> Kenya: Nation Can Learn From Ethiopia's
Invasion of Somalia Five Years Ago
22 October 2011
Save for a few oddballs, the government's decision to send forces into
Somalia has been welcomed with unanimity.
I can't recall any action this government has ever undertaken that has
received such unalloyed public support.
Let's start by getting rid of some pedestrian assumptions. The military
deployment is not about some Spanish or French abductees or even about
There are bigger stakes being fought for here. And it's obvious this
operation had been planned a long way back.
The military objective to capture Kismayu makes a lot of sense. Al Shabaab
regrouped there after they were kicked out of Mogadishu by Amisom troops.
They have been making a tidy income from the Kismayu port, which they
control. Routing them out of Somalia's two most important cities will be a
devastating blow, if not quite the killer one.
The great unknown is what will be the reaction to Kenya's intervention of
non-Shabaab Somalis inside Somalia, in Kenya and in the wider diaspora.
On Monday, community leaders and politicians from North-Eastern Province
went public to back the deployment. That was understandable. But sometimes
what you hear is not what you get.
The weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, on the other
hand, has chosen to be very circumspect.
At first it even tried to deny that Kenyan soldiers had crossed the border.
That reaction, too, is understandable, never mind that the soldiers are
coming to help the TFG combat al Shabaab.
Whether Kenya can expect to enjoy goodwill from the prickly Somali people
wherever they are will depend on if we are perceived as part of the solution
rather than the problem.
In this, there is a great deal to learn from the experience of Ethiopia's
own invasion of the country in 2006.
The Ethiopians moved in to destroy a group called the Islamic Courts Union
(ICU), which they did.
They were not particularly bothered with what they left in place of the ICU,
or even whether the Somalis would view them favourably, which they did not.
The Ethiopians also neglected to build a broad regional consensus prior to
their intervention and thought that only the okay of the United States was
It is true the ICU had a very pronounced Islamist flavour. But unlike al
Shabaab it was not really a terrorist outfit.
It is also true that the ICU had come to enjoy considerable goodwill among
the Somali population for having brought a semblance of order compared to
the total anarchy created by the warlords.
Kenya has a serviceable if rickety entity called TFG which, incidentally, we
created from scratch here in Nairobi in 2004.
Currently it only controls Mogadishu with Amisom's backing. Kenya will do a
valuable service by helping it spread its wings across Southern Somalia.
I tend to sympathise with the government's longstanding protests over the
international community's apathy when it comes to Somalia.
This indifference has allowed the Somali nation to disintegrate, piracy to
thrive in the Indian Ocean, and a bunch of al Qaeda look-alikes to prosper
As they say, those in the kitchen are the ones who feel the heat most. As it
so happens it is we -- Kenya plus Ethiopia and Djibouti -- who border this
The government's toughest test could actually be domestic. A pointer was the
fury with which North-Eastern Province MPs reacted in Parliament on
Wednesday when assistant minister Orwa Ojode outlined stringent new security
measures regarding flights to northern Kenya and Somalia and also the
policing of the Eastleigh suburb in Nairobi. In this instance, the onus is
on these angry MPs to get realistic.
The big question is, what is Kenya's ultimate objective? Is it to eradicate
al Shabaab? Or is it to create a safe buffer zone across the border? Let's
please start with the latter.
Jets pound Kismayu as forces gear up for clash
By PETER LEFTIE pmutibo_at_ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Sunday, October 23 2011 at 22:00
* Al-Shabaab's key city bombed in preparation for ground offensive to
The battle to capture Kismayu started on Sunday with jets bombing several
Al-Shabaab bases in a final push to wipe out the militants.
It was, however, not immediately clear whether the fighter jets that bombed
Al-Shabaab's Congo military base north of the port city early on Sunday
belonged to Kenya or other allied forces helping in the fight against the
Under aerial attacks
"It is confirmed that Kismayu has been under aerial attacks, but it is not
our troops, it must be one of our allies," military spokesman Emmanuel
Kenyan commanders were mobilising their troops in readiness for what is
expected to be a fierce battle to capture the town of Afmadow, a strategic
transit point for goods illegally trafficked through Kismayu.
Kismayu is Al-Shabaab's nerve centre for operations and its main source of
funding and its capture and that of Afmadow will significantly weaken the
Maj Chirchir said that Lt-Col Jeff Nyaga, who is commanding the Kenyan
forces, had reinforced his troops in readiness for what is expected to be a
fierce battle to capture Afmadow following reports that Al-Shabaab had dug
in to defend the town.
"The commander, Lt-Col Jeff Nyaga, has made adjustment on his troops on
ground to occupy a vantage point as Al-Shabaab prepares to fight on this
front. Al-Shabaab (is) believed to be heavily regrouping in Bula Haji and
moving towards Afmadow," Maj Chirchir said in a statement.
He reported that the rains had subsided, creating good conditions for Kenyan
troops to manoeuvre while the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) fighters
were already positioned at Hayo ready to join the Kenyan troops in the push
to capture Afmadow.
A French naval gunship patrolling Somali waters also bombarded the town of
Kuday, south of Kismayu, as the battle to decimate the militants gained
It was not immediately clear how many militants could have been killed or
wounded during the attack in Kuday with the French Navy promising to give
damage assessment as soon as possible.
The Kenyan troops and their allies from TFG have already occupied the town
of Oddo, which they captured on Friday and were said to be advancing towards
Burgavo town in their march to Afmadow and Kismayu.
Nearer to the Indian Ocean coast, Kenya is advancing to Kismayu in its
effort to isolate the rebel fighters.
On Saturday, the military said it had moved beyond Oddo and had launched an
air strike on Munarani, hitting an Al-Shabaab command centre.
Foreign media reports quoted residents saying convoys of armoured vehicles
and trucks carrying weaponry, food supplies and tents were seen leaving four
military camps in Isiolo on Friday and heading towards the border.
Maj Chirchir said that the overall campaign strategy was to reduce
Al-Shabaab's effectiveness and to restore TFG authority to achieve enduring
peace in Somalia.
Meanwhile, the US embassy in Nairobi claimed it had received credible
information of an imminent terrorist attack in Kenya as a result of the
military offensive against the militants.
"This is to inform US citizens residing in or visiting Kenya that the US
Embassy in Kenya has received credible information of an imminent threat of
terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where
foreigners are known to congregate, such as malls and night clubs," a
statement from the embassy warned.
Limit official travel
The statement said that the embassy had taken measures to limit official US
government travel to Kenya and asked Americans intending to visit the
country to postpone such arrangements.
The militants have vowed to bring the "flames of war" into Kenya if Nairobi
refuses to withdraw its troops.
A radio station broadcasting inside Somalia last week reported that the
militants had beheaded two men on Friday for allegedly spying for advancing
Kenyan and TFG troops in parts of Afmadow.
Radio Bar-Kulan quoted Al-Shabaab's deputy leader in the area Shueib Ali
Adan saying the two were spying for Kenyan and Somali troops who are
advancing to the area to flush out the militants.
As the fighting escalated, Doctors Without Borders was forced to suspend its
measles vaccination campaign in the area. The campaign had been scheduled to
last three weeks and to reach 35,000 children.
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Received on Sun Oct 23 2011 - 17:41:21 EDT