It is one year since Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) crossed the border into Somalia and 20 days since they and Amisom forces entered the strategically important coastal town of Kismayo. The task of entering the port and ejecting the Al-Shabaab fighters was a long and difficult one: the ‘exit strategy’ could be just a difficult and history would suggest that time may not be on the side of the forces of liberation.
The Ethiopian army occupied Somali cities, including Mogadishu, in 2006, to find that Islamic Courts Union had melted into the local population and the countryside. Two years later the Ethiopians marched out ‘harassed and bruised’ and the Islamic Courts Union re-emerged as Al-Shabaab.
‘OPERATION RESTORE HOPE’
In 2002 the US Marines landed on the beaches of Somalia in ‘Operation Restore Hope’. The intervention, however, did not restore hope, it resulted in two Black Hawk helicopters being shot down and a ‘bloody fiasco’ from the American point of view. Just over a year later the US troops also pulled out of Somalia.
Many Kenya Forum readers will know that Somalia, which for most of the last 20 years has had no effective central government, is largely ruled by local clans, each one controlling and area of the country or running a city or town.
Kismayo interestingly enough, as a relatively rich port set in a more fertile area of Somalia, has a history of being more cosmopolitan with people from many clans living in and around the town.
Commentators from the Economistmagazine to Professor Ken Menkhaus interviewed in the Sunday Nation, have suggested that if Kismayo falls into the hands of one Somali clan whilst the town is under the control of KDF and Amisom forces, the latter will not be seen as liberators but rather as occupiers or “foreign invaders”. Old grievances could surface again and the local Somalia population united in a form of nationalism against the outsiders.
THE OGADENI SUB-CLAN
The Economist went further by pointing out that the KDF’s local allied Somali forces have been ‘led by a clutch of ethnic-Somali military men, most of whom have close ties with a single sub-clan from Somalia’, the Ogadeni. The magazine was referring to Kenya’s Defence Minister, Mohamed Yusuf Haji and the leader of the Ras Kamboni militias, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe.
NOW TO ‘WAGE PEACE’
There are no easy answers to the problems facing Kismayo and Somalia overall in the medium and long-term. Pacifying the country is part of the solution but only in part. As Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, a director of the Kenya Institute of Governance wrote recently in the Sunday Nation; ‘Waging war is a job a good defence force can execute. But waging peace after military success is a calling for a different set of skills.’
JUST LIKE US…
Somalia seems to many of us a strange and anarchic country but the Kenya Forum believes that the people of Kismayo are in many respects just like the rest of us. They want hope for the future, they want freedom from fear, they want a secure roof over their heads, they want clean water and drains that work, they want education for their children and they want jobs.
An economically successful Kismayo in which local people feel they have a share in the wealth created and hope for their children’s future will set the region on the road to long-term peace and the KDF will be able to take the road back to Kenya.