Abdi, Ahmed, Sharif and Kenyana

Iman is not the only hot thing about Somalia. The hottest, but not the only. Somalia is a land rich in history and culture; yet steeped in strife and grief. Twenty years hence, Chaos replaced Order and the situation has been seemingly hopeless since. Warlords, pirates, insurgencies, famines, refugees, death. This is how the world views Somalia.

The security and economic issues Kenya is facing as a result of this instability are a cumbersome fact: the influx of all manner of weapons and the corresponding effect on crime; rising tensions resulting from an influx of Somali refugees to our urban areas; the impact of Somali capital on the real estate and other economic sectors; the financial burden of supporting a large refugee population and the resulting security problems – Al Shabaab are in Kenya, in those refugee camps, albeit not as combatants, yet; the relocation of international terrorism from Afghanistan to our doorstep; not least, the negative impact on the not-so-insignificant tourism and other sectors; and the general feeling of insecurity among wananchi due to the above. Etcetera.
It has been argued that, from a security standpoint, an unstable Somalia is preferable to a united Somalia as a check to Somaliweyn, territorial pretensions to NEP and the Ogaden. There have already been several regional wars and conflicts on that account. However, Somalia is not united. At the moment, Somaliland, Puntland and southern Somalia (TFG) are, de facto, three separate entities.
The question is: would there be an actual threat from a united Somalia in a conventional military sense, one that would justify the perpetuation of instability across our borders, keeping millions in limbo and grief? It would take decades before a united Somalia could recover its economy sufficiently to build a military capacity that would pose a threat to Kenya or Ethiopia again. A century before it could take on the combined strength of both. We have a huge head start.
 In the mean time, we continue to build and expand our common market, which is set to jump into hyperspace any minute now. Lest we forget, it was ultimately economics, not military conflict, that brought the Cold War to a close. Carrots are far more appealing than sticks. The EAC is that carrot and Somalia, all three of them, will go for it. If we give them an alternative – an opportunity to thrive, improve their lives, pursue happiness – territorial expansion will lose its appeal. It would, of course, also be beneficial to our own economy.
 However, this cannot be achieved whilst Jihadist are running wild around the country. Or, indeed, running the country. That is a bull that must be taken by the horns. Our military deterrent must therefore remain in place and we must escalate our involvement while we are still able to exert sufficient influence. I’m  guessing that the commissioning of a second airborne light infantry battalion and the purchase of three dozen F-15Es might be a pointer that our strategists have something of that nature in mind. Or not.
The reluctance of GK to become directly involved in Somalia is understandable. We invested a great amount of effort and resources to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table, even though events have since overwhelmed the initial successes. The financial burden would be prohibitive and, frankly, we can’t spare the cash. We need to build other capacities at this time. There is also the danger of a backlash, such as happened in Kampala. Perhaps an insurgency within our own borders? So, as a provisional measure, containing Al Shabaab and keeping them at a manageable level does make sense. However, they seem to have become unmanageable. They’re practically running the show. The travesty that is Amisom is fast evolving into a humourless comedy of errors. It was so prophesied and the proverbial sh*t is about to hit the fan. The East River mandarins need to not only revert the failure of their mission but prevent the wholesale slaughter of these men as well. Kenya is instrumental to this. There is increasing pressure for Kenya to go in officially.
But this is tricky. Go in alone and risk a war of attrition. Go in with Addis and you are the friend of an enemy. Go in to occupy and you become the enemy. Go in to extract UPDF and you allow Al Shabaab to turn its attention elsewhere. If we go in, it must be to cast lead. But then we cannot stay. There must be a compliant local authority to mop up the stains and show us their eternal gratitude for having, once again, saved their sore backsides when no-one else would. And to look west instead of West.
I think peace in Somalia is better for Kenya. Provided that there are 3 Somalias. Right now, three Somalias are better than one.
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