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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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It would make sense to hand over to the UN at that point,” he said. Ethiopia supports the Kenyan invasion, which mirrors its strategy five years ago.

Ethiopia, which went to war without the support of the international community with the exception of America, learnt some hard lessons.

Ethiopia’s foray

After Ethiopia made its foray into Somalia in late 2006 to fight the Islamic Union Courts regime led, ironically, by the country’s current President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, to prop up the more internationally recognised Transitional Federal Government that was then hiding out in Baidoa, it withdrew just over two years later in the face of international criticism.

Ethiopia then focused on creating a “buffer” zone with Somalia along the common border. Amisom already controls the bulk of Mogadishu, and the plan is for it to also establish a sphere of influence in Middle and Lower Shabelle and the coastal area of Galgaduud.

Kenya would establish a sphere of influence in Lower Juba, Middle Juba, and Lower Gedo and, of course, gain access to the key port of Kismayu, which is also the economic lifeline and greatest strategic asset of Al Shabaab.

Managing victory

However, 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 into how to manage victory.

With Amisom increasing pressure in Mogadishu and the Kenya Defence Force continuing its onslaught in the south, experts told The EastAfrican that the capability of Al Shabaab to continue fighting on multiple battlefronts will face a significant challenge.

“There is no doubt we shall get Al Shabaab out,” said a source within Amisom, “but the key problem for Kenya is management of victory.

The moment the city of Kismayu falls, who will control it? There is a major potential for conflict between Kenya and Ethiopia.”

This potential conflict is symbolised by two men who experts say are being fronted as potential leaders of Jubaland, the new semi-autonomous state Kenya wants to help establish.

One of the men is former Somali Defence minister and “president” of the Azania state, Mohamed Gandi, who is said to be favoured by the bosses of Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service as well as the French.

Ethiopians are wary of Gandi because his clan, the Ogadeni, harbour territorial ambitions of one day creating a super-state carved out of southern Somalia, southern Ethiopia and a huge chunk of Kenya’s North Eastern Province.

Then there is Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, known as Madobe, who is the leader of the Ras Kamboni Movement that is allied with the Transitional Federal Goverment.

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