[Dehai-WN] Garoweonline.com: Kenya's Political Failure in Southern Somalia

[Dehai-WN] Garoweonline.com: Kenya's Political Failure in Southern Somalia

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2011 23:59:34 +0100

Kenya’s Political Failure in Southern Somalia
11 Nov, 2011 - 5:54:27 AM

By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

Kenya’s military operation in Somalia is a warning sign for the Somali
people of the most probable political future that they will undergo: the
partition of the territories of post-independence Somalia into a group of
weak authorities that are beholden to neighboring states (Ethiopia and
Kenya) that act for their own interests and as proxies for great external
powers (United States, Western European states, and, increasingly, China).

For the first time since the collapse of SiadBarre’s dictatorship in 1991,
there is a strong possibility that “Somalia,” which has existed in political
limbo for twenty years, with decisions on its political organization on hold
and deferred, will take on a more settled political definition. That
settlement would be imposed by external powers using the tactic of divide
and rule to create dependent client states, loosely based on dominant clans
inhabiting Somalia’s regions. It is obvious that were that scenario to
eventuate it would spell the end of any possibility that the Somali people
could regain their self-determination and be able to defend their own
interests on the international stage.

The partition of post-independence Somalia would not mean the end of the
Somali people. Regardless of political organization, Somalis would continue
to acknowledge one another as Somalis, as distinct from other peoples and
ethnic groups. Somalis would simply lack an organ for articulating and
asserting their interests. That, of course, would systematically
disadvantage them in the competitive world of international politics.
Partition would be a form of neo-colonialism. It would mean that the Somali
people would be permanently weakened and they would not make the decisions
determining their fate. Loss of self-determination is not death; it is

The Kenyan military operation is, to repeat, a warning sign of what is
likely to come; as it has worked out thus far, the operation is not clearly
an exercise in partition, it simply tends in that direction – but that is
due to Kenyan incompetence rather than to Somali resolve. The basic dynamic
remains in place.

The Geo-Political Dimension of Kenya’s Operation

The most frustrating feature of Kenya’s military operation from the
viewpoint of analyzing it is the Kenyan government’s lack of clarity in
defining the operation’s geo-political aims. At different times, from
different officials, and sometimes in the same statement, the aim of the
operation is said to be to secure Kenya’s borders, to create buffer zones in
Somalia around its border,and to effect regime change in the regions of
southern Somalia by eliminating the administrations of the Islamist Harakat
al-ShabaabMujahideen (H.S.M.). Only the third alternative would involve
(and necessarily so) Kenya in creating a political organization for the
south, which it does not appear to be ready or able to do. Yet, Kenya keeps
promising to press on to Kismayo, H.S.M.’s nerve center.

What seems to be the case is that Kenya has the maximum aim of carving out a
client statelet for itself in southern Somalia and the minimum aim of border
security, and that its operative aims fall between the two extremes, varying
day by day depending on how the operation is faring. The maximum aim is
Kenya’s wish (partition); the minimum aim is the last eventuality before
failure. Nairobi does not seem to have figured out what it can reasonably
expect to get with the resources it is willing to expend, which – if true –
indicates that the operation is ill-conceived.

The lack of clarity and focus in Kenya’s geo-political aims shows that its
operation was premature, that it failed to formulate a coherent political
plan for southern Somalia, and, more importantly, did not do the work
necessary to bring together the Somali political factions in the south that
oppose H.S.M. Nairobi has put itself in the position in which the United
States found itself after it invaded Iraq, with all the political work left
to do on the ground. Yet Nairobi is not Washington: Kenya does not have the
resources of a super-power.

It is not to be expected that Kenya will come anywhere near realizing its
maximum aim, yet it is worthwhile considering Nairobi’s dream as indicative
of the underlying tendency shaping Somalia’s political future.

On October 30, the Kenyan newspaper The East African published a suggestive
article based on “diplomatic and intelligence sources” about the grand
strategy of Somali’s neighboring states. The first step of the strategy
would be to create three “areas of influence” in the central and southern
regions that would provide “buffer zones” for Ethiopia and Kenya. One area
of influence would comprise most of central Somalia and would fall under
Ethiopian control, another would cover most of the south and would be in
Kenya’s charge, and the third would comprehend Mogadishu and adjacent areas,
and would be controlled by the African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM.
Each of the areas of influence would be governed by Somali clients as a
“semi-autonomous state” that could become part of a “federal Somalia” at
some later date. That is what partition would look like.

The second step of the strategy escapes into fantasy. All “liberated areas”
would be turned over to AMISOM, a move that would require that the United
Nations Security Council (U.N.S.C.) increase the mission’s forces to 20,000
from the current 8-10,000 (and that the Western “donor”-powers pay for the
expanded force). Finally, AMISOM would “hand over a pacified Somalia” to the
U.N. That is all very unlikely to happen (to say the least) – it would be
partition under ideal conditions for Ethiopia and Kenya. The “donor”-powers
have not bought into it, nor has the U.N. Kenya is faced with more immediate
and messy problems.

Kenya’s role in the grand strategy is to organize a “Jubbaland” state
controlling the deep south – the Gedo, Middle Jubba, and Lower Jubba
regions. According to the East African, the Kenyan government had not
decided who would front for it. Among the contenders are Kenya’s protégé,
Mohamed Gandi, who leads the Azania state backed by Nairobi and Paris; Sh.
Ahmed Madobe, the head of theRasKamboni organization that broke with H.S.M.
and opposes it; and local officials and forces affiliated with Somalia’s
Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.), which has formal international
backing. Kenya is working with all three groups, but has done nothing to
reconcile them. According to the East African, Kenya’s intelligence
establishment is behind Azania, whereas Kenya’s military is behind the
RasKamboni organization, which can “raise an army.”

On November 7, Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a strategy
article similar to the East African’s piece. According to the Guardian’s
sources, the Azania forces, which were most dependent on Kenya and were its
favorites, had “not lived up to expectations” and were opposed by Ethiopia,
because of Azania’s clan base – the Ogaden, which populate Ethiopia’s Somali
region and harbor an insurgent movement against Addis Ababa. The demotion of
Azania, according to the Guardian, leaves Kenya with the Marehan clan and
the RasKamboni organization. The Guardian added that in order to avoid
having to get caught in the web of clan and factional politics, Nairobi was
hoping that AMISOM would deploy to Ksmayo and that Kenya would join the
peacekeeping mission.

The East African and Guardian articles indicate that Kenya will not be
capable of executing a partition strategy due to Nairobi’s political
incompetence – its failure to deal with southern Somalia’s factionalization
(if that is possible for an external actor to accomplish). That failure
became evident when the T.F.G. resisted the “Jubbaland” project and
apparently succeeded in rolling it back.

The T.F.G. Resists Kenya

From the outset of Kenya’s operation in mid-October it was clear that
Nairobi had not prepared a political strategy to accompany the military
mission. On October 18, the Nairobi Star reported that Kenya had trained
administrators to take over “liberated towns.” That did not prove to be the
case. On October 19, Kenyan army spokesman Lt. Nyagah told the press that
Kenya was leaving the towns it captured in the hands of “T.F.G. forces and
local administrations.” According to Nyagah, Nairobi had no intention of
occupying southern Somalia, but only wished to “flush out” H.S.M.

It also appeared that Nairobi had failed to inform the T.F.G. of its
operation beforehand and, consequently, had not gained the T.F.G.’s
cooperation. Whatever the reason was for Nairobi’s lapse, the T.F.G., which
formally represents all the territories of post-independence Somalia
(although it effectively controls almost none of them), stood to lose the
most from partition in the south, which would create a statelet challenging
the T.F.G.’s representation.

By October 17, T.F.G. officials were opposing Kenya’s operation as a
violation of Somali sovereignty. Somalia’s U.N. ambassador, Omar Jamal, for
example, called the operation “a serious territorial intrusion.” On the
other hand, Nairobi found backing on the ground from T.F.G.-allied forces in
the south; military commander, Abdi Yusuf, said that “Kenya is fully
supporting us militarily.”

Expressions of opposition to Kenya’s operation by T.F.G. officials spurred
Nairobi to send a delegation to Mogadishu led by foreign minister, Moses
Wetang’ula, and defense minister, Yusuf Haji, to gain approval for and
cooperation with the operation from the T.F.G. After Kenya’s delegation met
with the T.F.G.’s president, Sh. Sharif Sh. Ahmad, the two sides issued a
joint communiqué on October 18, in which the T.F.G. appeared to acquiesce in
the operation.

The agreement, however, did not hold; on October 24, Sh. Sharif came out
against Kenya’s “military incursion,” telling Nairobi that its training of
and logistical support for anti-H.S.M. Somali forces was welcome, “but not
your army.”

Sh. Sharif’s statement created a diplomatic problem and embarrassment for
Kenya, which quickly asked for “clarification” of the T.F.G.’s position
towards the operation. On October 26, the T.F.G.’s defense minister, Hussein
Arab Isse, issued a “clarification statement” in which the T.F.G. denied
that there had been any agreement allowing Kenyan forces into Somalia,” but
said that the two sides had now agreed on “cooperation in undertaking
coordinated security and military operations spearheaded by T.F.G. soldiers
trained by the Kenyan government.” The T.F.G. also said it would appoint a
“joint security committee to work with Kenya.”

The “clarification statement” did not give Nairobi the endorsement that it
wanted from the T.F.G., yet, on October 26, Nairobi went to the U.N.S.C. to
justify its operation, claiming that it had acted “in direct consultation
and liaison with the T.F.G. in Mogadishu,” which appears to have been
anything but the case. Also on October 26, the U.S. State Department said
that Washington did not “encourage the Kenyan government to act nor did
Kenya seek our views.”

With domestic Somali and international actors distancing themselves from the
operation, Nairobi made another effort to get the T.F.G. on board in a
meeting between T.F.G. prime minister Abdiweli Gas and Kenya’s prime
minister RailaOdinga that resulted in a new communiqué, the core of which
was an expression of the T.F.G.’s support for the operation in return for
Kenya’s assent to the T.F.G.’s leadership of operations with Kenyan support.

(It must be said that nobody expects Kenya to surrender control of its
operation to the T.F.G.; the communique’s provisions serve the political
purpose of subordinating Kenya to the T.F.G. in a purely formal sense. That
is sufficient, however, to block a Kenyan attempt at partition.)

After the communiqué was issued, Odinga stated that Nairobi did not support
“the creation of an autonomous region in Jubbaland; we support the creation
of local administrations.” Partition appeared to have been taken off the
table, for the time being. It remains to be seen what might replace H.S.M. –
if, indeed, it is displaced – except “local administrations.” Nairobi has
been proved to have had no operative political strategy.


As it looks ever less probable that the U.N.-managed “transition” of Somalia
to a permanent constitutional state will succeed, the alternative remains
partition, balkanization, cantonization.

Kenya’s operation in Somalia might have been the beginning of the partition
process had it not been for Nairobi’s political incompetence. In a
perceptive analysis on October 31, the Indian Ocean Newsletter put it
succinctly: Nairobi had succeeded in rubbing the “nationalism of some T.F.G.
leaders the wrong way,” and “had not convinced the West that its aims are

In terms of realizing its geo-political interests, Nairobi acted
prematurely. It did not have a political order in place to take over from
H.S.M. and, as an alternative to that, it did not gain the cooperation of
the T.F.G. Nairobi also did not get the “donor”-powers on board, failing to
realize that they have not yet abandoned the “transition” process in favor
of partition.

Balkanization will become operative when and if the “donor”-powers
definitively give up on a state embracing the territories of
post-independence Somalia, or most of them – perhaps excluding Somaliland.

Kenya’s operation is a geo-political warning sign of partition, not the
thing itself. Nairobi acted against the “transition” process and its
“roadmap.” It isolated itself diplomatically and did not win whole-hearted
support anywhere. It had no operative political plan. It did everything
wrong politically. Nairobi cannot hope to provide a political formula for
southern Somalia. Presumably, there will be another day.

Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science,
Purdue University in Chicago weinstem_at_purdue.edu

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