To understand why we are targets, we must ask some hard questions

Sunday June 8 2014

PHOTO | FILE The scene of the explosion in Gikomba market following a terror attack, May 16, 2014. The British Government has revised its travel advisory on Kenya, warning of more imminent attacks on areas it had cautioned its nationals to avoid.

PHOTO | FILE The scene of the explosion in Gikomba market following a terror attack, May 16, 2014. It is clear that the Kenyan Government does not have military strategists who can advise it on how to minimise the cost of Kenya’s continued presence in Somalia.  NATION

Most Kenyans are not aware of this, but Kenya’s comrade-in-arms in Somalia, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, is a protégé and brother-in-law of Hassan Turki, a career jihadist who has been designated by the United States as a terrorist.

Madobe split from Turki’s Ras Kamboni Brigades when it joined forces with Al-Shabaab and laid claim to the prized port of Kismayu. In 2009, Madobe formed the Ras Kamboni movement that later joined Kenyan forces to fight Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia.

Why should this worry us? Well, first, how can the Kenyan Government trust a person who has previous links with terrorists and has a history of defecting? Was the Mwai Kibaki administration coerced, perhaps by Ethiopia, and by extension the United States, to back Madobe?

Both Ethiopia and the United States are known to support warlords in Somalia. Some of these warlords even have links with Al-Qaeda (read Jeremy Scahill’s book Dirty Wars and my forthcoming book, War Crimes). Was Kenya following these two countries’ orders?

Secondly, having secured Kismayu, why are the Kenyan forces still there? United Nations and other reports suggest that both the Kenyan forces and the Ras Kamboni militia are continuing with “business as usual” at the port.

Charcoal exports seem to be soaring and it is likely that other illicit activities, such as smuggling of contraband, have not stopped. Despite an Ethiopia-brokered agreement in August 2013 that the central government in Mogadishu would take over the running of the port of Kismayu within six months, there are no signs of a handover.

Having declared himself president of the self-styled Jubaland, is Madobe doing what Somali warlords do — privatise the country’s resources? And is Kenya partaking in the looting? Is that why Kenya insists that it is in Somalia for the long haul?

And is this the reason Al-Shabaab wants to bring its war to Kenya? If Kenya insists on being part of the African Union forces, then why does its soldiers not operate in other parts of Somalia where its interests will not be viewed with suspicion?

Occupying force

It is clear that the Kenyan Government does not have military strategists who can advise it on how to minimise the cost of Kenya’s continued presence in Somalia.

Given that we have paid a heavy price, both economically and in terms of security since the country’s incursion into Somalia, should the government not be planning an exit strategy? Having gained the goodwill of Somalis for helping to throw out Al-Shabaab, Kenya is now being seen by Somalis as an occupying force. This can only spell disaster for Kenya.

What is worse, the call for the hasty repatriation of Somali refugees has created an even bigger terrorist threat for this country. Many of the refugees who live in Kenya earn their livelihoods here as well. Refugees in Dadaab and Nairobi have over the years established small businesses.

A vast majority of the Somali refugees are youths who have known no country other than Kenya. Sending them back to Somalia means sending them to a life of destitution and desperation — the very conditions that Al-Shabaab exploits to get new recruits.

Given the inhumane way the Kenyan security forces treated these refugees during the raids on Eastleigh in April, it is possible that these youths have already become radicalised.

We have to remember that these are young educated men and women who are now fluent in English, Kiswahili, and Somali. They can melt into any Kenyan town; corrupt border police and human trafficking cartels will provide a ticket for their return.

Did anyone think through the repatriation programme and consider the consequences for Kenya? Are we creating more instability in Somalia and more insecurity in Kenya through these actions?
It amazes me that Kenya’s media is not asking these questions. Or perhaps the Kenyan forces’ propaganda machinery was more successful than it anticipated.

We need to know the facts about our involvement in Somalia. If we do not, we will continue to believe that Al-Shabaab wants to destroy our way of life, as one columnist put it, and is jealous of our freedoms. The truth is that we really do not know the truth.