“When the Americans bomb Al-Shabaab they are very accurate”, a Nairobi-based Somali who is nevertheless broadly supportive of the Kenya Defence Force’s (KDF) military action in his home country, told the Kenya Forum, “but the Kenyan Air Force are not bombing with precision”, he continued, “and the killing of many civilians is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Somali people”.
This, admittedly, is the opinion of one man, although the Kenya Forum knows him to be well connected with leading figures in Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). We fear that he is correct in his assessment.
That the Americans, and indeed the French, have been bombing, or attacking with missiles in Kismayu and the area surrounding it, is not in doubt. At the onset of ‘Operation Linda Nchi’, Kenya’s ‘incursion’ into Somalia, that missiles were fired from US submarines off the coast and from ‘drones’, was stated in the media and never denied.
On Sunday 15 January, (as reported in the Daily Nation and The Standard), the Kenyan Air Force bombed an Al-Shabaab ‘command centre’ near Jilib, middle Juba, ‘destroying the facility and injuring multiple Al-Shabaab militants’. However, Major Emmanuel Chirchir is reported as saying that, “the number of casualties is yet to be established”.
On the same day, Kenyan Air Force planes bombed “Al-Shabaab defensive positions at Bibi, south of Afmadow, destroying eight vehicles, among them four technicals”, Major Chichir said, “Several Al-Shabaab fighters are likely to have died”, he continued (our italics).
This, of course, cannot be verified, but the same reports claimed that a family of seven was killed in Sunday’s attacks.
‘THE PERMANENT BATTLEFIELD’
The British newspaper, The Guardian, in an editorial that has been copied and referred to around the world, quoted a police spokesman describing Al-Shabaab as a ‘wounded buffalo – very dangerous’.
The article, ‘The permanent battlefield’ suggested that Al-Shabaab is doing the same now as they did in 2006 when Ethiopian troops (backed by the US) invaded Somalia. The ‘radicals’, The Guardian article stated, ‘portrayed themselves as a resistance movement fighting a foreign power. They are doing the same today, urging Somalis to rise up against the “Christian” invaders from Kenya’.
War is a messy business, we know that, but we must remember that success will only be achieved if the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Somali people are won over as assuredly as victory is achieved over the militant and malign forces of Al-Shabaab. To achieve that we have to be clear as to our objectives, precise in the language that we use to support our actions, and on target with the military weaponry that we deploy.