Thursday, October 20, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

October 18, 2011

Kenyan Armed Forces finally did the unthinkable. They broke the unwritten rule that had governed our relations with our belligerent neighbors for half a century. They crossed the border into lawless Somalia in pursuit of thugs that have been raiding our border towns at will and kidnapping our foreign tourists in the process.

Yes, this is standard procedure internationally once one’s sovereignty has been violated. Our neighbors have been doing this with a measure of impunity for too long.

Although it feels good that finally our “career soldiers” have been given orders to effectively defend our borders against any and all external aggressions, what is important is that as much as our solders are on the frontline to deal with these criminals, we must remember that the Al Shabaab terrorists are an amorphous faceless army that will never face any regular army in open air combat. Being terrorists, they thrive on unconventional methods of inflicting pain and casualties on innocent victims. They are either suicide bombers or hit and run militia. Being suicide bombers, they care less for their worthless lives and instead take pride in killing as many innocent people in their missions. They often opt for soft targets like unarmed civilian crowds such as they did in Uganda in recent years.

The genesis of the present Al Shabaab menace can be found in the departure of President Siad Barre two decades earlier after having been forced out by a coalition of rebels that opposed his regime. With his departure, there has never been a credible government in place. This means that those children that were born when Siad Barre left Somalia are now over 20 years old. They are the children of war, born in turmoil and have survived the war by mere instinct. It means that we have a group of Somalis who have never known peace, law and order. The culture of disorderliness, lawlessness and the use of the gun for survival is all they have grown to know.

What started out as liberation fighters finally mutated into thugs, pirates and fundamentalist terrorists that have no value for human life. In the name of their own brand of Islam, they claim to be waging a jihad on their own people who happen to differ with their own brand of religion. If any thing, they have embraced the global Al Qaida terrorist group and are doing everything possible to spread their terrorism throughout the African region.

Why has Kenya taken so long to deal with the Somali menace? Why has Kenya allowed so many Somalis to move into Kenya with hardly any vetting in the North? Why do Kenya Somalis in the North easily accommodate and even aid these dangerous foreigners to acquire Kenyan papers without any government screening?

For many years when Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia and even the DRC, Namibia and South Africa went through several stages of civil wars , Kenya was a haven of peace and refuge. It opened its borders to victims fleeing these wars, housed thousands of war victims from these countries to the extent that welcoming refugees became a part of the Kenyan culture. In all these years, quite a number of refugees took Kenyan citizenship, got married locally and raised their children in our country.

Other than accommodating refugees, Kenya was for years at the forefront in brokering peace among the warring parties in these countries so that peace could return to the region.

These peace efforts were applied in Uganda during the NRM liberation war in the 1980s, Sudan during the SPLM 21 year war with the North and in Somalia during the search for a lasting peace in that war torn country.

Much as the rest of the region has substantially stabilized, the same cannot be said of Somalia. All the many expensive peace conferences held in many parts of Kenya and other world capitals have come to nothing. If anything Somalia disintegrated a long time ago into three separate states i.e. Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland.

The Al Shabaabs incursions into Kenya can be partly blamed on Kenya’s security and intelligence complacency for many years. If indeed the intelligence agencies have done their job of collecting vital security information and delivering to the top organs of the government then the government must be squarely responsible for what has happened in the recent past.

If we had taken the Ugandan and Ethiopian stand in dealing with Somali refugees or dealing a blow to these terrorists inside their territory the way Uganda and Ethiopia have done, we would not have had these ugly incidents on our soil.

When the AU chose to boost the Somalia Transitional Government’s military to combat the Al Shabaab, Kenya should have insisted on being enjoined in the war since it is the most affected. If these invasions had taken place three years ago, we would today not be having Al Shabaabs in our borders; but we waited until the wound had gotten worse.

Under the circumstances, Kenya must appeal for allied forces to deal with Somalia. We need a UN occupation force to rule Somalia for fifty years to wipe out all criminals in that country. This is what was done to belligerent Germany after the Second World War. Germany is now a peaceful and progressive society.

Another thing; Kenya must close the Daadab refugee camp as a matter of urgency. Indeed we do not know how many of those in Daadab are genuine refugees. If indeed they are, then they should look for refuge in other countries.

The other front that Kenya must not ignore is the Somali refugees that have already found their way into Eastleigh part of Nairobi and invested heavily in up market Nairobi. The government must vet and ascertain the source of their funds and if they are supporting the Al Shabaabs back home. These are the realities Kenya must look in the face.