News / Africa

Al-Shabab Fuels Tensions Between Kenya, Somalia

Al-Shabab spokesperson Ali Mohamud Rage holds a news conference in Mogadishu, Somalia, threatening Kenya,  October 17, 2011.
Al-Shabab spokesperson Ali Mohamud Rage holds a news conference in Mogadishu, Somalia, threatening Kenya, October 17, 2011.
Gabe Joselow

Kenya's decision this past week to send troops over the border into Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab militants appears to be a major shift in foreign policy. The full extent of Kenya's operations are not yet clear, but the move could radically change the relationship between the two countries.

Implications

For years, Kenya has put up with its anarchic neighbor, Somalia.

Decades of war in Somalia have driven hundreds of thousands of refugees into Kenyan camps near the shared border - straining resources, the environment and - at times - patience.

Kenya has, for the most part, kept its distance from the conflict, but was instrumental in the formation of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, and hosted the TFG's early institutions until 2005.

But in recent months, a spate of kidnappings in Kenya - blamed on Somali militants - have significantly raised tensions, and threatened Kenya's all-important tourism industry.

The kidnapping of two doctors from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya prompted the Kenyan military to finally take action last weekend.

Egara Kabaji, a former spokesman for Kenya's Foreign Affairs Ministry, says he is not surprised by the decision.

“You know Kenya pursues good neighborliness. But this is an actual provocation," he said."And actual provocation must be responded to. And one thing that is very clear to me is that that was the best position to be taken by the Kenyan government. Because you just can't sit back, and watch bandits getting into your territory and actually destroying your economy and you sit back and you say we are pursuing good neighborliness. It doesn't work like that.”

Conflicting information

What is confusing about the current operation, however, are the mixed signals coming from both Nairobi and Mogadishu.

Kenya's Foreign Affairs minister has told local and international media that the Kenyan Army has gone into Somalia, while other Kenyan officials deny the border has been crossed.

Omar Osman, a spokesman for Somalia's transitional government, has also denied any incursion has taken place.

“No I can confirm that they are not there. It's our troops, they are Somali forces who were in Kenya receiving training from Kenyan authorities," he said. "And those Somalis who were in Kenya are the ones who have come to our territory to confront al-Shabab. Kenya and Somalia have a common enemy which is al-Shabab. And we are very grateful that we're receiving the assistance of logistical and the support of Kenyan authorities.”

A witness near the border with Kenya told VOA he had seen Kenya fighter jets flying in and out of Somalia in recent days.

Al-Shabab, which denies playing a role in the recent kidnappings, is certainly treating Kenya's military maneuvers as a real threat, and has vowed retaliation. The militants claimed responsibility for a bombing the Ugandan capital, Kampala, last year that killed 74 people.

Military interventions and
revenge

Somali political analyst Abdi Samad, with Southlink Consultants in Nairobi, says we could see that type of attack in Kenya.

“If Kenya's succeeded to root out al-Shabab from the central and southern part of Somalia then they are obviously going to revenge," said Samad. "Although al-Shabab, they are not the professional soldiers. What they are going to do is only the incident they did sometimes back in Kampala, the same thing they can do here. They can even make havoc inside Nairobi, they can do that. Virtually the country will be at war.”

The history of past military interventions in Somalia does not bode well for Kenya's effort.

In 2009, al-Shabab succeeded in driving out Ethiopian armies that had invaded the country two-and-a-half years earlier. The fighting helped bolster support for the al-Qaida-backed militants.

U.S. forces entered Somalia in 1992 - initially on a humanitarian mission. That ended after Somali militiamen shot down U.S. helicopters in a battle in Mogadishu that killed 18 U.S. soldiers.

The Kenyan government says its aim is to make sure that al-Shabab can no longer operate inside or near Kenya's border. So far there has been no indication of just how long that operation may take.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid