A Somali Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda is threatening to attack Kenya if Nairobi goes ahead with plans to train Somali government forces. The spokesman for al-Shabaab is reportedly threatening that fighters of the group would carry out intensive attacks inside Kenya if the Nairobi government does not stop what he calls interference in Somalia. The threat comes after Kenya's media reported that President Mwai Kibaki's government is planning to help train nearly ten-thousand Somali government security forces.
The United States government calls al-Shabaab a terrorist organization having links with al-Qaida and being involved in the 1998 bombing of US embassy in Kenya. From Nairobi, former Somali presidential candidate Ali Abdullahi tells reporter Peter Clottey that the terrorist group is exploiting the failure of the Somali government.
"Al-Shabaab is not all that powerful in the sense of them attacking Kenya. Even they did not have the strength militarily to face the current TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and Ethiopian forces in Somalia and the African Union troops. What they use is guerrilla warfare, and sometimes they also use methods and getting to destabilize governments, and piracy is part of it," Abdullahi noted.
He said the terrorist group is becoming stronger, while the Transitional Federal Government is weakening in its mandate to protect the ordinary Somali.
"The threats from al-Shabaab are not something that huge in current format, but what can happen is that with the failed structure of government and the TFG, it is most likely that they (al-Shabaab) may become powerful, considering that the average Somali needs the government's protection. But so far, the government has not found any solutions up to today. So this is the dilemma that we are facing in Somalia," he said.
Abdulahi said various groups are fighting the transitional government under the guise of nationalism.
"Al-Shabaab and all these elements, which have come up in challenging the Transitional Federal Government and forces from Ethiopia, are of two types of oppositions. One type is resistance, whereby people are resisting the so-called the occupation of Ethiopian forces in Somalia. And this has an element of nationalism. This is the biggest opposition in Somalia at the moment, which has not been picked up by many analysts," Abdullahi pointed out.
He said there is a failure of co-ordination between the various arms of government.
"Two things have happened wrongly. There has been failure of the Transitional Federal Government executive and parliament. And we need a restructuring of by IGAD (The Intergovernmental Authority on Development) to make sure that we have governance in Somalia that can work. There was supposed to be a federal government for Somalia. But up to today, we have not seen any institutions, which have been built up. The charter of 2004, which looks at having a federal charter, has not been addressed," he said.
Abdulahi said there was need for the Somali government to empower ordinary Somalis.
"What you have to understand is that even if you train Somali troops in Somalia, what you need is that troops need to be empowered. And how do you empower troops? You've got to pay them well. You've got to arm them well. And all these require financing. But I have not seen any finances that have been channeled to the TFG," Abdullahi noted.
He said the Somali government has not been overly transparent in its financial dealings with the international donor community.
"The international community has a right not to channel money to the government because the executive misuses the money which is given to them. One good example is that of the last four years. The government has never brought its expenses with what they have been doing with donor funds on the bilateral funds given to them. So the question is that the international community cannot trust the executive of the TFG," he said.
Sheik Muqtar Robow Abu Mansuur, who is the spokesman for al-Shabaab, has threatened that fighters loyal to al-Shabaab would carry out attacks inside Kenya if the southwestern neighbor does not stop "interfering in Somalia." He adds that the group would humiliate Kenya, just like it has targeted Ethiopia, saying that its fighters would defend Somalia in any way possible.