ALFRED NGOTEZI, 22nd October 2011 @ 22:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 1428
LAST week two major events coincided in East Africa. The first was Kenya’s decision to pursue Somalia’s Al Shaabab fighters right into the lawless country. The second is the beginning of the regional annual military exercises in Rwanda.
I will explain the correlation between these two events later. Critics think that Kenya has waited too long to do what they did last week. They argue that the most appropriate time to treat Somalia’s cancer was in its formative stages, like when Ethiopian troops moved in between 2006 and 2009.
But rather than handle the situation at that time, critics argue, Kenyans seemed to wish it away. But away it has refused to go. Instead, Somalia has over the years metamorphosed into a gigantic regional cobra.
Perhaps the big question is, why should Kenya be obliged to pursue the Somali terrorists? The answer is simple. Kenya is next door neighbour to Somalia, just like Ethiopia. As such Somalia’s boon or bane is first felt in Nairobi and Addis Ababa before spreading out.
That is why the two countries are bearing the biggest cross of refugees from there. On the other hand, Kenya like Ethiopia may have been disillusioned by the inaction of the international community over Somalia.
As the UN watched helplessly, Somalia graduated from a warlords’ jungle to a fully fledged hideout for pirates and terrorists. With billions of dollars obtained from piracy ransoms, the explosives-toughened Somalis now think they can rule not only Kenya, but the entire East African region.
Of course, in the short run this is rabid. But in the long run, and especially if the international community goes on snoring in their bunker, the Al Shaabab could destabilize the region and the entire world.
It is noteworthy; however, that Kenya’s military action has coincided with EAC’s annual military exercises. So what can the region do to support Kenya’s action? In the short run, again, it would be against international protocols to invade a sovereign nation, meaning few nations will openly support Kenya’s move.
But is Somalia a sovereign state, today? Somalia ceased to have a central government in 1993 when former dictator Siad Barre was deposed. Since then it has been a manufacturer of pirates, terrorists and refugees, all of whom are first borne by Kenya and Ethiopia. Thus Kenya has a justifiable case.
By extension, Kenya’s immediate neighbours Tanzania and Uganda, in particular, and the entire East African region, in general, have implicit interest in the way things shape up in Somalia. Al Shaabab’s recent world cup bomb attacks that killed tens of people maiming others in Kampala, is a clear pointer that East Africa is not so safe.
Again, repeated trials by Somali pirates to seize ships in our territorial waters are another indicator that the cobra in Somalia now feels capable of biting us all. Despite this, it is highly unlikely that the EA block will commit troops alongside Kenya to smoke out the Al Shaabab.
I will tell you why. In the early 2000’s I was granted an opportunity for a tete a tete interview with the first executive secretary of the revived EAC Mr Francis Muthaura. One of my questions sought to know what the block planned to do to avoid the advent of another Idd Amin in East Africa, whose arrival on the scene poisoned the earlier community.
Mr Muthaura did not sound so explicit, at that time, but the Treaty of the East African Community unambiguously calls for “close cooperation on matters of security, peace and defence” in articles 124 and 125. From there on, it is a matter of interpretation and action. Yes we can do better than joint exercises.
Otherwise, there is a big likelihood that Kenya will be left alone to fight the Somali criminals. Terrorists, as it were, are so elusive and difficult to defeat on the battle field. Kenya alone may not be able to crush them.
It is in the region’s best interests, therefore, to come together now to support the government in Mogadishu. We should not wait until the Somali lion has devoured Kenya, because it could jump strait onto our own reed doors.
My argument is that this is now a regional problem requiring a collective solution. If we do not contain the contagion now it may be too late to do so once it spreads far and wide. Let’s openly support Kenya to keep Somali bandits at arms reach. firstname.lastname@example.org
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