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[Dehai-WN] The Christian Science Monitor.: Kenya's foray into Somalia sows seeds of backlash at home

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2012 16:48:28 +0100

Kenya's foray into Somalia sows seeds of backlash at home

As Kenya attempts to pacify the Islamist Al Shabab movement in Somalia,
issues of poverty and security may go unaddressed back home, says guest
blogger Alex Thurston.

By <http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Contact-Us-Feedback> Alex Thurston,
eds-of-backlash-back-home/> Guest blogger / January 17, 2012

By most accounts, <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Kenya> Kenya's
incursion into <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Somalia> Somalia has
succeeded militarily, as measured by Kenya's goals of taking territory and
inflicting casualties on the Muslim rebel movement
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Al-Shabaab> Al Shabab. In a sense, the
Kenyan advance has also succeeded politically: Kenya has gained some
international legitimacy for its mission by moving to
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16077642> join the African Union
forces there, a step the <http://www.raxanreeb.com/?p=127047> United
Nations seems to be endorsing.

But on other political fronts, seeds of a backlash are being sown.

For one thing, there is the question of radicalization inside Kenya. A wave
of minor attacks have occurred in Kenya this winter, and
0800M20120109> Britain warned earlier this month that more attacks are on
the way. A Kenyan Muslim organization now says it is
R4wW0P_story.html> officially representing Al Shabab in Kenya, reports the
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/The+Associated+Press> Associated Press:

The statement by the Kenya-based Muslim Youth Center came amid a flurry of
warnings from embassies about planned terror attacks in Kenya. The Somali
militant group al-Shabab has promised to attack Kenya for its decision to
send troops to Somalia in October.

The Muslim Youth Center was named in a United Nations report last year for
recruiting, fundraising, and running training and orientation events for
al-Shabab. An official al-Shabab spokesman did not answer questions about
whether the center now represents al-Shabab in Kenya, but a statement
published on the center's blog on Wednesday was unequivocal.

"There can be no doubt that Amiir Ahmad Iman Ali's elevation to become the
supreme Amiir of Kenya for al Shabaab is recognition from our Somali
brothers who have fought tirelessly against the kuffar on the importance of
the Kenyan mujahideen in Somalia," the statement said.

The UN Monitoring Group report that the AP mentions can be found
<http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/433> here.

Announcements of open support for al Shabab in Kenya not only increase fears
of upcoming attacks, they also threaten to increase political tensions in
Kenya. The large Somali community in Kenya has become a target of violence
and repression by other groups and by authorities in the past. In a year
when Kenya will hold a potentially tense election, where ethnic hatreds
could flare up, increased religious tension will only make the situation
more precarious.

Another potential area of fallout stemming from Kenya's operations in
Somalia concerns the quality of life in northern Kenya. This region has long
suffered from crippling drought and poverty, and is home to hundreds of
thousands of refugees from Somalia.
near-somalia-border> Human Rights Watch reported this month on the abuse of
civilians by security forces currently going on in parts of the region:

The Kenyan police and military have been responsible for a growing number of
serious abuses against civilians since the Kenya Defence Forces entered
southern Somalia in October, with the stated aim of eliminating al-Shabaab,
an Islamist militia. The same month, suspected al-Shabaab sympathizers
initiated a series of attacks against police, military, and civilian targets
in Kenya.

In response, members of the security forces have been responsible for rape,
beatings, looting, and arbitrary arrests of civilians. The crackdown has
largely targeted Somali refugees and Kenyan ethnic Somalis, but residents of
other ethnic backgrounds in North Eastern province have also been

This kind of treatment of civilians could leave bitter memories among
civilians, memories that outlast Kenya's mission in Somalia. Those memories
could further weaken the legitimacy of the Kenyan government in the north.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Somali communities in Kenya are
inherently a security threat. Far from it; almost all of these people are
simply struggling to survive and to build normal lives. What concerns me
more is the possibility of greater political division in Kenya, and greater
regional fragmentation within the country. As Kenya attempts to pacify its
neighbor, the risk grows that core issues of poverty and security will go
unaddressed back home.

- <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Alex+Thurston> Alex Thurston is a
PhD student studying Islam in <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Africa>
Africa at <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Northwestern+University>
Northwestern University and blogs at <http://sahelblog.wordpress.com/>
Sahel Blog.



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