Kenya has no choice over Al-Shabaab

With fighting raging in Somalia, pirates running amok in the Indian Ocean and the internationally recognized government about to fall, it would appear that the Al Shabaab Islamic movement will soon be having the last laugh.

Mogadishu residents converge around the body of a government soldier who caught fire during intense fighting.

Mogadishu residents converge around the body of a government soldier who caught fire during intense fighting.

Though Kenya is a key backer of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, there is nothing that can be done to save his position. Al-Shabaab is growing from strength to strength capturing territory and key towns in central and southern Somalia. Recently, the Islamic youth group gained significant potency when it joined forces with fighters from the Hizbul al-Islam party. Meanwhile, Somali government soldiers are reportedly suffering from poor morale in the face of inevitable defeat.

Kenya has increased military patrols along its porous border with Somalia. However, with the Somali ethnic group straddling both sides of the border, movement has continued unhindered despite the fact that the border is officially closed. The Somali people move freely as they have family on both sides of the long, desert border. As a measure of how difficult it is for the Kenyan government to secure its borders, one of just a dozen of its Hughes 500 military helicopters crashed last month in unexplained circumstances.

As Kenya joins the United States and Ethiopia in supporting President Sheikh Sharif, the question arises as to how to deal with Al-Shabaab. That is, if anything can be done about the powerful movement.

Al-Shabaab is an offspring of the Union of Islamic Courts, the Islamist organization that created Somali’s first home-grown government in 2006. The United States and Ethiopia accused the Islamists of harbouring Al-Qaeda. In December 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with US backing and drove the Islamists out of Mogadishu. At the time, Sheikh Sharif was among the Islamists who included Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.

Kenya contributed to the invasion by sealing its border to prevent Islamist fighters from fleeing. Hundreds of Islamist fighters were massacred by Ethiopian and American aircraft as they were stranded at the border points.

Sharif and Aweys fled to Eritrea while the internationally recognized Transitional National Government took over the capital, Mogadishu. However, January 2007 marked the beginning of the worst phase of fighting since Somalia’s collapse in 1991. An Iraq-style insurgency erupted as Al-Shabaab made itself felt for the first time in Somalia. By December 2008, fighting was so bad that the Ethiopians fled the country.

The Transitional government fell into political chaos and somehow, Sheikh Sharif ended up as President. However, by accepting to work in the US-backed Transitional government Sheikh Sharif fell out with Sheikh Aweys, his former ally. Indeed, it is Aweys who is now openly leading Al-Shabaab and Hizbul al Islam in fierce insurgency against the Somali government.

What can Kenya do to stop Al-Shabaab from taking over power in Somalia and declaring the Islamic Republic of Somalia?

The answer is: NOTHING.

Kenya lacks the military capability to engage Al-Shabaab in a long-drawn engagement inside Somalia. Stronger armies including the United States and Ethiopia have not succeeded. Kenya, with 20,000 troops led by a wobbly coalition government, cannot stomach an engagement that could last years. The fact that the Kenya Navy is yet to capture a single Somali pirate just goes to prove our military capabilities.

The safest option is to keep the border closed but this does not work. The border is hundreds of kilometres long across harsh, semi-desert terrain. The local Somali people are very familiar with the territory and are crossing in and out of Kenya despite the “closure.” Though the border was officially closed in December 2006, smuggling of consumer goods, foodstuffs and firearms continues with impunity. Human trafficking has taken root in the area.

By any interpretation, it appears that an Islamic Republic of Somalia is going to become a reality. Somalia will have some measure of Shariah administration, something that the US-backed Transitional government has accepted. The tendency for Somali’s neighbours to sponsor so-called secular movements is the reason why chaos reigns in Somalia.

An Islamic government in Somalia does not necessarily mean that Kenya is under threat. Though Al-Shabaab has threatened to annexe the Somali-dominated North Eastern Province of Kenya, this is unlikely to happen in practice. Somalis have extensive business and family interests in Kenya that they would not wish to disrupt. During the 20 years of chaos that Somalia has experienced, Kenya has provided investment opportunities for Somali business, money that is later ploughed back into Somalia.

An entire generation of young Somalis got their education in Kenya and have come to appreciate Kenyans. In a sense, Kenya has provided Somalis with a place of refuge where they can recuperate from the fighting back home. It has even been reported that Somali fighters and pirates have been seen in Nairobi suburbs taking a much-needed physical and psychological retreat.

From the 2006 experience, it is obvious that only an Islamic leadership will have the capacity to rescue Somalia from anarchy. The world should engage with them in a dialog that will result in an Islamic Somalia at peace with its neighbours. Otherwise, it is futile to continue sponsoring warlords in fighting a losing battle with Islamic militants who are getting bolder by the day.

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24 Responses

  1. […] Kenya has no choice over Al-Shabaab « The Nairobi Chronicle Tags: a-stopped-plans, accommodation-, delta, has-threatened, north-eastern, services-with, […]

  2. I agree with you fully that our military cannot deal with somalia EFFECTIVELY…as long as what I call sharks continue to ravage kenya with their corruption…Kenya is in trouble…kenya is becoming more and more weaker under the Kibaki corrupt regime .and nobody has a vision for our future security in the face of somalia……too many Somali citizens have found their way to nairobi..thanks to corrupt individuals..and if we attempt to deal with Al-shabaab,,,the roadside bombs will be going off in nairobi..But dont worry kenyans…there is a complex jigsaw that cant allow that. A islamic govt cant happen in somalia. look at this. if a Islamic somali government hapens…a Number of things will follow:-

    1.They will soon attack Ethiopia over Ogaden..No Doubt about that at all. This is 110% .

    2.If they win in Ethiopia, they will soon attack kenya over NEP.This is not 100% though.

    3. THUS, Ethiopia cannot allow a hostile regime in Somalia…they will attack it and dislodge it while it is still weak..Kenya too will NOT allow a hostile regime in Somalia. It will find ways of dislodging it from power.

    4.what does this mean…They will Be no peace in somalia as long as a extremist regime is attempting to rule.

    5.In short..there are two problems in somalia…There is the original clanism that was the original cause of war. and the expansionist tendencies which results in external fueling of their very war. As long as both exists..NO PEACE WILL EVER COME TO SOMALIA.

  3. Alshabaab and other Somali islamists are delivering what every other Somali politicians failed to deliver:

    1. Restoring peace and stability in areas they control.
    2. Ending the clan warfare that plagued Somali for the last twenty years.
    3. Standing up to Ethiopia and rejecting its efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia.

    These are three items that no other Somali group can compete with.

    To Kenya,
    The only good option that Kenya has is to stay out of Somalia. If you interfere in the internal affairs of Somalia as you have been recently doing, the chaos and destruction that you seek in Somalia will reach you. That is guaranteed and Kenya should know. It is not the Somalis who are attacking Somalia, it is Kenya that is siding up with other countrries who are putting their national interest to prolong the suffering od the Somali people.

    Leave Somalia to the Somali people and stay out of it.

  4. Correction:

    It is not the Somalis who are attacking Kenya, it is Kenya that is siding up with other countrries who are putting their national interest to prolong the suffering of the Somali people.

    Leave Somalia to the Somali people and stay out of it is the best that Kenya can do.

  5. I guess you are a somali from Somalia…but it seems you do not understand the chronology of the Somalia problem. Somalia conflict NEVER began as a result of EXTERNAL interference from Ethiopia or any other country as such…Rather it was internal due to clanism. Now….when the world tried to help Ethiopia..it attacked its helpers…it attacks anyone…..when it was Ethiopians..they became enemies..when Ugandans came..enemies…..who will help you…Somalia needs external HELP to restore order since the country is badly split..and CANNOT stand on its own without help..this is the reality wether u like it or NOT….The Islamic fighters that seems to bring order cannot last since there is deep division among them along THE VERY CLAN lines that DIVIDED THE COUNTRY…hence…they will soon go back to killing each other again…ONLY A THIRD PARTY CAN HELP SOMALIA IN THE CURRENT STATE OF DIVISION…but if you imagine everyone is the enemy..then u are doomed….this is a problem that has from time to time occured in the Kenyan somalis..but police beeing a neutral third party has reconciled them

    On Kenya…Kenya is not interested in causing trouble in Somalia..but if Alshabaab or any other group poses a threath to kenya or Ethiopia…then there is no way that group can be allowed to flourish..

  6. Dear Kenyans;

    I hope every Somalians including me understands the kind of help we always get from your people and governments the time we needs most, so let me tell you what the reality is in Somalia situation and how I see it:

    1- First Somali Islamists groups in Somalia are reality like a daylight sun and that must be accepted, and if you believe that they are your problem then sometimes history thought us that some problems you must live with it.

    2- Secondly we Somalis believe that Kenyans are not and never been like Ethiopians, because Ethiopians are our historic enemy, we fought with Ethiopians twice and third time two years ago when they invaded Somalia illegally, to be honest I am against all kinds of aggressions against our neighbours, because peace always is the key of every opportunity in life

    Finally the golden question is: what is the solution?

    The answer is simple let Somalians find a reasonable way out of their own problems without external interference, because history taught us that every government comes through outsiders like what they call now internationally recognized government is doomed to fail without doubt.

    Saed

  7. oh am sory to say this but let us know that al shabaab are muslims , they bliv that they are going to paradise if they are killed while they are fighting because of GOD. AND AM SURE ,we kenyas ,we will be defeated 100%. There isnt any army that can win over these creature except 1 thing, to accept that their PROPHET TOUGHT THEM WOT SHOULD BE TOUGHT. AL SHABAAB ARNT SIMPLE MUSLIMS THEY ARE TRUE FOLLOWERS OF THIER LEADER. ITS very hard to say this

    • If they are muslim than they should not be carrying out things that are against islam.
      They rape little girls
      They burn dead bodies (haram)
      They have no purpose because the government is acting on sharia so therefore there is no need for fighting
      They care about fighting than making peace (a muslim should always try to find peace first)
      They destroy wildlife i.e. kill animals to sell to the black market and get money to kill another human being
      I have nothing against kenya and hope there is a way for us neighbours to find peace
      peace from sadiya ;]

  8. al shabaab dont need half men with no resolve, they do not need any advise on figting from people who are paid for and defeated they do not need to ask if it is ok with you or if their figting is compatible with your thinking. NO THEY DO NOT NEED THAT. they have all the wisdom an vision that they need, DIE IN YOUR RAGE and continue with your critism.YOU connot , destroy their resolve your poisoned pins will not affect their jihad, NOTHING WILL AFFECT AL-SHABAAB. and SAAMS knows that

    • For a long time Somali’s have fought themselves and created a state of heightened insecurity and crime in neighboring countries…including Kenya through the influx of ILLEGAL migrants and the proliferation of small arms. Kenyans will not watch and wait as you continue fighting yourselves in the name of ‘solving your own problems’

      Our patience has run out as clearly, the Somali’s have over a long period now, proved themselves INCAPABLE of amicably solving THEIR OWN problems!

      @Xasan so when you say that Kenyans should stay out of Somalia, I would like to ask you…where are you right now? My bet is that you are residing in Kenya nad thus you have ‘invaded’ Kenya. Should we then kick you and the many other Somalis now residing in Kenya out?

  9. This Al-Shabaab business is getting out of hand and something needs to be done about it rather urgently. We cannot sit and watch them threatening us now and then and even having the guts to tell us that they will annex north eastern province and introduce sharia law. How much patience and tolerance is one expected to exercise? Let Somalis confine their problems within their borders.

    • You do know that al-shabaab do not hold somalia
      they are a gorilla movent that has no purpose because now that Ethiopia haas gone. They can’t fight the government because the government is acting on sharia so therefore it is haram for them to fight and kill other somali muslims, rape women, destroy the country but GOD will punish them for what they have done. They are ignorant and uneducated and do not care about human suffering

  10. Hey, if somlis here believe so much on alshabaab then why not go back to somalia and fight for them? we are sick and tired of hosting you here. You have created a strain on our economy with your balooning refugee numbers, illegal black market trade, arms smuggling etc. You have even distroted Nairobi property values as you buy building with your pirate money. We are tired and its time to expel illegal immigrats back to their failed states

  11. Hey, if somlis here believe so much on alshabaab then why not go back to somalia and fight for them? we are sick and tired of hosting you here. You have created a strain on our economy with your balooning refugee numbers, illegal black market trade, arms smuggling etc. You have even distroted Nairobi property values as you buy building with your pirate money. We are tired and its time to expel illegal immigratns back to their failed states

  12. “the chaos and destruction that you seek in Somalia will reach you”

    Xasan, Kenya doesn’t need to create “chaos and destruction” in Somalia, you Somalis are doing a pretty good job of it already without any external assistance.

    The other thing is, stop talking rubbish.

    • And who founded for Ethiopia to come into somalia? how lead to the creation of a terror group when they knew somalia was a unstable country fighting them selves let alone other countries. Did you know that somalia had its for taste for peace for six months with the islamic courts but the US had to fund Ethiopia to invade somalia to apparnetly free somalia from terrorists. Ethiopia is a third world country like most of the african countries and they some how have the money to invade somalia but don’t have the money to stop the dying of it’s people by malnutrition. Its not just somalia that is adding to the “chaos and destruction” its many countries that want benieft from the war torn country

      Question:what caused the pirates in somalia?
      Answer: the situation in the country along with other countries destroying the Livelihood of the fishermen by fishing in our coast. Its not only somalia that caused the “chaos and destruction” its the waste companies from itlay and switzerland that lined our coast with toxic waste that cause people to develop radition related illnesses. Its mionority corrupt men/women that make life difficult for the country
      I love my country and it causes me pain to think about whats happening and inshallah some solution will be found
      ;] peace kenyan neighbours in the future hopefully

  13. Kenyans need to relax. Nothing will harm will be done upon Kenya. If kenya plays the game smart and well.
    Kenya will be the enemy of Somalis if Kenya invades Somalia. IF not we are friends and mean no harm to each other. Kenya can play it safe and let Ethiopia get what it deserves. We all know the etnic cleansning of Somalis in Ogaden and other areas in ethiopia!

  14. Great article with interesting thoughts. I think the author is right when he speaks about real politik- to live with the reality of an Islamic state next door! You might say this sounds negative! what is so negative about a Somali Islamic government? Why do you have to “live with it”?

    Al Shabaab is solving a local problem and has no ill towards Kenya thus far. This ofcourse could change if Kenyan government decided to side with Ethiopia and thier puppet Sharif Ahmed. If Kenya stays away, then Al Shabaab will have no cause to create any problem for the people of Kenya who has been good to us all. Many senior Al Shabaab leaders have been educated in Kenya and are fond of Kenyan people as the author indicated.

    Let us leave the Somalis to themselves as they seem so close to solving their chronic problem now with the medicine that is Al Shabaab.

  15. dear kenyans

    please before you have to prove to the world that u are capable running your army, and kicking al shabaab ass, as all the internet internet warriors are hoping and supporting for, before all that, before u start disrespecting our religion a religion that not started with somalis and most defenitly will never at end at somalis, read what somalis are saying, listing to there feelings, if u do so u will quickly realise,

    *that we somalis love kenya
    *that we somalis love kenyans
    *that we somalis have no reason to ever think of annexing northern Kenya.
    *that we see kenya as our home away from home,

    if u have read what the writer wrote then u will read what every somali knows, simpel fact, wherever u go u will not find somalis, the real somalis, the ones that know a thing or 2 about politics, east africa and business, they will all agree one 1 thing NFD belongs to kenya as but also somalia, its a fact that ca not change, at the same time every somali knows that Ogaden is part of somalia, and its part of the somali presidential policy to bring back ogaden at any cost,,
    so do not side with ethiopia because unlike u, its in the interest of ethiopian tigre to have a failed state next door called somali tribal lands, where as u, would benefit from a stable somalia

    before u follow the bravados of your fellow kenyans and scream kill maim and destroy to somalia by kenyan army, know that al shabaab is not the one that is building up its army,….your army is building up on the border of somalia and kenya, if u are not planning anything why is is unnesseccary to have such large army near al shabaab strong base

    the south of somalia has been nearly 20 years complete failed lawless land, but yet u have never had any problems towards he security of kenya, why suddenly now, ……learn from ethiopia’s mistakes when it danced to uncle sam tunes,

    read ethiopian news, they are loud and clear WE WILL NOT INTERVENE IN SOMALIA, THATS A JOB FOR THE WORD AND FOR SOMALIS..

    i am sure ethiopia, which has more powerfull army then kenya and who is interest lies in the lawless somali lands, rather then a united somalia…

    a war with al shabaab will not get you far, it hasnt gotten america nor ethiopia far, they are persuing there interest, you will not benefit from war,

    we somalis have not but respect for somalis

  16. correction: we somalis have nothing but respect for KENYANS

  17. I don’t agree with SAED and others who PERPETUATE the notion that Ethiopia is “the historical enemy” of Somalia. This frame of mind will not help the horn region in any way! As for the three Ethio-Somali conflicts, history tells us that Somalia started and lost two- 1964 & 1977 while the Ethiopian military intervention in 2006 was clearly unpopular.

    Let’s try to solve problems not fuel hate politics.

  18. interesting thought every one has.but let us take a different scenario no one has thought about.what if al shabaab attack first?what then?true kenya does not have the capacity to wage a long protracted war against the insurgents…but we can and will bring up reinforcements before al shabaab does any major harm.the writer has mentioned a 20,000 strong army.dont forget the A.P. force and the G.S.U. is a defacto reserve army for kenya.our airforce may be ancient but we do have an airforce.when it comes to naval bombardment of insurgent positions our “useless” navy will not be useless any more.believe me.al shabaab shouldn’t wake a sleeping giant.

  19. Gentlemen, the truth is that it is impossible to be adequetely prepared or successful wage armed conflict against a threat of such fundamental armed belligerent forces as the Al shaabaab. The eventual results is usually a stalemate that has extremely heavy consequences on the civilian population. Hence any sort of sustained armed contact between Kenya and Al shaabaab would inevitably exact a horredous price on the civilian somali people either directly or through extensive infractructural destruction, and some on a kenya civilian population unused to paying this sort of price from armed conflict. No-one wins eventually, and a history of conflict is created that may take generations to erase. As a Soldier, my advise to you civilians is seek convergence and concurrence on these complex matter. Armed conflict must have clear national strategic justifications their actualisation by Military force only reached as a last resort.

  20. man fuck the bitchass al shabaab kenya have done many things for many muslim pple,but u know what am positive on this if somalia or al shabaab try to fuck with kenya am sure they will get their ass wipped.bcause i know kenya is astrong gov,so i dont think they can beat kenya i my self was born in somalia but acording to al shabaab i dont like somalia bcause of those motherfuckers al shabaab killing and cutting the inocent pple legs and hands am muslim but i dont like what those dumb asses doing,am so sick of those bitchass motherfuckers

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