How KDF's Somalia incursion changed Kenya

Like every nation on earth that has had to deal with terrorists, Kenya suffered from a lack of imagination.

Friday October 16 2015

Almost four years after Kenya launched an offensive against Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Nation Newsplex has looked at how the action changed Kenya.

The analysis found that there was a steep increase in terrorist attacks since October 2011.  Attacks in the 45 months since Operation Linda Nchi began were nine times the attacks 45 months before the mission.  

The attacks were also more ferocious, with deaths and injuries caused by terrorism between October 2011 and July 2015 being eight times as many as the period between 2008 and September 2011.

Newsplexlooked at data from the Global Terrorism Database, the most comprehensive unclassified database on terrorist events in the world since 1970, the Nation Media Group archives, and obtained the views of security experts on the outcomes of the military incursion.

Over a 90-month period between 2008 and July 2015, Kenya experienced 340 terrorist attacks by local and international perpetrators, 986 deaths and at least 1,520 injuries, according to the database created by the US-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

From this total, 306 attacks (89 per cent), 876 deaths (88 per cent) and 1,442 injuries (95 per cent) took place in the 45 months after the war in Somalia started.

Beyond the numbers, the primary targets of international terrorists have also changed.  From as far back as 1976, when the Popular Front for the Liberation (PLO) of Palestine attempted in two separate incidents, to blow up Israel’s El Al airliner at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, to the worst terrorism incident in Kenya, the US Embassy Bombing in 1998, to the Paradise Hotel bombing in 2002, Kenyans were collateral damage in a global terrorism war.

And security and military experts are warning of more attacks since KDF, which has since joined Amisom, will be in Somalia for the long haul with no clear timelines on a pull out.

“We are no longer proxies in the terrorism war between the West and terrorists. It became our war when we went into Somalia.”

The experts say while Amisom forces had helped to prop up the Somalia government, there is no evidence that the Somali army is strong enough to stand on its own in the event of a pull out.

Col David Obonyo, the KDF spokesman told Saturday Nation yesterday that he could not estimate how long it would take for the Somali National Army to stand on its own.


He drew similarities with Afghanistan where President Barack Obama had pledged to pull out American forces 14 years after their invasion but changed his mind this week ‘‘because of the weakness of the Afghan army and the growing strength of the Taliban’’.

‘‘In Somalia, it will depend on how hard Amisom and international partners like the European Union work to train the Somali army. It’s very difficult to put a timeline on it,’’ Col Obonyo said.

For Kenya, he said, it means the internal security agencies have to up their game in a bid to disrupt the terror attacks. But Kenyans have to be more alert and play play a bigger in the war in terms of sharing intelligence with security agencies.

“We are no longer proxies in the terrorism war between the West and terrorists. It became our war when we went into Somalia,” says Mr Mwenda Mbijiwe, the CEO of Eye-on-Eye Security and a security consultant.

He cites the Garissa University College attack in April this year, the Westgate Mall attack which was among the 20 worst acts of terrorism in the world in 2013, and the Mpeketoni and Mandera quarry worker attacks in 2014 to make his point.

While the government is adamant that it was necessary to go to Somalia to degrade the ability of Al-Shabaab to launch terrorist attacks in Kenya, the fact that about half of all deaths and a quarter of all injuries resulting from acts of terrorism against Kenya in the last 40 years occurred after the start of Operation Linda Nchi began suggest that it has still much work to do.

Since the first attack in 1975, Kenya has experienced 448 incidents of terrorism, of which 219 (almost 50 per cent) were perpetrated by Al-Shabaab.

The attacks have caused 1,573 deaths and 5,879 injuries, meaning that one in two acts of terrorism, one in two deaths from terrorism and one in four injuries, were caused by Al-Shabaab militants.

Al-Shabaab carried out its first attack in Kenya in May 2008 when militants overran Liboi Police Station in Garissa County. They freed three detainees suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda, as well as six other prisoners.


According to the database, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) is in second place in the list of perpetrators of terror for committing nine acts of terrorism in Kenya. Other attacks were carried out by religious and political movements, youth and different tribes.  Perpetrators in 161 attacks could not be identified.

"Why did it take up to seven hours for the Recce Squad, the police trained to deal with such assaults to be deployed to Garissa University College, when they were ready 30 minutes into the attack?"

When the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) captured Kismayo, then the last major stronghold and a key source of revenue for Al-Shabaab, Kenyans were relieved and hoped the group would soon be defeated, but almost four years on and with no end in sight, the voices of Kenyans calling for withdrawal from Somalia are growing louder.

Col Obonyo says this will be a big mistake.

‘’If we were to pull out of the sectors we hold today, the Shabaab will take over within days and Kenyans will be in even more danger,’’ he said.

Since 2011, terrorist violence has been rising in Kenya, with the worst year being 2014 when Kenya experienced 115 incidents. This was an almost a 50 per cent increase from 2013, when 79 attacks were recorded.

In 2012, a year after Kenya's incursion into Somalia, the total number of attacks, 78, was almost double the 41 attacks recorded in 2011. KDF was formally integrated into African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and is now part of an enlarged AMISOM force that includes Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda.

Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector 1, which comprises the regions of Banadir and Lower Shabelle, while Kenyan forces are responsible for Sector 2, comprising Lower and Middle Jubba.

Sector 3, comprising Bay, Bakool and Gedo is under Ethiopian command. Djiboutian forces are in charge of Sector 4 which covers Hiiraan and Galgaduud, while Burundian forces are in charge of Sector 5 which covers the Middle Shabelle region.

Sierra Leone forces are in charge of Sector 6, which extends over the port city of Kismayo and its environs.


So has the KDF failed in its mission? Mr Mbijiwe says KDF succeeded in its mission because within a short time Al-Shabaab were driven out of the sector that they had accepted responsibility for. 

He says KDF has even moved to assist in Sectors 5 and 6 because Burundi is in the midst of civil strife and some soldiers from Sierra Leone returned home to deal with the Ebola crisis. “Most attacks into Kenya are launched from Sector 3 that is controlled by Ethiopian forces. Ethiopian soldiers are concentrating on protecting its border with Somalia,” he claims.

According to Mbijiwe the failure is not what is happening in the neighbouring country, but that Kenya forgot about homeland security when it went to war, exposing the country to terror attacks.

“Like every nation on earth that has had to deal with terrorists, Kenya suffered from a lack of imagination.  The Kenyan government did not give enough thought to the capacity of Al-Shabaab and how much the group had penetrated local communities where it has sympathisers.”

He gives the example of the reaction of the security forces following Al-Shabaab’s Garissa University College attack – the second deadliest in the country since the 1998 US embassy bombing.

“Why did it take up to seven hours for the Recce Squad, the policetrained to deal with such assaults to be deployed to Garissa University College, when they were ready 30 minutes into the attack? How do you explain the fact that they did not have tactical helicopters, yet Kenya has experienced so many deadly attacks, especially in recent years?” he asks.

In a raid that lasted nearly 15 hours, four terrorists brutally slaughtered 148 people, mainly students.

Since 1975, half of all terrorism incidents that have occurred in Kenya have taken place in North Eastern region, according to data from the Global Terrorism Database.

Nairobi is next with 19 per cent, followed by Coast with 18 per cent, Rift Valley with five per cent, Western with three, and Eastern and Nyanza with about two per cent.

Central has been least affected by terrorism, accounting for only one per cent of all attacks.

The weapons of choice in nearly 70 per cent of all attacks in Kenya were explosives and bombs and the preferred methods of attacks were bombing and small weapons assaults.


With a score of 6.58, Kenya was the 12th country most impacted by terrorism in 2013, up from 18th in 2012.

The most impacted country in the world is Iraq followed by Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the index by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Mr Mbijiwe says a major failure in the effort to counter terrorism has been lack of a co-ordinated anti-terrorism strategy, which has left each security agency to act independently.

“There has been no coordination between the military intelligence, National Intelligence Service, the General Service Unit and the Criminal Intelligence Division. Every agency does their own thing,” he says. 

Until recently, The National Counter-Terrorism Centre, which is supposed tointegrate and analyse all intelligence pertaining to terrorism and provide effective response to the terrorism threat was not independently funded, with the centre’s budget being determined by the NIS Director. However, the Security Amendment Act of 2014 provides that the Centre be independently funded.

Mr Mbijiwe says given how much terrorists have now penetrated communities and their success in recruiting Kenyan youth to join their ranks, anti-terrorism campaign must start in schools. “Kenyans must be told to participate in the war against terror, he says.

County governments have also been calling on the National Government to involve them in security. Uasin Gishu. Recently, Governor Jackson Mandago asked the Government to involve the 47 governors on security issues in their respective counties.

Mbijiwe also urges the passing of the Private Security Regulation Bill, which includes a framework on how the public security agencies can cooperate with the private security sector.

“It should be obvious that the private security sector has a major role to play in preventing terrorism, but at a recent counterterrorism consultative meeting they were not invited. Not even the big security companies,” he says.

Part Two will be published tomorrow.