“…What does (Kenya) want to achieve from the incursion, knowing that the Ethiopia invasion created Al-Shabaab, the opposite of what was expected? Who can guarantee the invasion would not reinvigorate Somali nationalism hence energising radicalism that might even engulf the Somali region in Kenya?” Muuse Yuusuf
by Muuse Yuusuf
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Somalis in Eastleigh in Nairobi are under siege by stone throwing and machete wielding mobs angered by the recent bus bombing that has killed many people and injured others. Some of the mobs have called themselves “Kenyans” as though their Kenyan identity is in danger, labelling Somalis as “terrorists” in their midst who are threatening their national security and their way of life. Indeed, a sense of growing xenophobia against Somalis - refugees or even Kenyan Somalis - has been reported.
On a personal level, having lived in Eastleigh in peaceful times in late 1980s and knowing how it was enough to be a Somali to be picked on by the security services to extort money from you, or to be robbed by machete wielding and gun-trotting Kenyan gangs, I can only feel sorry for any Somali who lives in Nairobi right now. Somalis must be feeling a sense of insecurity and helplessness during these stressful times. My heart goes out to them, as it equally goes out to the relatives and families of those killed in the bus bombing.
Although there was ongoing tension between Somalis and Kenyans in Eastleigh caused by Kenyans resentful of Somalis’ business success, I cannot help but to situate these disturbances in the context of the Kenyan invasion of Somalia in 2011. It was not that long when I asked the above questions in my article “Why the international community should not support the Kenyan invasion of Somalia?” published in Hiiraan.com. These and other hard nosed questions seem to be imposing themselves as recent developments have shown, and no one knows the answer.
A year has elapsed since the Kenyan invasion of Somalia, and anyone who examines the current situation on the ground can see three things becoming obvious as days go by.
First, if the incursion was meant to protect Kenyan citizens and Kenya’s tourism industry from bombings and kidnappings by terrorists, it has failed to do so. Leave aside the tourism resorts of Mombasa or Malindi, bombings are becoming normal features in Nairobi as evidenced by the recent Eastleigh bombing. A year ago, who would have imagined bombs would explode on a bus in Nairobi, equating this beautiful metropolitan city to the war-torn Mogadishu in terms of insecurity?
Second, if the military adventure was aimed at securing Kenya borders with Somalia, insecurity along the Somali-Kenyan border is worsen than ever, as remnants of Al-Shabaab and the Kenyan security forces hunt-down each other alongside this porous border. A classic example is the killing of three Kenyan soldiers by masked gunmen in a town that borders Somalia, where Islamist militants are based. This has led to one of the worst crackdowns in Garissa town in the Somali region in Kenya carried out not by the police but by the military, which shows the gravity of the situation. Garissa, 350km north-east of the capital Nairobi, has been reported to be a “ghost” town where the military is entering schools and is shooting students. At least 8 people have been killed, and over 50 people injured since the start of the crackdown. The Kenyan Defence Minister, Mohammed Yusuf Haji, said he did not authorise the army action. This might indicate that the situation is getting out of control and some sections of Kenya’s security apparatus are executing military operations without the knowledge and the approval of senior politicians.
Third, Somali nationalism/irredentism in the Somali region in Kenya, which was caused by the annexation of the region to Kenya by Britain although Somalis overwhelmingly voted to be united with their brethren in Somalia, seems to have been awakened and invigorated. Some underground liberation movements, such as the NFD liberation movement, have launched armed struggle against Kenyan authorities. The revival of Somali nationalism in the region is the most dangerous outcome of Kenya’s ill planned, ill-thought and myopic invasion of Somalia.
In conclusion, although the Kenyan forces have helped the Somali government to remove Al-Shabaab from some regions in south-western regions of Somalia, including the strategic port town of Kismayo, it seems thought the problem has shifted to the Kenyan-Somali border and to the Somali region in Kenya where insecurity has increased compared to the situation prior the invasion. The fact of the matter is that the longer the Kenyan forces remain in Somalia, the more likely they will be perceived as occupiers determined to annex Kismayo to Kenya. It is very likely that this will create more Somali nationalist movements determined to liberate Somali regions including the Somali region in Kenya from the clutches of Kenya.
In short, Kenya, please come out of Somalia quickly before it is too late.