Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Kenya-French Somali Oil War

By Ali Osman
Thursday, October 27, 2011 

Al-Shabab is Somalia’s enemy number one and they deserve punishment and condemnation for their atrocities and terrorist murders against innocent Somalis and their neighbors. I support the genuine efforts by the African Union and the Somali Transitional Federal Government to dislodge this violent group from power.

However, the recent Kenyan invasion of Somalia on the pretext that Al-Shabab threatened Kenya at this time is deeply suspicious and troubling for the following reasons.

On Wednesday September 21st 2011 The French Oil giant Total acquires “40% interest in five offshore exploration blocks in the Lamu Basin, blocks L5, L7, L11a, L11b and L12” ( see company press release here).  This is not actually in the Lamu Basin alone but encroaches on Somalia’s southern (Kismayo) Exclusive Economic Zone which is the target of the Kenyan Military occupation forces.

On October 8th 2011 the Somalia parliament overwhelmingly rejected and made illegal any attempt to meddle or change the Somalia's Exclusive Economic Zone. This is an area where Kenyan officials were lobbying to reduce Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone from 200 to 12 nautical miles.

Ten days later on October 18th Kenyan military invades Somalia with air cover provided by
French Navy’s Air Wing in a pretext that they are after Al-Shabab militia. Mind you Al-Shabab has been ravaging this area for years and Kenya even refused many attempts to contribute forces to African Union forces in Mogadishu. The Somali president made many trips to Nairobi and came back empty-handed. The French involvement is collaborated by the Kenyan defense ministry as noted by Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said “the French navy bombed the town of Kuday near the southern al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo on Saturday night. A Nairobi-based diplomat told The Associated Press last week that France was carrying out military attacks in Somalia; French officials in Paris denied French forces were carrying out any attacks.” (See National Public Radio here). Why would France deny weakening Al-Shabab which is designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations, US and European Union while Kenya acknowledges it?!

The Kenyan military did not inform their intention to go after Al-Shaba to Somali TFG or the African Union Forces who are engaged fierce battles with Al-Shabab. The United States a close allied of Kenya was kept in the dark on this offensive as reported by New York Times “Kenya’s sudden incursion into Somalia over the weekend caught the United States “on its heels,” one American official said Thursday. A former American official with experience in Africa said Kenyan officers had given their American counterparts “zero” information before the offensive started.”

The Somali President condemned the Kenyan action and spoke against this illegal invasion “the strike degrades the trust built up between the two countries over the past few decades"  

The timing of the Kenyan invasion couldn't have come at a worse time, in the sense that Somali Transitional Federal Government and supporting African Union Forces have cleared Al-Shabab from the capital Mogadishu in recent weeks and had the upper-hand militarily and financially. Clearing Al-Shabab from the Southern Somalia within months was a real possibility. The Kenyan invasion makes the job of the Somali Transitional Government and the African Union Forces much more difficult and may in fact reverse some of success they have had over the months.

Somali observers and specialists are perplexed why now and why do it in belligerently and disrespectful way towards the Somali Transitional Federal Government?  

There is a strong possibility Kenya and French governments in cahoots with oil giant was unsuccessful buying the Somali parliament and annexing Somali sovereign territory for oil has became impossibility. They realized the Somali Transitional Government was more assertive and freeing southern Somalia from Al-Shabab was likely scenario. A pre-emptive strike was plan B solution to carve a small mini-state so called “buffer zone” with a puppet leadership guaranteeing a free reign on southern Somalia’ Economic Exclusive Zone.

Kenya believes the revenue from the off-shore oil drilling from the Somalia’s Economic Exclusive Zone is more than what they would have made declining tourist industry and is ready to gamble on it. Apparently Kenyan leaders will remember too late the old saying “Don’t gamble the rent money or you’ll land up sleeping on the park bench” I hope I am all wrong and the Kenyans mean well but I am not optimistic.

By Ali Osman
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