2014-04-18
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Motion against Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia faces hurdles

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The chance of a censure Motion against Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) passing in Somalia’s parliament is getting slimmer each day.The author of the Motion told The Standard that he will “reconsider” it if his concerns are addressed.

Its challangers also said they will defeat it if it comes to the floor.

The controversial Motion calls for replacement of army commanders in Kismayu as well as either relocating KDF to other regions or mixing them with other African peacekeepers.

“Negotiations are on-going. We have met with individuals who are calling for caution. We want them to convince us. If they do so, we will reconsider our strategy. If not, we will go ahead with it,” said lawmaker Abdullahi Jama, without giving further information.

Jama said the Motion was submitted May 25 and his team is busy lobbying lawmakers to vote in its favour. Somalia’s Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Jawaari declined to comment after The Standard contacted him by phone.

Active role

But opponents of the Motion said they won’t accept such a vote to pass.

“We vow to shoot down any Motion against Kenya. If we were to think of taking any Motion to parliament, it will be one against the government, against the prime minister,” said lawmaker Abdirashid Hidig. “We will even look for ways to impeach the president if he does not end his misguided policy towards Jubaland State.”

In a countermeasure, Hidig has called on Kenya to increase the number of its army in the region and to play an active role in helping locals realise their dreams of having a functional State “because our fates are intertwined”.

“We call on Amisom’s overall commanders in Mogadishu to be neutral on the country’s political affairs because we suspect that they have a soft spot for Mogadishu,” Hidig said. “We are aware of plans to plant sleeper cells in Kismayu to disrupt peace and induce internecine fighting to give Mogadishu a pretext to interference.”
Horn of Africa analyst Mohamed Gaas, who teaches international relations at Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said there was “no way” the Motion can succeed.

“It is a storm in a teacup. It will not pass in parliament because lawmakers are polarised along clan lines,” said Gaas, who is also a research fellow at Fafo Institute of International Studies.

Gaas urged government leaders to “exhibit visionary leadership”.

“Kismayu is part of Somalia. The government needs to work hard on how it can win public support,” he said. “It has to focus on ways it can make people feel secure and get justice.”

In conversations with The Standard, Somali lawmakers said the anti-Kenya Motion has clan undercurrents and may be tacitly backed by the government itself because Mogadishu has to show its Hawiye constituents that it can stand up to Kenya, which they accuse of backing the establishment of a clan-based State.

 “It is said that Somalia’s current affairs mirror those of the early 1990s,” said a lawmaker, who requested anonymity.

Protect clans


Jama, the author of the Motion, who hails from the central region argued he was not being motivated by clan interests.

 “I don’t advocate for clan issues. I do advocate for the interests of the nation. I didn’t swear to protect clans but the nation,” he said, noting that he does not harbour any grudge against Kenya.

Asked why he singled out the Kenyan army when several other countries have troops in the country, Jama said: “Others take government orders. They respect the Somali government. They protect government ministers. They don’t restrict their movements at airports. They play a support role, not a lead role. Kenyans are motivated by their own initiatives.”

 Jama has accused KDF of not respecting “the sovereignty of Somalia,” claiming that the army humiliated Defence and Justice ministers who recently visited Kismayu.

“They stayed in a container at Kismayu airport for several days against their will,” he said. “They were denied access to the town. We can say they were actually captives of the army. They were checked at the airport. Their rights were taken away,” he said. “How come a foreign army whose duty is to aid Somalia can stop ministers and MPs, return them or take away their rights? That is the million dollar question we need answered,” Jama added.

The censure Motion, whose fate is still unknown, does not explicitly call for withdrawal of Kenyan army from Somalia, but has the potential to stir a bigger debate about presence of foreign troops in a country whose citizens are wont to hate foreign interventions.

 Historically, Kismayu has been a flash point since the collapse of the country’s last central government more than two decades ago. It has become Somalia’s equivalent to Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by different ethnic groups, such as Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. The port city is prized for its closeness to the Indian Ocean and its fertile land, which is also good for livestock.

Generous revenue

Kismayu has changed hands since early 1990s, and its residents had known little peace or development as each new ruler misused seaport’s generous revenue. It is the third largest city in the country — if you include Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway Republic of Somaliland in the northwest of the country.

In recent years, Kismayu — a local term for Jubaland State — has kicked up diplomatic row between Nairobi and Mogadishu, with Somali leaders working hard against Kenya’s push to help set up a pro-Nairobi administration in regions near its border to ward off infiltration by Somali militants.

The first dust-up between the two countries started in 2010, when Kenya vetoed the then Somali president’s plan to send 2,500 Kenyan-trained troops to Mogadishu for fear that its long and porous borders will be easy targets for militants. It re-started after Kenya sent troops to Somalia in October 2011.

 Although former President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed later changed his mind, he had initially publicly objected to Nairobi’s decision to enter Somalia without prior consultation with his administration.

 But the tension took a turn for the worse when Kenyan forces drove militants out of Kismayu, and the need to form a new administration took on a new urgency. Current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud expressed rejection of any foreign-led administration in Kismayu. He termed the new Jubaland State led by Kenyan ally Ahmed Mohamed Islam as unconstitutional and unilateral.

Natural resources


 “All we want is to correct the mistake of their army,” said Jama. “All over the world, if any army operating outside their country commits  mistakes, they are held accountable and commanders are replaced. We want to draw the attention of the Somalis, the region and the world at large to the Kenyan army so that they correct their mistakes.”

Prof Aden Nunow, who teaches management at one of Mogadishu’s universities, said some Somalis are sceptical of ties between Ahmed Madobe and Kenya.

“They suspect that Kenya uses Ahmed Madobe to exploit the country’s natural resources and to create a buffer zone,” Nunow said.

The view of Nunow, who didn’t conceal his rejection of the Jubaland State, starkly contrasts with those held by indigenous people and their politicians.

Hidig, who hails from the region, accuses politicians who have no links to the region of stoking-up clan hostilities in Jubaland.

“We, the leaders of Jubaland, support and welcome the Kenyan army, not because they secured the region, but because they also engaged in humanitarian endeavours, such as drilling water wells,” he told The Standard by phone from Mogadishu.

Several Mogadishu-based radio stations have entered the fray, backing Somalia’s government. The official entry of Kenyan troops into Kismayu has become a rallying cry for the otherwise independent stations.

They offered daily updates — mostly disinformation — about the city and the new rulers. Somali language websites have recently started posting rumours saying the government asked Kenya and Ethiopia to withdraw their armies, something quickly dismissed by government as “unfounded falsehoods”.

 Many Mogadishu residents consider Kenyan troops in Somalia as occupiers. A charged advocate of the Jubaland State said: “If Kenyans aren’t occupiers, so are Ugandans, Burundians, Djiboutians, Ethiopians and other foreign troops in the country.”

Somali conflict

 “We are aware of a failed plan to station the Djiboutian army in Jubaland to serve the interests of certain clans, and the new anti-Kenya Motion has a lot to do with that,” lawmaker Hidig said. “Djibouti has become part of the Somali conflict.”

The anti-Jubaland State hostility is being fanned by politicians who envy the resourcefulness and the strategic position the region has, Hidig said, adding that, “We are hopeful that every anti-Jubaland endeavour will fail and Jubaland will march on.”



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