Saturday, October 29, 2011



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
October 29, 2011

The war against the Al Shabaab is beginning to take its toll on us in more ways than one both inside Somalia and here at home. We are beginning to see and hear some strange and baffling utterances coming from government officials from both sides.
If for some strange reason, President Sheikh Sheif Ahmed is opposed to Kenyan military fighting Al Shabaab terrorists on Somali soil, Kenya’s Assistant Minister is admitting the unbelievable that  the Kenya Government has all along welcomed Al Shabaabs to live in Kenya, invest and do business here in return for sparing Kenya in their attacks.
Whereas the Somali President’s opposition to the Kenyan military could pass for misplaced patriotism for his country, Onyonka’s admission that Kenya indeed has all along housed these terrorists is equivalent to a family accepting to give shelter, food and a place to sleep over night as long as the snake promises not to bite any member of his family. It sounds like a betrayal of the Kenyan people by its elected government for indeed Onyonka spoke for the Government of Kenya.
When I wrote last week that the Al Shabaab war has its beneficiaries and supporters in high places in Kenya and Somalia, I could have been branded a rumour monger. However, now that Onyonka has spoken on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so soon after Minister Wetangula had visited Mogadishu; one wonders if indeed some deals were reached between Wetangula and Sheikh Ahmed over dealing with Al Shabaab. But even more baffling is why it had to be Richard Onyonka to tell Kenyans that indeed we have always welcomed the Al Shabaabs and engaged them in talks over Somalia! Did he really consult Moses Wetangula before he picked the microphone or is this government where any junior officer can wake up one morning, call a press conference and begin spilling the beans without a thought as to the consequences of such utterances?
And even if the government has had secret deals with these terrorists in the past, was this the time to confess knowing that our soldiers are dying in the frontline?
According to the Daily Nation of October 28, 2011, Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka appeared to have thrown a cat among pigeons when he declared that the government was ready to negotiate with the Al-Shabaab for an end to the current military operation if the group renounced violence and stopped its actions in Kenya. He claimed Al-Shabaab has frequently been in touch with the government and that the Al-Shabaab was frequently and constantly in touch with the Kenyan government adding that if the Al-Shabaab would like to discuss and engage with the Kenyan government, government channels were very open
This statement has one fundamental significance; It implies that Kenya is ready to go against the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists if we negotiate with terrorists whose links with AL Qeida are known then we will have handed terrorists worldwide a psychological war. One more thing; all terrorist organizations worldwide will know that they have finally acquired another safe haven for their operations in addition to Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
Whereas Sheikh Ahmed’s utterances against Kenyan troops drew immediate protests from ordinary Somalis and the Transitional Armed Forces culminating in the burning of Sheikh Ahmed’s pictures, there has been very little public response here at home against Richard Onyonka’s utterances save for one MP from the North Eastern who urged Raila Odinga to sack Onyonka from his assistant ministerial post.
But perhaps the indifference to Onyonka’s statement could have been due to his position in the government- not being a high ranking government official and more importantly being a typical Kenyan politician who loves to speak carelessly before weighing his words.
Moving away from these side shows, all Kenyans must remember that they are at war with a terrorist group in a foreign land. As such we must at home streamline our behavior. We have to understand that our men out there expect maximum moral and material support to defeat the enemy. We cannot afford to let them hear conflicting information that while their lives are on the line on the frontline, some opportunistic politicians are cutting deals with the enemy back home. That would be akin to stabbing our military on the back.
At this point in time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have no business meddling in a military operation. The Defense Minister is there to handle political issues. The military spokesman can brief us on progress in the field. And if there is need to be told that we are changing cause or negotiating with any groups in Somalia, let it come from the Head of State or the Prime Minister but not any Tom Dick and Harry including Assistant ministers and Permanent Secretaries. Allowing such a scenario will only muddle waters more.
Let this country remain focused and on cause. Our mission is to exterminate the Al Shabaabs in their bases, cut their supplies and stop them from recruiting local youths to cause mayhem in Kenya. That means that we must conclusively win the war on Al Shabaabs inside Somalia, the Somali president’s protests notwithstanding. It is the only logical thing to do if this country is to remain safe and peaceful. Short of that, we shall have allowed a terrorist culture to take route in Kenya and very soon Nairobi will be like Mogadishu, Beirut and other war-torn cities of the world. I do not think this is what the Kenyan people want and Richard Onyonka and anybody else in government who shares his views should know this.