Who Can Say Alshabaab!

The Somali government has told media outlets to stop referring to Islamic militant group Alshabaab by their name.

They instead want the group to be called UGUS, an acronym for the Somali words meaning “the Group that Massacres the Somali People.”

The government-controlled Radio Mogadishu and SNTV have already been using the term since then but Alshabaab spokesman warned that they would respond appropriately to any-one who calls them names.

This name change however, may endanger the lives of journalists, and further restrict the right to freedom of expression because Somali journalists are in a difficult position to either obey this order and face the wrath of Alshabaab, or refuse to comply with the government and see the consequences.


The government has previously arrested journalists and shut down Radio stations on accusations of endangering national security.

Somali journalists in general and The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project in particular are deeply concerned about this wholly impractical move by the Somali government, which will make sensible and lawful news reporting and public debate about matters of genuine national concern, virtually impossible.

Alshabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda controls some of southern and central Somalia and has shifted its strategic posture.

Alshabaab remains a constant threat in Somalia, capable of carrying out high profile and coordinated attacks both in Somalia’s capital and neighboring countries.

The military strength of Alshabaab, with an approximately 7,000 strong force remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline, communication and military capabilities.

Omar Wardere is a Somali researcher, reporter and editor. He is a committee member of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and member of Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa.