Your Questions: Kenya's Campaign Against Al-Shabab
November 09, 2011
VOA's East Africa correspondent Gabe Joselow joined us for a live chat about
Kenya, Somalia and al-Shabab. Here's a recap of all the questions and
Kenya sent troops into Somalia last month in pursuit of al-Shabab, which it
blames for a series of cross-border kidnappings. Since then, Kenya has
-With-al-Shabab-in-Somalia-132714748.html> the threat (
-Prison-For-Grenade-Attacks-132776978.html> and reality) of retaliation,
as-Somalia-Operation-132551038.html> confusion has emerged over which
countries are supporting the military operation, and Eritrea
-Eritrea-Arms-Deal-133244063.html> has come under suspicion of arming
al-Shabab. Most recently, Kenya said
l-Shabab-Finances-133358078.html> it is moving in on key militant areas in
VOA's East Africa correspondent Gabe Joselow answered your questions about
Kenya's pursuit of al-Shabab in a live Q&A Wednesday.
Watch the video to see answers to some of the most frequently asked
questions, and scroll down to see a full recap of the live chat.
Frequently asked questions on the web and
gainst-al-Shabab-133487408.html#qa> Jump to the live Q&A
Q: Who is funding al-Shabab?
Asked by Godfrey, Chukwuma, Mogomotsi, Anne and Jeremiah
Gabe: Traditionally al-Shabab has relied on
-Bombers-in-Somalia-132963508.html> funding from members of the Somali
diaspora community who are sympathetic to al-Shabab's cause. It's very
difficult to trace these transactions because a lot of them go through an
unofficial halawa network, a system of financial transactions that avoids
big banks and doesn't leave much of a paper trail.
At the same time, the United Nations has said
240378.html> Eritrea has been secretly funding al-Shabab for years. The
idea is that Eritrea is trying to support the group because it is also
battling Eritrea's biggest rival Ethiopia. Of course
ent-Arms-to-Al-Shabab-133076528.html> Eritrea denies all the allegations
against it and has even accused Ethiopia of spreading these rumors as part
of a smear campaign.
Q: Why did Kenya decide to use force, and why now?
Asked by Hussein
Gabe: The Kenyan government will tell you it decided to go to war against
-132046018.html> because it had been provoked, and because it was in Kenya's
national security interest.
Over the past few months two foreigners have been kidnapped from Kenyan
resort towns on the east coast, while another one was killed. Two aid
workers were abducted from the Dadaab refugee camps, and Kenyan soldiers
have come under attack in cross-border raids.
Kenya's Department of Defense has said that the entire decision to go to war
afe-From-Al-Shabab-Menac-132847273.html> the planning took place within 10
days in October. There is speculation that some of this mission may have
been planned months or years in advance, but the Kenyan government is
sticking to its position that this was a direct retaliation for these
Q: Who is partnering with Kenya on this?
Asked by Mogomotsi and Mad
Gabe: The Kenyan military
e-132640988.html> suggested a few weeks ago that it was getting help from
international partners, but it wouldn't name who. All eyes were on the
United States and France, but both countries
as-Somalia-Operation-132551038.html> have denied any involvement.
Of course, the United States has been training Kenyan army for a long time
and has been providing logistical support for them. The U.S.
pia-into-Somalia-132792083.html> also announced recently that it was sending
unmanned drone aircraft into from Ethiopia into Somalia to conduct
surveillance, but denied any involvement in the current operation
As for the African Union, there are about 9,500 AU forces (known as AMISOM)
ilitants-in-Mogadishu-132227623.html> in Mogadishu on a peacekeeping
mission. So far they have no part in Kenya's operation, though the Kenyan
government has said it will rely on AMISOM forces as well as forces from
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to maintain the peace once Kenyan
forces eventually pull out.
Q: What is the United Nations' position?
Asked by Okello, Martie and Stella
Gabe: So far the U.N. hasn't come out in favor for or against Kenya's
military incursion. But there has been some grumbling among some U.N.
agencies who are concerned that the Kenyan military operation
ss-Aid-Camps-in-Ethiopia-133071528.html> may complicate efforts to provide
humanitarian aid to Somali famine and drought victims.
In the past, the U.N. has put embargoes on dealing arms to Somalia or
Eritrea and they have put sanctions on individuals who are supporting
Q: How strong is al-Shabab? Can Kenya win?
Asked by Jeremiah, Okello and Mad
Gabe: Over the past several months there was every indication that al-Shabab
was actually losing political support in Somalia. The famine and drought
hit hardest in al-Shabab-controlled areas, and the group became unpopular
omalia-Difficult-Dangerous-125960639.html> because it was preventing
humanitarian aid from reaching those in need. There were also
-127476593.html> reports of internal divisions within the group that were
tearing it apart.
That being said, al-Shabab actually gained a lot of support when it was
fighting Ethiopian troops during the last decade. And now it's using a
similiar campaign of propaganda, saying that Kenyan troops are violating the
sovereignty of Somalia and that al-Shabab is there to defend the country
against these foreign invaders. If that propaganda works and al-Shabab gets
the support that it had against Ethiopia then we could see a really
Your questions live:
Q: How does Somalia feel about this? Do they support it, or are they
treating it as an incursion?
Asked by Jessica
Gabe: Somalia has given mixed reactions about the incursion. The first
couple of days the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) didn't even
acknowledge that it was taking place, despite the fact that Kenya said it
was working directly with TFG forces
Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali later came out in support of
Kenya's action, but the President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, later
Raid-132466998.html> said he was against it. A regional analyst
240378.html> told me Somali politicians are walking a thin line - while they
agree on the need to confront al-Shabab, they are trying not to upset
members of the parliament and the general public who are against anything
that looks like an invasion of Somalia.
Q: what is kenya military capability? how strong is the army and its rank in
africa, the air force seems to be very effective
Asked by Mike
Kenya is said to have one of the best equipped militaries in East Africa and
has worked closely with the United States and Britain for training and
logistical support. As for the strength of the forces actually engaged in
Operation Linda Nchi, the military
afe-From-Al-Shabab-Menac-132847273.html> has never said how many troops are
on the ground. One former Major told me there were 6,000 troops involved,
and a U.S. Senator recently suggested 4,000, but there's been no
confirmation. The air force is well-armed - and has deployed F-5 Tiger
Attack jets and MD-500 helicopters.
But, Kenya also has never gone to war in another country (though they have
been involved in African peacekeeping missions). The next closest military
power is Uganda, which is already contributing the bulk of troops to the
African Union peacekeeping mission in and around Mogadishu.
Q: In 2006, when invaded Somalia, Ethiopia said there are 2000 Eritrean
solders in Somalia with Islamic Courts, but it was proven untrue. This time,
Kenya is following the same accusation as Ethiopia. Are Ethiopia and Kenya
working for USA to destroy Eritrea?
Asked by Geb
This is an interesting question. It is important to note that the Kenyan
government has not accused Eritrea of arming al-Shabab - those allegations
came from the Kenyan media after the Kenyan military said airplanes carrying
weapons for al-Shabab had landed in Somalia. Eritrea had a legitimate
complaint about these articles which merely quoted conversations on Somali
internet sites. And they blamed Ethiopia for spreading rumors.
But at the same time, the United Nations did put out
Element> a lengthy report in July citing evidence that Eritrea had been
supplying funds, weapons and training to militants in Somalia, in order to
combat Ethiopia, and a lot of regional experts seem to agree that there is
some truth to this.
Q: the eastern africa standby force is hosted in kenya, wouldnt have been
wiser to go with regional mechanism instead of going alone. what does it say
for the regional organisations are they redundant, ineffective?
Asked by Fridah
Great question. Those regional organizations are really designed to serve
as peacekeeping forces. Kenya will say its military offensive is much more
of a direct war against al-Shabab. Kenya says it wants to incapacitate the
group in order to secure the border and to protect Kenya.
At the same time, Kenya
nal-Help-to-Fight-Al-Shabab-132941308.html> has been trying to recruit
regional partners to help secure Somalia. It's called for international
help to set up a blockade of Kismayo. But it is interesting to note that
Kenya has refused to contribute troops to AMISOM - the AU force fighting on
behalf of the Somali government in Mogadishu - but Kenya still plans to ask
for AU help in maintaining the peace once Kenyan troops withdraw. So, in a
way, Kenya is trying to get the best of both worlds - freedom of unilateral
action with the support of regional forces.
Q: Isn't Kenya just itching for war because they are a powerhouse in eastern
Africa and just want to flex their military muscle to solidify their
Asked by Wame
Hard to say if Kenya has been itching for war. Earlier this year, Kenyan
teachers went on strike when the government reallocated funds meant for
education to the military. Perhaps that was an early sign that Kenya was
gearing up for a fight.
Kenya does see this fight as being in its self-interest from a security
standpoint. And Kenya has also said this fight is in its economic interest,
since the cross-border attacks were threatening the country's tourism
industry. So, whether it's economic or security reasons, yes, there are
plenty of reasons why Kenya sees it as in its interest to do this.
Q: Does Kenya have an advantage given that it is working with the TFG and
Asked by Steve
Kenya has always been very supportive of the TFG, which was actually based
in Nairobi during its early years. The two governments are now seemingly
working together in this military operation. But, there have been mixed
messages coming from the TFG; while the Prime Minister has been mostly
supportive, the President a little while back said he was against the Kenyan
And while Kenya has hosted a huge Somali population in the refugee camps and
in Nairobi, the government has said that there are certain bad elements in
the Somali community that pose a major security risk, and police have been
cracking down on Somali neighborhoods in the capital.
So the close ties between the two countries both serve Kenya's interest and
put it more at risk.
Q: is the ugandan and ethiopian government supporting the kenya government
Asked by Noor
The Ugandan government is supportive of the Kenyan mission in Somalia.
Uganda contributes the most troops to the African Union peacekeeping force
in Mogadishu and has been asking other countries in the region to contribute
to the cause. Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for two bomb attacks in
Kampala last year that killed more than 70 people, so Uganda has a serious
interest in defeating the group.
I'm not sure of Ethiopia's position, though the main organization of Horn of
Africa nations known as IGAD - of which Ethiopia is a member - does support
Q: In a battle field, there is always loss of life in both parties. For
sure, how many Kenyan troops have perish because I always heard of Al
Asked by Ayuola
The last casualty figures I've heard were that two Kenyan soldiers were
killed in combat while another was lost at sea.
Q: What is the worst case scenario in your opinion? and what likely exit
plan might Kenya have?
Asked by Steve
The worst case scenario is that this military action actually works to unify
and empower al-Shabab as the Ethiopian invasion did in the last decade. The
group thrives on having foreign enemies to fight and its been able to rally
financial, material and political support for its cause by claiming it is
defending the country against foreign invaders. An empowered al-Shabab
would be able to shut down humanitarian operations in Somalia (even more
than they already do) at a time when millions of Somalis are in need.
And so far, Kenya has not revealed a real exit plan. The government has
simply said it will stay in Somalia until Kenyans can feel safe from the
threat of militants, so, needless to say, that could be a while. Kenya is
also trying to rally international support and is counting on the African
Union to help keep the country stable if and when Kenyan troops either
defeat al-Shabab or decide to withdraw.
Q: simply why interventions? why not let leave somalis for themselves to
find local solutions for their problems????
Asked by Mixed
Kenya's rationale for its intervention has mostly been about defending
Kenya's interests, rather than helping Somalia. In that regard, this
intervention is different from the U.S. intervention of the early 1990s and
the African Union peacekeeping mission.
As for Somalia's ability to help itself, the country has been without a
functional central government for over 20 years and lacks basic
infrastructure and services for its citizens. Massive corruption is also a
major problem. Certainly, years of war have been a major impediment to the
government's ability to get back on its feet.
Q: What type of aircraft and military weaponry is Kenya Defence Force using
against the al-shebaab militants?
Asked by Anonymous
In a previous question about Kenya's military capabilities we discussed that
the air force has deployed F-5 Tiger Attack jets and MD-500 helicopters.
Other weaponry in use: the Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 helicopter, armored tanks
and surface-to-air missile launchers.
Q: Why are Kenyan troops slow and cautious of invading Afmadow and
Asked by Shady
Q: From your point of View, are the kenyan forces able to established a
blockade in the port of kismayu?
Asked by Koech
Kenya has said its troops have been on the verge of taking Afmadow for
weeks. But heavy rains in southern Somalia have made it very difficult to
move heavy equipment across the sand and dirt roads.
As for Kismayo, the Kenyan military spokesperson told me that Kenyan air
forces were able to attack one of al-Shabab's centers of operations near the
coast. But he said after that air campaign, the militants spread out into
the city, mixing with the civilian population - complicating the situation.
Kenya has said it does not want to attack the entire city, but only
al-Shabab targets. Kenya has also called for a blockade of the port to stop
aid from reaching al-Shabab, but it is hard to say whether they have the
military capacity or the support from international partners to achieve that
In some other smaller towns, the military says it is going door-to-door
looking for al-Shabab fighters.
Q: how many alshabab and innocent civilians have been killed since kenya's
incursion in to somalia?
Asked by James Mutiso Mwania
The Kenyan military has said at least 37 al-Shabab fighters have been
confirmed killed in air strikes, ground battles and fighting at sea. But a
military spokesperson has said that it is difficult to account for all of
those killed in airstrikes and that the number could be in the hundreds. It
is extremely difficult to independently verify the casualty figures.
The military has not acknowledged any civilian casualties, but the aid group
Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike last month killed at least five
civilians and injured 45 others, most of them women and children near a camp
for Internally displaced people. The aid group did not say who was behind
the strike. Kenya admitted it was bombing in the same area, but blamed
al-Shabab for the civilian casualties.
Q: recent reports indicate possibilities of internal self destruction within
the Al Shabaab, how deep are this divisions and what is the possible impact?
Asked by Steve
The divisions within al-Shabab are between the jihadist factions from the
north, who allegedly trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and the local
Somali factions of the south, who are more concerned with local politics and
defending the Somali homeland.
Some analysts say that as the famine hit south-central Somalia,
Shabab-126341368.html> al-Shabab's leaders became divided over what to do -
with the northern, more globally-concerned faction wanting to keep western
aid and humanitarian workers out of the country, and the Somali factions
more open to bringing in the relief.
Al-Shabab has also relied on taxing local populations to sustain itself, but
when the drought wiped out crops and livestock, Somali people were less
willing to give up what little they had to support the group.
So the divisions are significant, but it is also possible the group could
use the Kenyan military incursion as motivation to regroup and unite.
Q: There was confusion at the beginning of the invasion between the
President of the TFG and Kenya. Why was that and what does it tell us about
Asked by Anonymous
Good question. It took the TFG a few days to acknowledge that Kenyan troops
had crossed over the border, and then there was later confusion about
whether the Somali government supported the operation at all.
The President at one point said the move was illegal and that only African
Union forces had a mandate to fight in the country, but the Prime Minister
has tried to smooth things over. On a visit to Nairobi he insisted that the
TFG is in agreement and supports the war, and that TFG troops are actually
taking the lead.
What does this tell us? There has clearly been some miscommunication, to
say the least, between Kenya and Somalia. As far as their public message is
concerned, they were not on the same page when the incursion started.
As I said in an earlier answer, TFG leaders are also trying not to appear
too supportive of Kenya's action because there are members of parliament and
Somali citizens who likely do not support having any more foreign troops in
Thank you everybody for participating and reading along today. I really
enjoyed answering all of your great questions. There are so many to ask
about this war and I think you hit on some of the most important ones. Some
I'm still trying to answer. If you have any more, feel free to find me on
gainst-al-Shabab-133487408.html#comments> Newest to Oldest |
gainst-al-Shabab-133487408.html#comments> Oldest to Newest
* Mohamed USA 09-11-2011
Al shabab can bully the Somalian people, but they can't bully the Kenyan
people specially their military who the man power. I hope they wipe Al
Shabab of the map.
* Jessica Stahl (VOA Producer) 09-11-2011
Thank you everyone for your insightful questions. You can keep commenting on
this page, but the live chat portion is now closed. You've all kept us busy
for the past 7 hours, which is an amazing feat - I hope you learned as much
as I did from participating in this Q&A. To stay in touch with Gabe, join
him on Twitter at _at_gabejoselow.
* Jaamac Muruf samekaab_at_gmail.com 09-11-2011
Somalis are tribal society, Jubbaland and gedo regions are very mixed tribes
states of somalia. if kenya sided with Ogaden do government know other
tribes will be sided alshabaab. no matter what happen. and rallies
pro-nationalist agenda. I believe Kenya make mistake playing fire and need
to fire , minister of defense Yusuf Hagi who is responsible for selling this
incursion on behalf his ogaden tribe who reside both kenya and somalia.
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Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in
northern Mogadishu, Somalia, (File).
Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in
northern Mogadishu, Somalia, (File).
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Received on Wed Nov 09 2011 - 18:51:36 EST