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Why capturing Kismayu could trigger proxy wars for Kenya

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As Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia clocks two weeks, the major cause of concern among diplomats, military and intelligence experts is starting to turn from taking over the port of Kismayu to how to manage the aftermath. File

As Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia clocks two weeks, the major cause of concern among diplomats, military and intelligence experts is starting to turn from taking over the port of Kismayu to how to manage the aftermath. File 

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO and NICK WACHIRA

Posted  Sunday, October 30   2011 at  17:42
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As the Kenya Army enters the third week of its military campaign in southern Somalia, the African Union peacekeeping force is upping its pressure on the Al Shabaab around the capital Mogadishu, with the plan of “bringing some order” to the war-ravaged country by the end of December.

In conversations with diplomats, government officials, and intelligence sources in the region, a clear picture has started emerging of a war that has been in the making over the past five years and one that could dramatically reorder the Somali state, and just possibly bring about the peace that has proved so elusive over the past two decades.

According to these sources, Kenya’s military offensive was timely, coming as it did when the Al Shabaab militants are at their weakest and at a time when there is convergence of opinion in the wider East African region about what to do about the crisis in Somalia.

However, a clearer strategy crafted by Somali leaders and regional players in the conflict is also emerging. The first step, the sources say, is to create three new “areas of influence” in the rest of Somalia, beside Somaliland and Puntland, which now function as independent territories.

These territories would provide a buffer zone for Kenya and Ethiopia.

Already, Ethiopia has created a buffer zone spanning Galgadud, Hiraan, Bay, Bakool and Gedo (See map above).

Kenya’s military ambition is to create a buffer zone spanning Gedo El Wak, Middle and Lower Juba regions.

Ultimately, these regions will be governed as semi-automous states at first that could one day form part of a strong united federal government of Somalia.

The second step after the fall of Kismayu would to be to hand over all “liberated” areas to Amisom.

This, according to diplomats, would mean that the UN Security Council would be forced to reconsider upgrading Amisom into a full-fledged mission with the recommended minimum troop level of 20,000 soldiers.

So far, Amisom has about 9,500 troops in and around Mogadishu — and only two East African Community countries, Burundi and Uganda, have contributed.

There are plans to add 3,000 soldiers, but no one has offered to pay for them. Both Uganda and Kenya have been calling on the Security Council to upgrade Amisom.

The third step down the road, is for Amisom to hand over a pacified Somalia to the UN.

“If Kenya and other regional players can stabilise Somalia a little,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya, Shemsudin Ahmed, told The East-African last Thursday, “it will require more, not less, support from the rest of Africa and the international community.

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