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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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Rather, it is his view of the role of Al Shabaab and the period after the one-year extension of the TFG extension, that is influencing his remarks on the Kenya campaign.

As for Kampala, it was President Yoweri Museveni who managed to get Somali groups to agree to extend the term of the TFG, which was expiring in August, by a year.

The international community, which initially opposed the extension, were on the spot once the Somalis agreed. Besides Uganda, which has the bulk of the troops in Amisom, made the argument for extension to the international community primarily as something that the peacekeeping forces needed to consolidate the gains they and the TFG forces were making against Al Shabaab in the Mogadishu region.

Sharif, the diplomats say, is “happy to see the Shabaab expelled from Mogadishu. But he is not ready to see it defeated.”

This is because, they say, his plan was to use the Shabaab to continue his stay in power when the extension expires next year.

The plan, they say, would involve Al Shabaab calling for a ceasefire, then entering into talks with Sharif, on the basis of which a new transitional government with him at the head would be formed — and he would thus get another term without an election.

Sharif’s plan, if that is what it is, seems to be unravelling.

Al Shabaab has reportedly asked for a truce, although this must be seen as a move by the Somali and less hardline faction, not the foreign faction of the militant organisation, who want to preserve some of their spoils around Kismayu.

The one thing that all Ethiopian, Kenyan, Ugandan, Burundian and Amisom officials The EastAfrican spoke to seem to agree on, though, is that if Sharif or the TFG embrace the Shabaab, then it is over for him. He would likely be ousted from power in seconds.

Turkish connection

In the meantime, Sharif and other players in Somalia are moving away from their traditional friends and allies in the Middle East, toward Turkey.

Turkey’s role, diplomats say, is one of the factors that make this moment in Somalia ripe for peace.

Turkey is rising as the new Muslim power in the world, and unlike the theocracies in the Middle East, it is eager to showcase the “modern” face of Islam, to show that a country can be Muslim and be a democracy, with free markets, full rights for women, and play a role in the world without a persecution or victim complex.

Its involvement in Somalia would help more secular and moderate elements to rise.

Secondly, despite the continuing attacks in Somalia by unmanned US drones, this time it is the French who are playing a greater role in the Kenya campaign.

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