Sunday January 14, 2018
There is no question that Kenya and Somalia are two countries that are deeply linked economically, socially and culturally.These shadowy figures are suspected to be funding al- Shabaab attacks on Somali soil and credible investigations have linked them to the financing of bombings not just in Somalia but also in Kenya.
Both countries would stand to benefit immensely from enduring peace and stability in Somalia due to the long-standing ties between the two countries which stretch back hundreds of years.
Yet all is not well at present in Somalia. A number of forces, both from Somalia and outside the region, are working very hard to sow chaos there and prolong the suffering of the people of Somalia and the region.
Kenyan authorities can play a role in curtailing these players who are destabilising Somalia simply by ousting them and denying them the right to operate from Nairobi, because a significant number of them are based in the Kenyan capital.
In February 2017, there was great hope that the election of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as president – a rare case in Somalia elections where the man who was popular with Somalis across the region prevailed over the choice of shadowy power brokers – would be a turning point for Somalia. There were celebrations across East Africa following the election.
However, there are forces including many wealthy Somali politicians and businessmen – a good number based in Nairobi – who benefit from war and chaos in Somalia and are not interested in the pursuit of a lasting peace.
Matters have been worsened by the dispute between Gulf nations whose impact is being felt in many regions, none more so than in the Horn of Africa. That conflict has seen powerful Gulf countries emerge to actively encourage divisions in Somalia which have been a gift to the al- Shabaab at a time when many were turning against the group.
In June, the young and erratic Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman and his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suddenly announced a blockade of their rival Gulf power Qatar.
They demanded that all countries with a large Muslim population should follow their lead. Many were forced by the fact that they rely on millions of dollars in aid from the oil-rich Gulf countries to do so. However, to their great credit, the leadership in Somalia decided to take a neutral posture and refused to take sides between the UAE and Qatar.
That decision – despite tens of millions of dollars being offered to sway the leadership in Mogadishu – has inflamed the Gulf countries and unleashed a full-blown war to try and bring down the government in Somalia. The activities being undertaken to achieve this should alarm all members of the international community including the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, major embassies including the Americans and the European Union and other players that have a major stake in peace in Somalia including Kenya.
The efforts to sow instability in Somalia in pursuit of narrow geopolitical goals will result in disaster and should not be encouraged.
Taking advantage of the fragmented nature of governance in Somalia, for example, the UAE has exploited instability in some regions of the country to secure long-term concessions to key installations. These include a concession from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for Dubai-based DP World to develop the port of Bosaso. In Somaliland, DP World has a 30-year concession to develop a port at Berbera and plans to develop an economic free zone.
In the meantime, significant amounts of cash have gone to groups that control the ports of Kismayu, Berbera and Bosaso, virtually arming three clans out of 50 others, a recipe for conflict in such an environment.
Kenyan authorities should take a keener interest in the level of these activities which are being carried out by Somali politicians and businessmen who own big businesses in Nairobi.
Some of these businessmen have been suspected to fund al-Shabaab through taxes paid due to their involvement in charcoal business and other activities.
Also, some journalists from Somalia in the diaspora are sympathisers or apologists of the propaganda being generated by the destabilising forces and they post toxic write-ups in their blogs, all aimed at destabilising Somalia.
The big question is: who is protecting these politicians in Kenya? Have these people corrupted State security institutions that are aware of their existence and activities?
It is an open secret that some non-governmental organisations based in Nairobi have been channelling funds to groups destabilising the Somalia government by claiming to fund projects that don’t exist.
Are Kenyan authorities aware of the activities of these groups and what are they doing to curtail them? What are others who are spending significant sums of money to fund security operations in Somalia, including the American embassy, doing about all this?
The fact is that these rogue Somalia politicians, driven by allegiance to narrow clan interests and their patronage by powerful wealthy Gulf states, are a threat not only to Somalia but the entire region.
They change their identity and loyalty according to interests and a number were previously openly affiliated to al-Shabaab.
The unfolding situation has created tension between ethnic Somalis and Gulf players such as the UAE and the danger is that Kenya – which appears to be an unwitting player in this game – could end up being a theatre for clashes between the various parties if it does not act to expel these bad actors from Nairobi.
It would be unfortunate if internal wars from Somalia, including between clan elites and feuding businessmen and meddling by Gulf players, ended up playing out in Nairobi. Also, as a friendly nation to Somalia, Kenya should be the last nation to encourage activities such as these to unfold on its soil.
For too long, some Somalia politicians have lived comfortably in Kenya while sowing chaos and instability in Somalia. There can be no reason why such politicians should be allowed to thrive – or worse, enjoy protection – while undermining regional security interests.
Kenyan authorities should investigate such players and expel them. It is true that the Somalia government is weak but the more powerful Kenya government should probe and act against these people.
The whole world has seen how the war in Yemen, which is an offshoot of these unnecessary power games in the Gulf, has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians and one of the worst famines and cholera outbreaks recorded in history.
Somalia is suffering from the same irresponsible geopolitical adventures by these players who seek to bring down the government to advance their narrow interests which are served by perpetual chaos and war.
By contrast, Kenya and the region would benefit from a peaceful and stable Somalia. It is time for the country to take a stand and stop the activities of those that seek to destabilise Somalia.