by Dr. Israel Kodiaga
Taunted by the desert belle through well calculated gyrations of the waist, challenged to a dance, mocked and called names by his peers, Kenya for long remained content with a seat among the audience. Outwardly appearing composed but inwardly burning with desire, some day Kenya had to act. Invariably Kenya chose to play the match maker ever presenting the Somali beauty queen to the many would- be suitors. But the lady of the crescent would have none of them. According to the desert beauty it had to be Kenya or none. She had tried it earlier with Ethiopia but didn’t like the guy from the mountains, later with Eritrea but the guy chews too much khat and his reputation is not good in the neighborhood.
Since early years of independence from colonial domination the two countries have had long standing love – hate relationship ranging from border skirmishes, livestock rustling, arms smuggling to shifta wars. Whereas all the previous conflicts were confined to the border areas, bringing the conflict to the middle of Kenya’s exclusive economic zones of the coast and Nairobi surely had to get a quick response. In other words it was no longer an issue of if but when.
The Kenyan military forays in the war torn neighboring state, however, cannot be understood without a glare of light into the historical past. The disastrous American invasion of Somalia in 1991 marked a major water shed in the escalation of the situation that the region now finds itself into. Somalia literally ceased to exist as a country. What remained was a mere geographical expression. Gangs roamed the streets and anarchy became the order of the day. By default Kenya became both a beneficiary and a victim of the disorder in Somalia.
As beneficiaries, the ordinary Kenyans were finally able to dress in smart and well tailored garments, be proud owners of some of the best electronic goods and food stuff imported cheaply from the Middle East. The in coming Somali business men and women fleeing the war torn country made minced meat of the Indian Dukawalas of Biashara and Muindi Bingu streets of Nairobi who had pulverized the citizens for generations. All roads led to the now famous Garissa lodges in Eastleigh and other major towns. Coming with the fleeing refugees was the much prized US dollar which also found its way into the Kenyan market helping to shore the now shaky Moi economy plagued by tough aid conditions put by the twin Breton Woods institutions of World Bank and the IMF. Businesses flourished, huge shopping complexes were coming up in astonishing speed and numbers, land for property development became a much sought after commodity, skyscrapers mushroomed in all the major cities thanks to piracy and the black market flourishing in Somalia. The catch phrase was growth, development, prosperity, success, and the Kenyan political class could be heard on public podiums commending themselves for sustaining Kenya as an island of peace amidst a sea of chaos.
On the flip side, Kenya now had to contend with large numbers of refugees, the entry of small arms, inadvertently providing a safe haven to pirates, al-qaeda, and its scion the al-shabaab, hoards of dogs of war ready to spill blood all in the name of ALLAH and the HOLY BOOK. Today, a stroll in any of the major cities in Kenya reveal a scary presence of Somali engaging in all sorts of businesses both licit and illicit. Even worse, one cannot distinguish a Kenyan Somali from a Somalia Somali, Tanzanian Somali, Ugandan Somali or just a Somali. Sharing a common language and cultural consanguinity the Somalis bear a unique resemblance only rivaled by the Rwandese.
The influx of Somali refugees needles to argue, led to massive losses threatening key sectors of the Kenyan fabric. The once thriving tourism industry is on its knees thanks to al-shabaab, hotels at the coast are closing down, and so are the allied sectors. The security forces are over stretched, Kenyans can no longer gather peacefully in clubs, bus stops, churches, etc, for fear of terrorist attacks. Only a daft government would sit back and watch its economy ground to a halt through the action of some faceless religious fanatics and extortionists.
Not the kind to meddle in the domestic affairs of her neighbors, and ever happy to be seen as the big brother Kenya chose the path of negotiation and reconciliation. After many years of failed efforts, Kenya finally succeeded in helping to put in place with the help of IGAD a mongrel variantly known as the TRANSITIONAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ( TFG ). Cleft palated, the mongrel cannot bite, but even worse it is rumored to be a hermaphrodite – unable to bring forth progeny. Compounding an already bad situation, the mongrel displays visible signs of an inexplicable disease affecting the genitalia. Comprising of remnants of former Islamic courts union the eponymous father of al – shabaab and a fledgling of former anti-Barre forces,the TFG to say the least, is inept and has within itself al-shabaab sympathizers and members.
Always coming late if they come at all are the doctors without borders – UN / AU armed with placebos and palliative drugs. Rubbing salt into an already sore wound the two are soon joined by the American and French vets. Known to defy all protocol, notorious for their cow boy antics, the arriving vets give the Somalia mongrel an overdose of a new drug yet to be tested in the market, sending it into rabid rage. Terror everywhere, no one is safe, tough talk cannot do, appeasement has never worked, Kenya is on her own, IGAD cannot help, and the AU is still in shock following the cruel killing of its spiritual father, brother leader Muammar Qaddafi. Its worth noting that the AU acquired its new name following a baptismal ceremony conducted in the waters of Sirte by the fallen King of Kings and Lord of Lords in 1999. Having failed to save its spiritual father the AU cannot be relied upon to save Somalia and least of all Kenya in the face of terrorist aggression. As for the UN, the least said the better. everyone knows that the UN remains an American barking dog held on a string tethered in the white house.
The presence of the AMISOM forces and the US / UN teams in Somalia have only served to harden the al-shabaab the more. In some very strange twists, the Somali known to be cantankerous by nature would bitterly fight against each other but unite quickly against perceived foreigners or “kaffir” who attempt to broker peace amongst them. The perceived presence of American and French forces is reason enough for the very citizens who have suffered untold miseries under al-shabaab to offer places of refuge and protection to the very al-shabaab.
Complicating the Somalia crisis are the external actors benefiting from the war. A cursory look on the scenario reveals hands of Islamic fundamentalists from the middle east, oil dealers, drug lords, gun runners, Yemenis, UAE, Syrians, Eritreans, French business moguls, American business and strategic interests among a host of others. Many are those who benefit from the disorder so that they can pass their goods through the waters of Somalia. In a nutshell, the disorder in Somalia is wealth elsewhere. Whenever the blood of an innocent Somali woman, man or child is shed, that blood waters the tree of accumulation elsewhere – TRAGIC, TRAGIC INDEED!
Four kidnappings within a span of three weeks Kenya could not wait any longer. Her patience had been tried beyond measure. Conscious, of previous terrorist attack on her own soil where several lives were lost, aware that the world only watched from a safe distance, noting that her bosom friend America who was the target of those previous attacks only responded with travel advisory to her citizens to safely avoid Kenya as a very unsafe destination. Remembering that Britain, mean as ever maintained a studious silence, determined not to be a doormat any more, FIRE HAD TO BE MET WITH FIRE! Invoking the internationally accepted convention of “ HOT PURSUIT” Kenya declared war not on Somalia government but on al-shabaab.
Consequences of the Invasion to Kenya
In my very considered opinion, given that al-shabaab is not your kind of regular state / army, Kenya will in a matter of weeks uncork the champagne bottle in the merriment of victory. But such celebrations in my opinion will be short lived. Al-shabaab packed with thousands of heavily intoxicated young men ready to go and meet with the 33 virgin brides promised by ALLAH if they die for a “just” cause, will respond with heavy casualties on Kenyan soil through one man armies of suicide bombers. Violence begets violence. I see no quick fix solutions in Somalia. The chickens are yet to come home to roost.