The Cost of Defection: The Consequences of Quitting Al-Shabaab

  • Christian Taylor Warzone Initiatives, Redding; School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Fairfax
  • Tanner Semmelrock School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Fairfax
  • Alexandra McDermott School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Fairfax

Abstract

This study investigates defections from the Al-Shabaab insurgency in Somalia. Thirty-two disengaged Al-Shabaab combatants were interviewed about their motivations, grievances, needs, and challenges in relation to the recruitment, defection, and post-defection phases. This paper focuses on post-defection challenges, where we found the primary concern to be lack of personal security. Without adequate security, disengaged combatants are vulnerable to being hunted and killed by Al-Shabaab. This significant threat discourages further mass and individual defections. We also found that disengaged combatants joined and defected out of religious zeal, to fight for what they believed to be a holy Islamic cause. This same zeal led them to defect, as they came to believe Al-Shabaab was not obeying the true Islamic faith. Indiscriminate killing by Al-Shabaab disenchants its religiously pious members, creating an opportunity to encourage mass and individual defections. However, if disengaged combatants are not protected from retribution, defection will lose its appeal.
Published
2019-05-22
Section
Open Section