News / Africa

Kenya Refocuses Fight Against Al-Shabab

A Kenyan army soldier, left, looks up as a Somali government soldier, right, climbs across the vehicle that they are sharing, and another Somali government soldier prepares to drive, center, in Tabda, inside Somalia, February 20, 2012.
A Kenyan army soldier, left, looks up as a Somali government soldier, right, climbs across the vehicle that they are sharing, and another Somali government soldier prepares to drive, center, in Tabda, inside Somalia, February 20, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Gabe Joselow

Abdullahi Sheikh Ahmed, an elder in Tabda, southern Somalia, is still bitter about a time, not long ago, when al-Shabab militants choked off the only supply routes to the town, a common strategy of the Islamist group to tax people in areas under their control.

"When they blocked people and vehicles and they were not bringing us anything," he said, "as a group of elders we requested how to meet the Shabab representatives in the area, we were begging them for a couple of days to allow us to bring a single donkey cart of food."

Ahmed said since Somali and Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) took control of Tabda, in the early stages of Operation Linda Nchi (Kenya's war against al-Shabab that began in October) Tabda has been able to resume trading with the nearby town of Dobley, where they can get most of the food they need.

KDF commanders say they are working to pacify "liberated" towns like Tabda before they resume a forward march on al-Shabab strongholds including Kismayo, a port city of 200,000 people on Somalia's east coast and a major transit point for guns and money.

At KDF land component headquarters in Liboi, Kenya Brigadier Johnson Ondieki, said "Our aim is not to acquire territory or land, as such. Our intention is to ensure that there's a secure environment for NGOs for international groups like the media and the rest to operate in Somalia."

Johnson also said the strategic town of Afmadow, just outside Kismayo, is "within reach" and that it can be taken quickly.

In the early weeks of the war, the military had repeatedly said capturing the two cities is crucial to cutting off al-Shabab's supply lines and crippling their financial networks.

Fragile alliances


Kenya's pacification strategy relies on allied local authorities taking the initiative to establish political control over areas liberated by Kenyan forces.

In Dobley, just across the border from Kenya, soldiers with Somali soldiers cooperate with the Ras Kamboni militia to maintain peace.

It seems to be working for now, but in Somalia, alliances can quickly change. Ras Kamboni, for instance, is headed by a former Islamist fighter Ahmed Madobe, who later sided with the government.

Madobe, who looks like a former soldier, has admitted to training al-Shabab fighters in the past. Wearing a green army jacket and sunglasses, his short beard dyed red, mingled among the Kenyan soldiers.

"We're not fighting because we have hidden agendas or interests," he said, "but to see Somali people come out of these difficulties and challenges, so that they can decide how they want to live their lives."

Some militia fighters report an internal political power struggle within Ras Kamboni.

Abdullahi Mutawakai, assistant to the local Transitional Federal Government (TFG) governor, downplays concerns that the rift will disrupt the peacekeeping effort. "There is no fighting, there is no conflict, we are all working together, we are all Somali," he said, "I hope they will solve their problems, because it's just internal issues, it's not so big a problem."

"We Send Soulz 2 Heaven"

KDF commanders say the fight against al-Shabab has changed since the start of the war. Instead of direct confrontation, they say the militants now strike in small numbers, mostly at night, firing light weapons or setting of improvised explosive devices.

One soldier who declined to give his name, stood guard outside the town hospital, comfortably holding his German-made G-3 assault rifle. Across his helmet he had scrawled the words "We Send Soulz 2 Heaven."

"Al-Shabab [militants] are trained to fight in a system like a guerilla war," he said.  "The only time we fought them directly, it was here in Dobley. But in other towns they fight in a guerilla system, not symmetrical or conventional."

Kenyan soldiers expressed mixed feelings about their involvement in the mission. One, who also declined to give his name, said that morale was low, and that the soldiers had not been paid in months, a claim that could not be independently verified.

KDF is poised to join the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM), comprised of soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. The force mostly provides security in the capital Mogadishu, but could see an expanded mission if Kenyan troops are incorporated.

Ethiopian soldiers have also entered into Somalia from the west, putting pressure on al-Shabab in the central Bay and Bakool regions where the militants maintain a strong presence.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid