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Analyst: Kenya Should Expect 'Repercussions' From al-Shabab

Kenyan security forces near Liboi, Kenya's border town with Somalia, October 15, 2011

VOA's East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow speaks with Somali political analyst Abdi Samad, of Southlink Consultants in Nairobi, about the implications of a military incursion.

JOSELOW: Well, the first thing I wanted to ask was about these recent reports that the Kenyan military has gone into Somalia to go after al-Shabab militants it believes are responsible for a spate of kidnappings over the past couple of months. Is this strategy an effective way to combat al-Shabab?

ABDI SAMAD: What we're hearing from the media, Kenya, they crossed over into the border, almost 100 kilometers from the border. If they say we crossed over into Somalia, in fact, you know, Kenyan army forces are fighting against unseen forces. Why I'm saying unseen forces, you cannot differentiate between al-Shabab fighters and Somali populations. They are not professional soldiers; they are not career soldiers. So if you cross over and in fact start fighting with what you call al-Shabab, who is al-Shabab?

JOSELOW: What do you think the reaction of al-Shabab is going to be? Can we expect retaliatory attacks as far as Nairobi?

ABDI SAMAD: It depends. If Kenya's succeeded to root out al-Shabab from the central and southern part of Somalia, then they are obviously going to revenge. 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 with unseen forces - unseen forces - yes, that will be the repercussions.

JOSELOW: Kenya has refused to participate in the AMISOM mission that is supporting the TFG in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia. So would a military incursion into Somalia contradict Kenya's previous foreign policy and what are the implications of that?

ABDI SAMAD: In fact, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, they requested it, the African Union at least to contribute 20,000 - a strong 20,000 forces to restore peace and stability in Somalia. Today, if they cross over unilaterally, there will be repercussions; you know, long-term repercussions.

The best option for Kenyans today: first, they have to deploy armed forces along the border area to secure the safety and security of the people. Secondly, they must screen the people who are going back and forth between the Kenya-Somali border. The third one, let them deploy what you call the armed forces, let them reinforce AMISOM, the African peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.

Let them contribute, let's say 2,000, 3,000 Kenyan army there. From there, then, Kenya, they are in Mogadishu, legitimately, the other side of the border legitimately. So in case anything happens, they can still pursue those guys, organized gangs from Mogadishu and from the other side of the border, which the international community can accept.

JOSELOW: What are the repercussions for Somali people, especially in south and central areas of Somalia.

ABDI SAMAD: You know, when the army crosses over into a civilian population, obviously what will happen? Killings, displacement, what will happen? They are going to bombard civilians, indiscriminately, whether it is children, whether it is the old age people, the normal civilians. So all in all, there will be a problem. Because when the Kenya Army are crossing over into Somali territory, they are not distributing flowers, what they are distributing are bullets, to be honest.