Kenya’s Premature Invasions of Southern Somalia Stalls Balkanization

Posted on 05/12/2011


During the second half of November, the process of dividing the territories of post-independence Somalia into a set of dependencies on regional powers (Ethiopia and Kenya) entered its first and tentative phase and immediately stalled. On November 25, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), the sub-regional organization composed of Horn of Africa states, issued a communiqué in which it endorsed Kenya’s invasion of southern Somalia and encouraged Ethiopia to send its forces into central Somalia (which it had already done). The Kenyan and Ethiopian interventions were proximately aimed at attempting to break the control of the Salafist revolutionary movement, Harakat al-ShabaabMujahideen (H.S.M.), over the southern and central regions. The next step would be to replace H.S.M. with regional authorities that would be dependent on Kenya (south) and Ethiopia (center) giving those two states permanent dominant spheres of influence in the territories of post-independence Somalia. There is little prospect that the second step will be taken, at least in the short term.

Partitioning /Balkanizing/Cantonizing Somalia

Were the partition of “Somalia” into dependencies of Kenya and Ethiopia to succeed, the Somali people would be severely disadvantaged in their international standing; they would not have a single voice on the world stage, but would be, instead, beholden to their regional patrons and, beyond them, to interested external actors (primarily the United States and Western European powers – the “donor”-powers), which would work through Kenya and Ethiopia. The Somali people would be permanently weakened; they would be militarily powerless, economically fragmented, and political stripped of the ability to articulate and defend their interests against conflicting interests that would impinge upon them from external powers that were concerned for themselves, and not for the Somali people.

Partition means divide and rule. Djibouti would become the model for the fragmented territories of post-independence Somalia, only now a number of mini-states would contend for the favors, such as they were, bestowed by the patrons in return for economic concessions, diplomatic subservience, and military impotence. The Somali people would be deprived of a political community and their political self-determination. “Somalia” would no longer exist in a political sense, even – as it is now – as an aspiration.

The balkanization of “Somalia” is only in its earliest stages and there is currently no guarantee that it will succeed. What has become clear in the last part of November is how balkanization would occur and what form it would be most likely to take.

As a completed process, balkanization would take the form of proxy chains articulated in an order of increasing dependency as one moved down the chains. At the top of the chain would be the Western “donor”-powers, which would take care of their interests in anti-terrorism, anti-piracy, exploitation of natural resources, and trade and investment. Within the interest configuration laid down by the “donor”-powers, the regional powers –Kenya and Ethiopia – would take major responsibility for managing their spheres of influence in “Somalia,” and would receive a share of economic advantage and would no longer have to worry about the possibility of confronting a viable Somali state. At the bottom of the chain would be the partitioned and dependent Somali authorities – whichever form they took (“independent” states, autonomous regions, or de facto territories). The Somali authorities would be clients and their leaders would be beholden to their patrons.

That is how the completed process would look. It would be imposed on Somalis from the outside. It would not be the utopia envisioned by Western intellectual policy pushers of the “bottom-up” or “building-blocks” approach, in which a Somali political community would rise from the scattered grassroots. It would not be the Swiss model of cantonalism. It would be a form of neo-colonialism. Those who favor “building blocks” or “bottom up” are either naïve or disingenuous. They assume that the Somali people are surrounded by benevolent powers that would not take advantage of the Somali people’s division and resulting weakness. The reality of balkanization is the proxy chain.

At present, the proxy chains have not yet been formed. They are incipient. Kenya and Ethiopia have entered their presumptive spheres of influence, but they are far from having eliminated H.S.M. and they have not won the endorsement of balkanization from the “donor”-powers. They also confront contention between Somali actors for the client roles and some resistance by Somali actors to balkanization. The process has, however, entered its earliest phase.

The First and Preliminary Stage of Balkanization Stalls

The first step in forming the finished proxy chains that would structure balkanization of southern and central Somalia is eliminating H.S.M. from those territories. That is the explicit aim of the Kenyan invasion, which is shared by Ethiopia, I.G.A.D., the African Union, and the “donor”-powers. Balkanization cannot occur if the territory is not cleared of rivals to new administrations dependent on neighboring states. By itself, however, getting rid of H.S.M. does not necessarily involve balkanization. It is a matter of what political structure and which groups replace H.S.M. – client administrations of Kenya and Ethiopia, or local administrations tied to a Somali national administration, or some de facto mixture of the two.

At present, the political order of the southern and central regions that have been cleared of H.S.M. has not been determined and is a matter of contention among the presumptive members of the proxy chains.

The problem of what and who would replace H.S.M. is particularly acute for Kenya, which has no coherent policy due to the political complexity of the south and Nairobi’s poor planning for its invasion, which was executed before the political ground had been prepared for success. As a result, Nairobi is caught between three Somali “allies” – the presumptive Azania state, which Nairobi has nurtured as a proxy and has armed, and which would form the leadership of a buffer state dependent on Kenya and providing a cordon sanitaire for it; the Raskamboni movement (R.K.M.) on which the Kenyan Defense Force (K.D.F.) relies in its operations and which directly rivals “Azania;” and forces loosely and sometimes nominally linked to “Somalia’s” internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.).

Although Nairobi would have liked “Azania” to be its partner, that has proven to be impossible, stalling the balkanization of the south from the outset. The Azanian forces have proven to be inadequate and Nairobi has had to take in the R.K.M. More importantly, the T.F.G.’ president, Sh. Sharif Sh. Ahmad, did not endorse the Kenyan invasion, which led Kenya to call a meeting in Nairobi on November 16, between Sh. Sharif; Kenya’s president, MwaiKibaki; and Uganda’s president, YoweriMuseveni (Uganda plays the lead role in the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in Mogadishu that protects the T.F.G.). The communiqué issued following the meeting registered Sh. Sharif’s endorsement of a “joint Kenya-Somali security operation,” not a joint Kenya-T.F.G. operation, certainly not a joint Kenya-Azania operation, and not a joint Kenya-T.F.G.-Azania-R.K.M. operation. Judgment day was deferred. Nairobi had more important things to think about than how the south would be run after H.S.M. was gone – its invasion had stalled and it needed all the help it could get on the ground and in the diplomatic conference rooms.

Having failed even to begin to build a proxy chain in the south, Kenya turned up the presumptive chain, launching an intensive diplomatic effort to win support for its invasion from I.G.A.D., the A.U., and the “donor”-powers. For the week and a half following the November 16 Nairobi communiqué, Kenyan officials pressed their plea for support at meetings of the A.U.’s Peace and Security Council, troop-contribution countries to AMISOM and interested states, and with Ethiopia. Kenya’s push culminated in a meeting of I.G.A.D. heads of state.

The communiqué issued after the I.G.A.D. meeting on November 25 “welcomed the joint security operation” of the K.D.F. and, now, “T.F.G. forces” against H.S.M., further diminishing the likelihood of Kenya securing a buffer-client state in the south. The communique also called upon “the Ethiopian government to support the Kenyan-T.F.G. and [now] AMISOM operation,” which Ethiopia was in the process of doing. In order to save its foundering operation, Kenya had to accept the lead of the T.F.G., at least nominally, in Somalia; coordinate with AMISOM and perhaps, according to the communiqué, fuse with it; and draw Ethiopia into the conflict in order to open up a front in the central regions. The dreams of a buffer-client state were long gone, at least for the time being.

After November 26, Ethiopian forces began to move into the central regions, where they coordinated with their existing proxies, the AhluSunnawal-Jama’a movement (A.S.W.J.), which controls parts of those regions, and local forces loosely or nominally affiliated with the T.F.G. Ethiopia’s aims are unclear. Was it reluctantly giving Kenya a hand, as some sources said; or was it making a bid, given the opening provided by Kenya’s plea for help, to gain a foothold for setting up its own sphere of influence in the central regions, as other sources reported? It is too early to know, but it is likely that Addis Ababa will tread carefully and will not make Nairobi’s mistake of mounting a major operation without political preparation on the ground.

Both Kenyan and Ethiopian forces are inside their presumptive spheres of influence in Somalia, but balkanization remains distant. There is time for domestic Somali political forces to resist partition.

At the top of the proxy chain, the “donor”-powers seem to have no appetite for imposing the no-fly zones and naval blockades being urged on them by Kenya, I.G.A.D., and the A.U./AMISOM; to increase AMISOM’S force level by folding the K.D.F. into the peacekeeping mission; or giving meaningful logistical support to the K.D.F. on the ground. On November 23, U.S. under-secretary of state for Africa, Johnny Carson, refused to endorse the Kenyan operation, recommending instead that “the best way to deal with al-Shabaab and address the security threat in Somalia is to use AMISOM as the core element in the fight and to work from Mogadishu in helping the Transitional Federal Government in extending its authority.” Carson “urged” Kenya and Ethiopia to “work through AMISOM to address the security challenges facing them from Somalia.”

It is clear that there can be no balkanization of southern and central Somalia, and no proxy chains as long as the “donor”-powers led by the U.S. remain wedded to the T.F.G. as the major instrument with which to effect a “transition” of Somalia to a permanent constitutional government implemented through a roadmap supervised by the U.N. and I.G.A.D., the latter of which has now been compromised for that purpose by its endorsement of the Kenyan and Ethiopian operations.

After the I.G.A.D. communique was issued, Reuters reported on a Western diplomatic source who said that it was “difficult to see” how the K.D.F. could be folded into AMISOM, “given that the salaries of the soldiers are paid for by the West. There’s no stomach for giving any money to AMISOM.” The Washington Post quoted a U.S. State Department official to the same effect: “I don’t see any increase [in AMISOM]. We’re already at a very high level.” A U.S. defense department official told the Washington Post: “We have always been very cautious, prudent, concerned about the neighbors getting involved.”

Conclusion: Obstacles to Balkanization

The diplomatic outcomes of Kenya’s efforts during the second half of November to gain support for its invasion of southern Somalia show the obstacles in the way of any attempt to balkanize Somalia in the short term. That attempt would originate with Kenya, Ethiopia, and the organization that they dominate, I.G.A.D. From that starting point in the middle of the presumptive proxy chain, the regional powers would have to work down to secure viable client administrations in the south and center, and up to get the backing of the international coalition, the “donor”-powers working through the U.N.

The regional powers have thus far not succeeded in moving either down or up the chain. There are no political structures and groups that have been prepared to replace H.S.M. – if it is defeated – and to function at the level of large regions. Instead, there are crazy-quilts of contending factions that have not been reconciled or displaced, making it currently impossible to designate reliable proxies. On the other side, the “donor”-powers appear to be sticking to the “transition” that they have set up and are not in favor of partition until and unless the “transition” to a permanent Somali state fails. Without Somali domestic actors to provide the bodies to run administrations and the “donor”-powers to provide the funds to make them viable, balkanization cannot get off the ground. Without proxy chains there can be no balkanization of sourthern and central Somalia, and there are no proxy chains; there are only Kenyan and Ethiopian military forces occupying parts of their presumptive spheres of influence.

In addition to obstacles up and down the presumptive chains, there is a lack of coordination among the forces that have intervened in Somalia. The I.G.A.D. communiqué called for “enhanced coordination between AMISOM, TFG forces, and KDF,” and now Ethiopia would presumably be included. “Coordination,” indeed, was the buzz word of the diplomatic activity in November, but coordination has not come to pass.

Although the A.U. and I.G.A.D. urge that the K.D.F. be folded into AMISOM, the “donor”-powers resist, so Kenya is left with a joint security operation with the T.F.G. on paper, and AMISOM is left to perform its mandate within the constraints laid down by the “donor”-powers. Ethiopia has refrained from signing on to any joint operation and is acting on its own “in support” of others’ efforts. Kenya remains isolated, the T.F.G.’s writ does not extend to the southern and central regions, AMISOM remains with the T.F.G. in Mogadishu, and Ethiopia is working with the array of proxies it has previously cultivated. The A.U. has been sidelined, and I.G.A.D. is limited in its support of Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s operations by its commitment registered in the U.N. “roadmap” to support the “donor”-powers’ transition process. The Kenyan dream of a joint force in which AMISOM would take primary responsibility and would be given robust financial backing and logistical support by the “donor”-powers has ceded to the reality of an inadequate Kenyan operation in a desperate quest for support that keeps running up blind alleys, while AMISOM is reined in, and Ethiopia keeps its options open.

The present situation in southern and central Somalia results from the indeterminate, confused, and unstable geo-political consequences of Kenya’s premature invasion. Kenya’s ineptitude and its desperate and failed attempts to draw other powers into its adventure has for the moment stalled the balkanization process in its very earliest stages. That gives those who are resisting balkanization some breathing space, but by no means does it take the partition of Somalia off the table.

Source Garowe Online -By: Dr, Michael A Weinstein -03.12.2011
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University


Posted in: African papers