Response to Kenya Invades Somalia. Does It Get Any Dumber? by Alex Perry TIME’s Africa bureau chief, covering everything south of the Sahara. Perry has been a TIME correspondent since 2001, reporting Asia, the Middle East and Africa from postings in Hong Kong, New Delhi and Cape Town.
Dear Mr. Perry,
Thanks for an alternative opinion. I hope you have a follow-up article with suggested alternative actions which Kenya should have taken in the fight with Al Shabaab.In your article, you have insinuated that Kenya is starting a war to bolster its “reputation for safety and security”. You could not be more misinformed. Below are some facts:
Kenya has borne the brunt of the collapse of Somalia since the 1990s. The infamous American Embassy in Kenya bombing in August 1998 was planned and carried out by terrorists from the Al Qaeda cell based in Somalia; so was the follow-up bombing in Mombasa in 2002. Insecurity in Kenya is now an ever-present reality due to the proliferation of small arms from Somalia. These arms have fueled crimes in practically every corner of the country.Piracy by Somali pirates off Kenya’s international waters has seen a great reduction in the number of cruise and commercial ships offloading tourists and cargo respectively at the seaport of Mombasa. The negative impact on the Kenyan economy cannot be understated.
There is a big community of refugees from Somalia a big number of whom found their way into Eastleigh estate – a residential area just 15 minutes from the Central Business District of Kenya’s capital. This area is a hotbed for local Al Shabaab activity and poses a great risk to Nairobi. It is said that most of the war-lords from Somalia are living in the relative safety of Eastleigh. The difficulty in carrying out a purge is that many of Eastleigh’s residents are also bonafide Kenyans of Somali descent. All this information you can find in the “UN Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea”.Now with all this intelligence, what has Kenya done? Our government has pleaded incessantly for a concerted effort by the International Community to weed out the Al Shabaab menace. All that has been done is token support for the African Union Forces in Somalia (mainly composed of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers). Destabilisation of the Kenyan society and economy continues. Mind you, Somalia and Kenya share a 682 km border.For a long time and as recently as last month, the Kenyan president has made impassioned pleas to the UN General assembly to provide Somalia with the resources needed to prevent al Shabaab insurgents from regrouping. These pleas have, sadly, not been taken seriously as evidenced by the continued deterioration of Somalia. With no mineral resources like Libya, Kuwait or Iraq, Somalia has failed to warrant the level of involvement by Western governments seen in those countries.
Mr. Perry, in view of the above situation, what would you have recommended that Kenya does? Sit back as our economy continues to deteriorate as a result of the disorder in Somalia? Call the Al Shabaab Warlords and plead with them to stop their unwelcome activities? Or to do all we can (like the Humming Bird in Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai’s memoirs) and to do it the best way we can?
No matter the outcome of Kenya’s push into Somalia, the finale is already written, you will find it in the resolute chi that our celebrated freedom fighter, Dedan Kimathi bequeathed to us, that it is better to die on our feet than to live on our knees