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Inquiry into El-Adde massacre must take candid look at mission in Somalia

Monday January 25 2016

Chief of General Staff Samson Mwathethe addresses a press conference at Department of Defense (DOD) in Nairobi on January 21, 2016. I already have my position: We must pull out of Somalia, but on our own terms. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Chief of General Staff Samson Mwathethe addresses a press conference at Department of Defence (DOD) in Nairobi on January 21, 2016. I already have my position: We must pull out of Somalia, but on our own terms. PHOTO | ROBERT NGUGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MACHARIA GAITHO
By MACHARIA GAITHO
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The annihilation suffered when Al-Shabaab fighters overran a Kenyan military base in Somalia no doubt represents a major setback in the war against terrorism.

The full story of what transpired at El-Adde is yet to emerge, but no amount of patriotic fervour or government propaganda will conceal the fact that a bunch of rag-tag irregulars inflicted a terrible and humiliating defeat on Kenya’s finest.

A Kenya Defence Forces board of inquiry is expected to complete its work shortly.

The public should have little hope that an unexpurgated report will reveal to the world failures that allowed the massacre of soldiers at a small military camp in hostile territory.

What will be made public, if at all, will be a sanitised version to support the propaganda blitz that is already lionising a small band of heroic soldiers who supposedly held at bay for hours thousands of heavily armed Al-Shabaab attackers.

Oh, well, propaganda is part of war, and the public should be spared anything revealing weaknesses in our forces, or extolling the fighting ability of the enemy.

But I do hope that for consumption within the military, the inquiry is more than a PR exercise.

The military high command must get the complete and accurate picture, warts and all, so that it can more effectively design enhanced defences in and around KDF bases in Somalia.

Beyond the tragedy of El-Adde, the inquiry should also look at the broader picture of the military intervention in Somalia.

The attack caused a great deal of angst and anguish.

It dented our national pride, sent fresh scares over the threat we still face from Al-Shabaab, and renewed doubts over whether Kenya should retain troops in Somalia.

This will be the big debate once the mourning is over, and why it is important that the probe takes a candid and sober look at the entire mission.

MESSAGE INTENT
It should look at why Kenya sent troops to Somalia in the first place, and whether Operation Linda Nchi, which later morphed into Amisom, is fulfilling its objectives.

An honest appraisal should tell us whether the mission has managed to secure Kenya from Al-Shabaab infiltration and halt or reduce attacks within the country.

It should also tell us whether the boots on the ground have managed to enforce a reasonable level of security within Somalia, and degrade the terror group’s capacity to cause mayhem in that country.

Armed with that expert information, we can then be empowered to debate the pros and cons of keeping our soldiers in Somalia.

I already have my position: We must pull out of Somalia, but on our own terms.

We must not cut and run just because Al-Shabaab demands we do so. Hasty retreat and surrender would amount to a major victory for terrorism.

In the meantime, Kenyans must prepare for the worst out of El-Adde.

The KDF spin about the camp being hit by bombs three times the size that levelled the Nairobi US Embassy in 1998 was intended to send the message that there were hardly any survivors, and that most bodies will never be recovered.

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I’m not surprised to see politicians from the Kisii community banding together to protect the right of ‘our’ university to offer sub-standard education.

When we tribalised public universities, we also created an avenue for the politicians who pose as defenders of ethnic interests.

Overall, it is a great thing that access to university education has grown in leaps and bounds. Expansion should not, however, have come at the expense of quality.

The emergence of campuses situated atop dirty and noisy bars and brothels, and staffed by lecturers who can hardly qualify to teach in primary school, is a national scandal.

It is motivated by the mad dash for cash rather than by honest desire to expand university access.

Now that the Commission for University Education has woken from deep slumber and moved to enforce quality over quantity, it must not succumb to bullying from bankrupt politicians.

It must also go beyond Kisii University and force the closure of all other institutions, private and public, that have failed to meet the basic standards for scholarship.

Meddling politicians should, meanwhile, find something more useful to occupy their idleness.

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