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Militant Medicare: Al-Shabaab’s New Hospital
In an interesting recent development in militant governance and related propaganda, Al-Shabaab announced the opening of a new general hospital in Jilib city, in Middle Juba, through its official Shahada News Agency. The ceremony was said to be attended by high-ranking officials, professionals, and dignitaries of the city.
Through this hospital, Al-Shabaab says it wants to cover all health services for local residents. According to them, the facility will have an advanced level of services, modern medical equipment, and medical staff with a high level of experience in many areas. They claim the facility will be able to conduct tests, diagnostics, and examinations, and include a functioning pharmacy, among other services such as a maternity ward. The hospital director defined the hospital’s scope as encompassing the greater region, not just Jilib.
The governor of the Juba Province, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Abdullah, participated in the inauguration and asked doctors and the people to cooperate and assist in improving and developing the region’s medical services in general. Al-Shabaab gave the keys of the hospital to a select committee comprised of locals and assigned them the task of finishing the project. Sheikh Muhammad Abu Abdullah also touted the level of experience of the hospital’s staff.
One commentator believes the group managed to fund and staff the hospital through taxation in al-Shabaab-controlled territory.
The insurgent group states that it places great importance on the health sector, providing clinical and medical services in the areas it controls in order to help the locals and gain support in rebel-held areas. Al-Shabaab is seemingly looking to strengthen the governance part of its overall strategy, which also includes a brutal insurgent campaign against African Union Troops and other targets in Somalia and militant operations in Kenya.
Al-Shabaab has offered medical services in the past. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group opened a facility to treat the virus in Jilib. And they were not alone, as seen with armed groups around the world that offered medical services during the pandemic. Hezbollah employed 1500 doctors, nurses, and paramedics in Lebanon, the Taliban disseminated videos on disinfection, Libyan rebels imposed a curfew, HAMAS built two massive quarantine facilities, and ISIS, in its weekly newsletter, al-Naba, provided advice about mitigating exposure to and treating the disease.