On January 15, 2016, Kenyans reacted with anger and horror at the news that al-Shabaab militants had attacked Kenyan Troops at a military outpost in in El Adde, southern Somalia.
The attackers claimed to have killed dozens of Kenyan soldiers and captured scores of others, including their commander. To date, the Kenyan military has not released details of the attack, although some reports put the death toll at 100.
The El Adde attack raised serious questions about Kenya’s efforts in Somalia. Why are Kenyan troops still in Somalia? What are they trying to accomplish? Why was the military outpost vulnerable? And when will the Kenyan troops come home?
In 2011, Kenyan troops went to Somalia in an operation dubbed “Operation Linda Nchi” to secure its northeast border with Somalia after a series of attacks and kidnappings of tourists and aid workers by al-Shabaab and criminal bandits.
Until the El Adde deadly attack, things were going well for Kenya, with little violence. Kenyan troops captured Kismayu port, which was a source of income from charcoal trade and sugar smuggling into Kenya for al-shabaab. Ironically, according to the UN report, the Kenyan military is also involved that illicit trade.
Rather than helping the weak central in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, Kenyan troops installed a rival, puppet Jubaland state of Somalia, and a former al-shabaab commander, Sheik Ahmed Madoobe became its leader, just to undermine whatever little authority Mogadishu had.
But the costs of Kenyan and AMISOM efforts are staggering: AMISOM is taking a heavy toll on the lives of the African troops and the Somali civilians. Although AMISOM kept a tight lip on its casualties, more than 4,000 African Soldiers have died and thousands were wounded, making it the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the world.
Because of the lack of political progress , even the US counter terrorism efforts, billions of dollars in foreign aid, and 28,000 African Union soldiers from 11 countries, including Kenya, thus far, are unable to impose order on the war torn country. Somalia’s government is mired with political infighting among its top political leaders over the spoils of foreign aid, factions and rampant corruption.
The man, President Uhuru is backing as the leader of the country of Somalia is holed up in a hilltop palace in Mogadishu—where a tenuous government exists that is unable to protect its people, administer justice, and deliver basic services.
Al- Shabaab is also exploiting the grievances and discontent among marginalized clans, who live in the Shabelle river valley region.Those clans feel that the U.S. trained, al-Shabaab infected, corrupt, one clan dominated Somali army, is using the fight against al- Shabaab just to grab their fertile land. For them, although they don’t share al-Shabaab’s extreme ideology, they see the group defending their lands from clan militias associated with the Mogadishu government.
Somalia’s problems is also not only the al-Shabaab but the availability of thousands of small arms in the hands of the clan militias, and the second generation of merchants of corruption and violence, who could not live in a society governed by rule of law, and have a vested interest for Somalia to remain in anarchy.
Moreover, the heavy handed foreign meddling in Somalia, including its self interested neighbors, is impeding for creating a functioning, stable government, which can protect its people and country. In fact, the 2006 US backed Ethiopian invasion of southern Somalia acted as midwife for al-shabaab.
Former President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga started Somalia military mission for the wrong reason, but President Uhuru has a chance to end the right way. After all missing Kenyan troops are accounted for, Uhuru should withdraw Kenyan troops from Somalia’s quagmire in an orderly manner.
President Uhuru took the oath to protect the Kenyan people and its territory. He was not elected to use Kenyan forces to back one faction or Clan in the place of al-shabaab or to act as proxy force. Kenya’s military operation Somalia is neither protecting the homeland nor it serving Kenya’s interest. In fact, it made border country less secure.
Kenya’s options in Somalia are very limited because everything depends on how Somalis manage their own affairs. There is no compelling reason here worth risking more Kenyan lives or treasure in Somalia’s clan driven terrorism or dictating the political outcomes in this war torn country.It’s time to bring Kenyan soldiers home from Somalia, and let Somalis fight for their own country and future.
This article was originally published on the Daily Nation
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