Kenya role in Somalia clan politics worries regional allies
By KENFREY KIBERENGE
Kenya’s attempts to intervene politically in southern Somalia will
complicate the search for stability in the war-torn country.
A decision to prop up armed militias from a leading clan in the years before
‘Operation Linda Nchi’ has created competing centres of power opposed by
both Al Shabaab and the Transitional Federal Government. Internal rivalry
among these allies in southern Somalia is now affecting joint operations
against the Al Qaeda linked terror group.
While the re-deployment of Kenyan forces under the African Union Mission in
Somalia, Amisom, has ensured Kenya and her neighbours work together to
eliminate Al Shabaab, there are concerns that power struggles and
differences over political strategy risk undoing progress on the
This is the warning from international experts concerned about the rivalry
between Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia over how to bring stability to Somalia.
The experts point to a rift over the regional strategy, warning that unless
the rivalry is tackled and a common approach developed, each may seek to
undermine the other’s efforts, compounding Somalia’s political and security
"In the absence of improved co-ordination, Somalia could in effect be carved
into spheres of influence," warns the International Crisis Group, a
non-profit group committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.
The rivalry has made itself felt most recently in a power struggle over
The Kenya Defence Forces wants to give public accounts of its operations in
Somalia without the approval of the head of Amisom, a Ugandan military
However, UPDF bosses upset at how ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ drew international
and regional attention away from the work Amisom was doing in Mogadishu
insist on clearing all messages with the chain of command.
The Kenya Government’s political missteps in Somalia lie in both how it
chose its allies in that country and how it dealt with neighbouring
countries with a stake in the country’s future.
Over two years ago, Kenya hatched a plan to create a local administration in
southern Somalia. Known as Jubaland, and later Azania, it was intended as a
buffer between Kenya and Al Shabaab-controlled territory.
To set it up, Kenya trained some 2,500 militiamen and helped set up an
administrative structure headed by Mohamed Abdi Mohamed ‘Gandhi’, then the
TFG defence minister and now president of Azania.
When Gandhi’s forces did not perform well in 2010, Kenya began to support
Ahmed Madobe and his militia, called the Ras Kamboni Brigade. Support for
the two men is now said to have divided the government.
"Madobe has the backing of many Kenyan-Somali army officers, while Gandhi is
reportedly closer to Kenyan intelligence bodies and politicians among them
Defence Minister Yusuf Haji," read a report from the International Crisis
Madobe also reportedly finds support from the head of the Muslim caucus in
the Parliament, Dujis MP Aden Duale, and an unnamed Orange Democratic
Friction between Madobe and Gandhi is now said to be one of the headaches
for those planning for life after Amisom’s mandate runs out.
One of the strongest criticisms of the controversial Jubaland project was
that it was seen as dominated by members of the Ogaden clan.
In the final years of the Siad Barre regime, the Ogaden and Marehan
controlled the region, but many Harti, Hawiye, Dir and Rahanweyn have since
The US also declined to support the idea due to fears it would compete with
its backing for the Transitional Federal Government.
Many in Somalia fear it would produce an administration controlled by Kenya.
It was the opposition to this political strategy that apparently informed
the alleged Al Shabaab plot to assassinate Defence Minister Yusuf Haji and
Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim, who are both Kenyan Somalis from Ogaden
sub-clans. Al-Shabaab members are predominantly from the Hawiye clan.
Kenya’s strongest ally in Mogadishu, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, is
reported to have advised Nairobi to go slow on the Jubaland idea.
The idea was such a hot potato that President Sheikh Sharif, who is allied
to Uganda, reportedly met with President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala in
November last year to discuss the risks it posed to himself and the TFG.
Museveni would later meet Sharif and President Kibaki in Nairobi on this
In Somalia and Ethiopia many people are concerned with the possible Ogaden
domination of the proposed buffer zone. The Meles Zenawi administration was
particularly concerned an Ogaden-dominated semi-autonomous state, with a
large port, could support the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which is
fighting a secessionist war in Ethiopia.
Despite official statements of support from Horn of Africa nations, it has
since emerged that Kenya’s incursion did not go down well in many capitals.
This was partly because there was no diplomatic effort to seek support for
the action before it began. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula
led delegations to several countries after the entry of KDF into southern
The ICG report reveals that when Wetangula travelled to Addis Ababa to
obtain the support of Ethiopia President Meles Zenawi and the chairperson of
the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, Ethiopian officials were less than
An Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting convened a week after
the offensive had begun released a "half-hearted communiquÈ" welcoming the
This miscalculation has left Kenya scrambling to manage the political
differences with its neighbours even as it worries about its local allies in
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Received on Sun Apr 08 2012 - 06:57:15 EDT