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[Dehai-WN] NYtimes.com: Kenya's Forever War

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2012 15:27:08 +0200

Kenya's Forever War

By <http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/author/dayo-olopade/> DAYO OLOPADE

May 29, 2012, 7:54 am

NAIROBI - <http://allafrica.com/stories/201205280723.html> A bomb exploded
in downtown Nairobi on Monday - the eighth such attack in as many months. It
was a far more sophisticated operation than the
makeshift grenades that have been tossed from moving cars and into
n-church/> small churches and
-in-north-east-kenya/> bars in the recent past. This bomb was big enough to
send at least 30 Kenyans to the hospital.

Arriving on the scene to cries of "baba" ("father"), Prime Minister Raila
Odinga called the attackers "cowards" and swore, "Kenya will not surrender
to terrorists." The malefactors had not been identified, but he already
reasoned that the responsible parties "want to scare investments, they want
to scare tourists, they want to scare the people of this country generally."

Nairobians aren't particularly scared. By now, when a bomb goes off, we are
accustomed to clucking at televised reports through storefront windows and
making reassuring calls to loved ones. And we are accustomed to laying blame
across the border, in Somalia. On a bus to the bomb site on Monday, I struck
up a conversation with a civil servant who had no fear of future attacks,
and no doubt about whodunit: "Al-Shabaab, who else?" he shrugged.

Al Shabab, the Somalia-based terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for
previous attacks in Kenya. But there are other culprits closer to home:
Odinga, President Mwai Kibaki and the Kenyan military brass who
6/-/hofdtiz/-/index.html> last year unilaterally declared open-ended war
against Al Shabab, with unacceptable side effects.

r-24-2011> "Operation Linda Nchi" ("Protect the Nation"), which began in
October, was sold to Kenya with the same "offense as defense" playbook that
took the United States into war with Iraq. Ministers assured Kenyans that
the invasion would be quick and easy, focused on the "hot pursuit" of
kidnappers and pirates who had been terrorizing Kenya's northern coast.

Like the promises of a slam dunk in Iraq, none of those projections have
been true. Eight months on, the fight against Al Shabab - which even
Somalia's president has called "unwelcome" - is proceeding with only
middling success. The coalition of troops - Kenyan, Ugandan, Ethiopian and
French - has reduced the territory under Shabab control. But
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16441240> Ethiopia withdrew earlier
this year (perhaps having learned a lesson from its protracted 2006 invasion
of Somalia), and Uganda is on the other side of Kenya from Somalia. As a
result, Kenya's porous perimeter offers terrorists their best hope for
ad-hoc retaliation.

Taming Somalia is like taming Afghanistan: no nation has done it, though
plenty have bled their treasuries trying.

Living in the Horn of Africa over the past year, I've been humbled by the
complexities of regional politics. The Kenyan establishment had its reasons
to invade Somalia: fighting for vital tourist dollars, punishing rogue
pirates and petty kidnappers, protecting the
$24 billion port under construction in the northern town of Lamu. Pressure
from an America that has itself soured on military intervention is also said
to play a role. But I still believe that none of these justifications is
worth it.

Another witness to Monday's bombing voiced what was on everyone's mind: "You
can't rule out that we've created antagonism between our country and
Somalia," he said. The mounting belief that this foreign war is causing
domestic violence has become a growing
tion-linda-nchi-time-for-soul-searching> chink in the unified front that
Kenyan citizens first projected when Linda Nchi began. Kenya's failure to
confront this could prolong the violence in both places.


Dayo Olopade is a journalist covering global politics and development
policy. She is writing a book about innovation in Africa.

A victim of the bombing on Monday in Nairobi was carried to an
ambulance.Agence France-Presse - Getty ImagesA victim of the bombing on
Monday in Nairobi was carried to an ambulance.



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