born Canadian mercenary, Matt Bryden, who is known to have a knack of making and unmaking political fortunes in the Horn African region.

Mr. Bryden left the Canadian Army in the late 1980s, has worked, got married, settled in the Horn of Africa and speaks fluently Somali. He maintains close relations with the leaders of Somaliland, where his wife is from, and he often promotes separatism in that part of Somalia.

Then he found his holy grail in war-torn Somalia, where his skills infiltrating locals, making questionable deals, influencing policies and even stirring up unrest was in high demand by Western countries and organizations.

Using not only his knowledge of the region, but also his racial and cultural affinity with Western official as assets, Bryden became adept at orienting the discourse on the Horn African region, creating facts, directing humanitarian aid, advising embassies, advocating for a cause, labelling political figures as terrorists and propping others. In short, he has a deceitful skillset.

As the coordinator of the UN mandated Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), from 2008 to 2012, Bryden, in collaboration with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh, fabricated facts submitted to the Security Council to isolate Eritrea which was in territorial conflict with these countries, and used that platform to keep Somalia under arms embargo.

Bryden’s reach in Somalia is very extensive. UNSOM, USAID and various Western embassies awarded Sahan Research “mapping contract” for intelligence gathering.

He also employed Western educated Somalis as well as former government officials like Hussein Abdi Halane, former Finance minister and currently member of the antigovernment Union of the Presidential Candidates.

The Benadir Regional Court charges comes in a time the security of Mogadishu has been heightened following the passing of a new election law by the Somali Parliament on April 12th, Western media and politicians criticizing the government move and calls from some Somali politicians exhorting the security forces to rebel have put the Somali leadership on high alert.

It is unlikely the six incriminated individuals by the Benadir court would appear but chances are their activities and ties in Somalia would be scrutinized and disrupted from now on and possible local collaborators be placed in preventive detention and their assets frozen.

Beside the two Somali conspirators, the rest of the group hails from Western countries. They have an extensive experience in dealing with military related issues, private security services and intelligence gathering.

To justify their usefulness, they act as lobbyists painting Somalia as a dangerous place and the Somali National Army a risk for the region’s future stability.

Sahan Research, supported by the International Crisis Group (ICG) whose Bryden was once a director, makes profits in conflict zones and offers intelligence information to foreign organizations and in particular to Western spy agencies.

Those “think tanks” have earned a reputation as the eyes, ears and hands of individuals, organizations and countries with interests in the Horn of Africa.

They have created and fund an array of media outlets, civil society and grassroots organizations, and have in their payroll politicians, government officials, academics, and other above suspicion individuals with access to sensitive information. This network provides not only intelligence but is also to wage smear campaigns like the one we witness against the sitting President of Somalia.

Sahan Research’s grip on Somali politics, media coverage and security is such that Somalia’s sovereignty, economic recovery and stability are threatened. To get the country out of their tentacles, the government must act now and taking the leaders of this mercenary group to court is a good step, but not enough to loosen their vicious hold in the country.

Moreover, targeted assassinations in Mogadishu who startled many by their precision should be investigated thoroughly in connection with the Security firms issue. Conveniently broadcasted news on worldwide media platforms always blamed Al-Shabab.

Private Military & Security Companies (PMSC) sophistication and extensive resources present an existential threat to Somalia more than a retreating Al-Shabab who is now confined to small rural areas.

The current administration has a lot of work to do to protect the population and give priority dealing with these mercenary companies that have been plaguing Somalia for so long.

Private Security Details, like the one used by James Swan, the UN representative, when he visited Mayor Abdirahman Yarisow can’t be allowed to operate in and outside the Halane Compound if Somali security establishment wants to be credible.

AbdiQani Badar

AbdiQani Badar is a historian, political commentator and avid writer. He has written extensively on Somali issues and historical events.