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There is no Military Solution to the Kenyan-Somali Problem


One of the things that the corrupt regime in Nairobi has never wanted to talk about is that its military project in Somalia, apart from engaging in the same dirty international criminal activities like illicit trade (e.g. smuggling sugar and exporting charcoal), is an attempt to create a buffer zone in Jubaland and perhaps ultimately a Kenyanised caliphate of a section of Somalia. This is based on a well held philosophy within Nairobi’s corridors of power that pre-dates independency. Those who understand the Kenya-Somalia problem also must have come across the fact that there is an unimplemented outcome of a referendum called by the colonial government regarding the belonging of the then Northern Frontier District (NFD). The Shifta war remains one the very few irredentist wars in the history of Africa. The Kenyan Somalis were not fighting for secession; they were fighting the Nairobi administration because they wanted to be let alone to belong to Somalia and unite with their brothers and sisters in pursuit of the very alive ideology of Pan-Somaliya. What followed was tragic. Massacres were committed by the Kenyan security forces against the Somalis in Kenya. Government’s own documents recounts these atrocities.

Instead of solving the deep running historical grievance touching on contested identities, the Kenyan state has been toying with failing experiments of containment. The one being attempted by the KDF in Somalia will fail as well. Kenya should forget Al Shabaab (it will actually eat itself and disappear, after all, Al Shabaab is just one of the many phases in Somalia's power politics just like the Islamic Courts Union or anything like that), and look inside. I have heard or read things in the lines of blaming Somalis for failure to integrate in the Kenyan society; also there are xenophobic tendencies by members of many other Kenyan nations against the Somalis in Kenya, and the reverse is true. The Somali territories in Kenya are extremely securitized and heavily militarized. Every time I go to Garissa I always joke that ‘we are now entering Somalia,’ after all, the security checks are such that they remind you of border posts. Sometimes, I think the Kenyan-Ugandan or Kenyan-Tanzanian borders are less manned compared to, for instance, the security check at Tana River bridge as you cross from Madogo to Garissa town.

So, how do we expect Somalis to integrate when they are openly discriminated? Why should anyone in Kenya hope that the Somalis should integrate when they must be thoroughly vetted before receiving a national ID, for example? Here is the thing. It is time for Kenyans to unite and call for an end to the injustices against ordinary Somali people both in Kenya and in Somalia. Not every Somali is a terrorist, if anything Somalis in Kenya have suffered from terrorism than all other Kenyan nations combined. The regime in Nairobi should stop perpetuating double victimhood. I expected that Uhuru was going to declare an end to Kenya’s military presence in Somalia in 2018; he did not. I can only hope he does so next year. Continued stay of the Kenyan army in Somalia does not help the Somalis in Somalia or in Kenya and does not, in any known way, make Kenya any safer anyway. What will make Kenya safer is a genuine national conversation around redressing historical injustices and a true decentering of government which devolution (before it was hijacked) was supposed to contribute to otherwise and antagonism between the Kenyan government will live on and may result in a tragedy in the not so far future.


There is no Military Solution to the Kenyan-Somali Problem There is no Military Solution to the Kenyan-Somali Problem Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on December 31, 2018 Rating: 5

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