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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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Madobe is favoured by the Kenya military establishment because he comes to the table as a commander with troops, while Gandi is a politician with good business connections.

Managing local politics in Kismayu could easily see Kenya getting sucked into proxy fights with regional powers such as Ethiopia and Eritrea that have traditionally characterised the conflict in Somalia.

There is also the risk of getting entangled in clan politics that could easily turn the groundswell of support for Kenya by ordinary Somalis as a liberator and turn it into a foreign occupier.

In order to walk the fine line between invader and liberator, the Kenyan military has been taking a very cautious approach of turning over towns that have been captured to the local communities through the Transitional National Government.

However, when it comes to the port of Kismayu, the situation might turn tricky fast.

Mr Ahmed however downplays the potential conflict with Kenya over the establishment of the governing authority in Jubaland, claiming that Ethiopia has a good working relationship with both Gandi and Madobe.

However, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

A few days after the Kenyan incursion, Sheik Sharif threw a spanner in the works when he opposed Kenya’s military campaign. Everyone seems to have been caught by surprise, and the Kenya government wrote to the TGF to demand an explanation.

There was speculation that Sharif was playing to the Somali nationalist gallery, privately supporting the Kenya action, but maintaining his national credibility by publicly opposing it.

There seemed to have been widespread agreement too that Sheik Sharif was wary that the Kenyans were going to instal a regional government dominated by the Ogadeni clan in Kismayu, and that this would only create a Jubaland or Azania state that would operate like Puntland or Somaliland, and entrench the partition of Somalia.

Ethiopian hand

Some commentators saw the secret hand of Ethiopia, which was alleged to fear that Kenya’s Ogadeni proxy, with the lucrative Kismayu port and its revenues in its control, would back the Ogadeni National Liberation Front (ONLF), which is seeking to break away from Ethiopia and join a dreamed of Greater Somalia.

However, Ethiopia’s ambassador Ahmed denies the latter, telling The EastAfrican that he and other mission officials in Nairobi “talk regularly to… Gandi, the Nairobi-based Ogadeni leader and governor-in-waiting, who is likely to take over in Kismayu.”

He also said the majority of the Ogadeni are in Ethiopia, and they are leading lights in the politics of Ethiopia’s Somali State.

However, diplomats close to Sharif said a Jubaland or Azania state is the least of his worries.

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