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Row over Jubaland threatens to sour Kenya, Somalia ties

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Officials of Jubaland State say they have, cleared Kismayu of Mogadishu-backed militia.

The army chief confirmed this just days after the military and militia clash left dozens dead.

Although Kenya Defence Forces ( KDF) and other Amisom troops fighting Al Shabaab entered Kismayu on October 1, last year, the city remained dangerous.

Warlords maintained control of several pockets in the city; militia killed civilians and erected illegal checkpoints.

Now, the Jubaland administration says it has fully secured the port city. This follows the routing of two warlords – Barre Aadan Shire (Hiiraale) and Iftiin Xasan (Baasto) – in a three-day gun battle that ended last Sunday.

“Kismayu… is free of hostile gunmen and warlords,” General Ismail Sahardid, the army chief, told this reporter on the telephone from Kismayu. “It is absolutely safe for the first time since we arrived here.”


However, this development has kicked up a diplomatic storm between Nairobi and Mogadishu, over what to do with the southern border regions.

Somalia last weekend called on KDF to vacate Kismayu over claims they were supporting one of the warring parties. KDF who are serving under the Amisom, denied the allegations.  This has not stopped agitation by Hiiraale and others.

“We will return to Kismayu,” he told radio stations in Mogadishu. “The war is between us and Kenya.”

He sensationally talked of “returning the sovereignty” of Somalia. Both Hiiraale and Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, a commander in the Somali National Forces, whose brief arrest by the KDF irked Mogadishu, said they would fight Kenyan forces, with Hiiraale “swearing to God” that his men will defeat Kenya and kill those captured “on the spot”.

The Kismayu conflict is raising political and military temperatures in the region. Analysts warn of a regional crisis if Nairobi and Mogadishu don’t resolve their differences over the southern parts of Somalia.

“The most salient implication is that Somalia will stay in a state of anarchy and terrorist groups will flourish,” said Faisal Roble, Horn of Africa analyst and director of research at the US-based Institute for Horn of Africa Studies and Affairs.

Kismayu has seen more than five battles since hundreds of clan elders picked Ahmed Mohamed Islam, popularly known as Ahmed Madobe, on May 15 to lead a regional administration comprised of three southern regions of Gedo, lower Jubba and middle Jubba.

Only eight of the 15 districts in the regions are under the control of allied forces. The recent clashes were a blow to the new administration that is trying to establish itself.

The June 7th - 8th  fighting, for instance, attracted the attention of the United Nations Security Council, which urged all players to work together to fight Al-Shabaab.


Sahardid said last week’s battle claimed the lives of his men.

Analysts say Somalia’s politicians are struggling to reconcile the nation’s clans. Warlords are exploiting their failure.

“The President has failed to unify the country,” said Roble, who is also a contributing editor to the Horn of Africa Journal. “His vision seems to be going to the opposite of what the nation needs – unity and fairness.”

Members of the Darod clan – the predominant community in Jubaland argue that Somalia needs justice, the reason federalism was enshrined in the nation’s constitution.

They say Hawiye clan members who committed crimes against the Darod and then occupied their property and land, especially in the capital, were not punished.

The Darod clan also accuses the government of attempts to create a Hawiye hegemony over other clans.

On its part, Mogadishu’s government, backed by its Hawiye constituents, refers to Jubaland as a Kenyan project using Darod militiamen, especially the Ogaden and Majerteen, who consider the regime in power a clan entity whose sole interest is to frustrate Darod aspirations to hold sway in their regions. “Mogadishu needs to recognise the Kismayu administration instead of destroying its peace and diverting focus from the fight against Al-Shabaab,” said Mohamed Gaas, Somali analyst and researcher at the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies.

In modern Somalia, he adds, the Hawiye and Darod were always antagonists. Recent Hawiye-led administrations in the country have done little to win over the trust of the Darod. “The reality is, once a government loses the trust of its population its survivability becomes questionable, especially in a country like Somalia where the population is armed to teeth,” says Roble.


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