We’re in Somalia for the long haul, Kenya asserts

Posted on 25/12/2011

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Kenya is looking at a long-drawn war in Somalia in 2012 contrary to the earlier indications that it was going to be a swift operation.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesperson, Emmanuel Chirchir, admitted that the Somalia campaign is a long term investment and Kenya will only get out once the country becomes stable and joins other peaceful members of the region.

Mr Chirchir revealed that KDF will only get official permission to join the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) in April or May, but by that time, Kenya shall have secured the towns of Afamadow, Kismayu and Baardheere in the central region.

The EastAfrican has gathered that the United Nations, under whose mandate Amisom is operating had earlier considered Garissa town as the base of operation for the Kenya troops once they join Amisom because of its infrastructure, like the airstrip.

But increased insecurity, characterised by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grenade attacks in the north, has forced the UN Support Office for Somalia (UNSOA) to relocate to Lamu.

This is because the coastal town provides safe passage to Somalia through Kiunga and Ras Kamboni.

Despite optimism by the KDF spokesperson that Kenya will secure areas west of Juba River in due course, analyst are contemplating a stalemate where Kenya could be forced to quit without decisive victory.

One of the major indicators is that Kenya is now concentrating more on pacification before vanquishing the militants. There is also danger that the Somalia campaign will have a bearing on Kenya’s internal political dynamics on who will take the political blame should the war turn into a stalemate. The careers of three Ministers; Prof George Saitoti of Internal Affairs, Yusuf  Haji of Defence and Moses Wetangula of Foreign Affairs, are on the line.

However, Mr Chirchir insisted that there will be nothing like pulling out before a decisive victory. “The issue of pulling out prematurely is out of the question. We are in this business for the future of Somalia and so Kenya will only get out when Somalia regains the status of a normal nation,” said Mr Chirchir.

However, Al Shabaab recently indicated that it is going to change its name to Imaarah Islamiyah (Islamic Authority). Al Shabaab means ‘youth’ but many of them, including the leaders, are very old. This was an indication that the militia group is changing tactics and is preparing for a long-drawn war.

Kenya, through Mr Wetangula, has been trying to get the support of the entire region to help vanquish Al Shabaab.  But countries like Tanzania and Rwanda have just given moral support and have not shown any interest in supporting the Kenya military. After the Kampala bombing, in 2010, Al Shabaab proved that it is a threat to the larger Eastern Africa region, and Kenya’s bold move to enter Somalia is of great interests to other EAC members. If Kenya does not win the war, the Islamic hardliners will be emboldened to the extent of threatening the regional integration process.

However, the focus now shifts to Amisom, which has faced numerous challenges since its deployment in January 2007. Apart from insufficient troops and limited mandate, Amison has been lacking crucial war equipment to totally subdue Al Shabaab. Amisom spokesperson, Paddy Ankunda said that lack of choppers, marine assets, and combat and field engineers have been the main challenges facing Amisom. Kenya is expected to provide some of these missing items once the Force joins Amisom.

The African (AU) is also unable to single-handedly foot the bill and relies heavily on funds from the UN, United States, the European Union and several other Western states.

Source: The East African-25.12.2011-By Fred OLUOCH

 

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Posted in: African papers