‘Kenya could pay huge price for invading Somalia’
By Hassan Isilow
A leading researcher on the African Programme at Chatham has blamed the Kenyan government for ignoring lessons learnt by Ethiopia when it invaded Somalia in 2006. Roger Middleton, a consultant researcher at Chatham House – a world-leading source of independent analysis says the history of recent foreign military interventions in Somalia has been bad. He cites the example of the United States mission to Somalia which failed in the 1990’s. Similarly, Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006 met with massive resistance.
“Kenya, like its predecessors the US, the UN and Ethiopia, is unlikely to impose a solution on Somalia, but it is just possible that a short campaign hitting Al-Shabbab’s fund raising capacity could create space for Somali groups to mount a challenge.” Middleton added that this would mean allowing Somali communities to decide how they wish to be governed, potentially including the role for Al-Shabaab.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with the aim of toppling the Islamic courts union which was then under the leadership of Sheik Ahmed Sherrif, the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Ethiopia’s invasion led to the creation of Al-Shabaab, a youth resistance movement aimed at fighting the foreign invaders. Middleton fears history could repeat itself if the Kenyan government imposes its solution on Somalia.
“The real danger of this military intervention is that civilians seeking humanitarian assistance may be caught up in the cross fire,” he said, speaking by telephone from the United Kingdom. According to Middleton, Kenyan troops might be successful if they stick to a short-term mission, backed by intelligence to rescue captured hostages and guarantee humanitarian access before withdrawing. In such a case, the worst-case scenario may not play out.
Last month the Kenyan government deployed troops into southern Somalia after suspected Al-Shabaab militants entered Kenyan territory and kidnapped three European women. One of the women, an elderly French national, died while in their custody. This incident angered the Kenyan government who vowed to pursue the Shabaab inside their hideouts in southern Somalia. Since then, several countries, including France and Britain, have offered their full support to the Kenyan government in the drive against Al-Shabaab.
Uganda and Burundi, the only two African countries that have contributed troops to the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia (AMISOM), have also given the Kenyan’s their backing. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi separately reaffirmed their backing of the war against the Shabaab last week.
In July 2010, the Al-Shabbab bombed two venues in Kampala, causing the death of over 70 Ugandans and injuring several others. Museveni said the war on Al- Shabbab was not only Kenya’s responsibility, but that of the entire region.
( This article was first published on VOC http://www.vocfm.co.za)