News / Africa

    Is Kenya Battling al-Shabab Alone?

    Kenyan troops fuel a supplies helicopter near the Somalia border, Oct. 18, 2011.
    Kenyan troops fuel a supplies helicopter near the Somalia border, Oct. 18, 2011.
    Gabe Joselow

    As Kenyan fighters push into Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab militants, speculation is rising about which foreign forces may be backing the operation. No nations have admitted involvement, but local and international media reports suggest the army isn't going it alone.

    Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir was quoted as saying there are "certainly other actors in this theater," and an official Army statement said French naval ships took part in shelling the key al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, a claim Nairobi officials backed away from after French diplomats refuted the allegation and asked local newspapers to issue corrections.

    The United States has had close relations with Kenya's military and provided logistical support and training to its armed forces in the past. Asked if the U.S. is providing support for the Kenyan military operation, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says the U.S. hasn't "provided Kenya with any cross-border assistance."

    "We were not privy to their decision to go across the border," he said in a recent interview. "It is their decision and not something that we were consulted about."

    But former Kenyan Army Major Imaana Laibuta isn't so easily convinced.

    "I should speculate that the level of cooperation that existed before the operation is still going on," he said. "I'd be surprised if there isn't any financial and material support being extended to Kenya by the western nations and in particular, America."

    Kenya has about 6,000 troops involved in the operation, and Laibuta says it will take three times that number to be successful, suggesting it would be logical for Kenya to actively seek operational assistance for this operation in particular.

    "In any case we don't expect America and western nations to support Kenya openly," he said, explaining that foreign partners would have to remain silent or risk angering Somalis opposed to any kind of western intervention. "They are really loathed in that region, so any direct participation would be totally counter-productive."

    Foreign armies in Somalia have faced intense hostility in recent years, most notably the U.S. in the early 1990s and Ethiopia in 2006. While the dramatic 1993 U.S. raid in Mogadishu became a media event, Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa researcher at Chatham House in London, says Ethiopian efforts to defeat the Islamic Courts Union -- an administration of Islamist courts that rivaled the nascent Transitional Federal Government (TFG) -- has done tremendous long-term damage.

    "If you look at ... the most recent intervention, you see the Ethiopians going in to remove the Islamic Courts Union and actually when they left, two-and-a-bit years later, they had got rid of the Islamic Courts Union for sure, but what they'd left in its place was al-Shabab, a far more radical and far greater threat in many ways to the region," he said.

    Al-Shabab, which had been the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union, used the Ethiopian invasion as a way to rally support for its own jihadist cause, and some fear they could use Kenya's incursion to regain power.

    Kenya may need the backing of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to secure the country, but the TFG has given mixed signals about whether it supports the operation. While the prime minister has been encouraging, Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has opposed the incursion, saying this week that only African Union forces have a mandate to fight in Somalia.

    If Kenya has allies in this fight, it appears they have chosen to remain silent.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.