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.
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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

UN Tackles Illicit Wildlife Poaching Amid Cecil the Lion Uproar

The 193-member General Assembly adopts its first resolution on the issue following a two-year campaign by Germany and Gabon More

Trump Tops Poll as Rivals Battle to Make Debate

Donald Trump jumps into a big lead in Republican presidential race, according to latest poll 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs