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Vol 52 No 22

Published 4th November 2011


Confused war aims cause alarm

Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia is less than a month old but is already the subject of contradictory statements by the government and its Western allies. Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen is under threat from the Kenya Armed Forces and their allies’ Special Forces and air power but the invasion also offers opportunities. Al Shabaab may be able to recoup some recent losses if Lower and Middle Juba end up controlled by Kenyan surrogate forces that alienate local people. The offensive shows, however, that the United States and its allies have faith in a military solution to the Somali problem. Kenyan forces are pushing towards Kismayo in a land assault that will combine with attacks by French and US forces from the sea to spell possible defeat for Al Shabaab in the key port. Yet with no political solution on offer, Al Shabaab could revive.

Kenya’s intervention in Somalia was first announced on 15 October by Minister of Internal Security George Kinuthia Saitoti and Minister of Defence Mohamed Yusuf Haji, and it was only two days later that President Mwai Kibaki informed the public that Kenya was at war. The war aims have evolved over time. First came the ‘hot pursuit’ of kidnappers identified as Al Shabaab, even though they had acted weeks before. The Daily Nation sourly asked why the army was crossing the border to attack the kidnappers of four foreigners and killers of one after it had sat on its hands in recent months while dozens of Kenyans were murdered in north-east Kenya by militants, thugs and cattle-rustlers from Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet did not name Al Shabaab when announcing the death of French hostage Marie Dedieu on 20 October; nor did statements from the Foreign Ministry. Some doubt that Al Shabaab was involved.

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