The smiling warlord who Controls Ras Kamboni
Posted Monday, June 11 2012 at 15:39
On May 22, as the sun was setting, a luxuriantly-bearded figure appeared at the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camp in the Somali town of Belles Qocani guarded by a squad of civilian fighters.
Instead of being alarmed by the gunmen in solid green fatigues armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the Kenyan soldiers were happy.
The bearded man, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, popularly referred to as Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, is the leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigade, a paramilitary group that is the predecessor of the Ras Kamboni Movement.
“Ours is a political party,” he said when we asked him whether he considered himself a warlord. The Ras Kamboni Movement is named after the coastal Somali town on the Kenyan border, and the members of the Ogaden clan, which is the most populous in southern Somalia, form the bulk of the Ras Kamboni Brigade.
“I got the nickname Madobe from our family because I am the blackest” he said. Sheikh Madobe has risen from nothing to become a key player in the war against the Al-Shabaab.
“He is a key asset in the war against Al-Shabaab as we seek to protect Kenya’s sovereignty and ensure that our citizens are not threatened by this terror organisation,” Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Nyaga, a KDF commander whose men captured Afmadow and is expected to lead the final assault on Kismayu, told DN2.
After the fall of Afmadow, Sheikh Madobe was instrumental in the appointment of a new District Commissioner for Afmadow district.
Stocky and seemingly implacable, the Somali warlord who is backed by Kenya against the Al-Shabaab, is credited with restoring some sort of stability in various towns in southern Somalia.
Without an effective police force and a weak national military, KDF expects the warlord born in 1963 to play a big role in the pacification of liberated towns.
Sheikh Madobe has turned his guns on his former ally, the al-Qaeda linked Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab and fights alongside the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the Somali National Army (SNA).
He was the governor of Kismayu from 2006 until the Ethiopian National Defence Forces overthrew the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), and was almost killed during the battle for Kismayu.
But the worst of all battles for the man who has been fighting for the larger part of his life was on January 22, 2002 when Americans bombed the Kolbiyo district in Kismayu.
“Never have I come so close to death than on that day. We were eight people and I am the only one who survived. That attack remains the worst in my life,” he recalled.
He was wounded by shrapnel but was spirited away to Ethiopia where he spent almost two years in prison or under house arrest.
In January 2009, he was elected as MP but he resigned from his position three months later, becoming the first lawmaker to resign from Somalia’s expanded parliament since former ICU chief Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was elected as President.
At that time, Somalia’s Radio Garowe reported Sheikh Madobe as saying that he had joined the 550-member parliament so as to be released from bondage in Ethiopia.
Sheikh Madobe is keen on seeing Al-Shabaab, which he helped found, chased away from Kismayu, the capital of Lower Juba region, and crushed altogether.
“I have tasted defeat in Kismayu. I will not allow that to happen again,” he says.
The defeat he is talking about happened in the hands of one of his fellow lieutenants. Fighting had broken up between the Hizbul Islam faction to which he belonged and Al-Shabaab over the control of Kismayu. Over 40 people were killed.