Currently Kenya has about 4,000 soldiers deployed as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a peacekeeping force mandated by the United Nations Security Council to help create an environment for the Federal Government of Somalia to set up legitimate governance institutions. However, Kenyan soldiers in Somalia’s third largest city, Kismayo, have actively been supporting an anti-government clan militia while obstructing the work of the Federal Government. They made the city a no-go-zone for the Federal Government and instead opted for a militia group that broke away from Al Shabab a couple of years ago.
Kenya’s presence in Somalia is defined by the United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 2093(2013) which mandates the force, in full compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, and in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Somalia, to carry out the following tasks:
- In coordination with the Security Forces of the Federal Government of Somalia, reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, in order to establish conditions for effective and legitimate governance across Somalia.
The AMISOM mandate requires member armies to support the Federal Government of Somalia and so far, Kenya has failed this test in all parameters. The Kenyan forces in Kismayo have not been working in coordination with the Security Forces of the Federal Government as required by the UN which pays for their operations.
According to the recently appointed commander of the Somali national army in the Jubba regions, Colonel Salah Makoma, there is no presence of SNA forces in Kismayo. In fact, Kenya has been obstructing the establishment of conditions for effective and legitimate governance in this part of Somalia by empowering the Ras Kamboni militia, an armed group that is opposed to the Federal Government. By empowering Ras Kamboni, Kenya has forced many government soldiers, including the former area commander, to defect to the militia.
- To support dialogue and reconciliation in Somalia by assisting with the free movement, safe passage and protection of all those involved with the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia.
Kenya did not facilitate the free passage and safe movement of all those involved in reconciliation processes because the Kenyan soldiers sided with one of the five self-proclaimed “Jubbaland” presidents in Kismayo. Each of these contenders represents a specific clan and there is no local mechanism to bring them together to end the deadlock. Besides Kenya has been hampering the efforts of the Somali Federal Government to bring these rival groups together and mediate between them by denying protection and safe passage for senior government officials.
- To provide protection to the Federal Government of Somalia to help them carry out their functions of government, and security for key infrastructure.
Kenyan forces in Kismayo have not been providing protection for the Federal Government of Somalia. A higher level delegation led by the Defense Minister of Somalia was stranded in the Kismayo airport for three days due to the refusal of Kenyan troops to protect them, a situation that led the president of Somalia to protest the misbehavior of Kenyan troops in Kismayo. In fact, they are an impediment to the government’s ability to carry out its functions of managing key infrastructure including the Kismayo airport and seaport.
Recent reports indicated collusion between the Kenyan forces in Kismayo and Ras Kamboni militias in a deal to divide all proceeds from the Kismayo seaport and airport with 50% of the revenue going to the Kenyans and the other half going to Ras Kamboni.
This defiance by the Kenyan forces stationed in Kismayo, combined with the ongoing exploration of oil blocks in Somalia’s territorial waters, are all clear indications that the true intention of Kenya is not to fight Al Shabaab as part of Amisom but rather to take advantage of Somalia’s weakness and make claims to Somali resources by using proxy clan militias. A recent announcement by Mr. Aden Duale, the Kenyan Government spokesman and majority leader in the Kenyan parliament, declared Kenya’s invasion as an attempt to create a buffer zone, making it clear that Kenya is actually an occupation force that intends to “colonize” a portion of Somalia.
The divide and rule tactics that Kenya is using in Kismayo by empowering one “president” against others will backfire in ways that will have severe consequences for. An armed confrontation in Kismayo has already killed dozens of people and the situation is very delicate with conflict likely at any moment. This conflict is a huge setback in the fight against terrorism and gives Al Shabaab breathing space and enables them to recruit youths from disgruntled clans. If this Somali dissatisfaction with the behavior of the Kenyan troops receives enough momentum, Kenya stands to face the same fate as their neighbor, Ethiopia, which was forced to withdraw from Somalia in 2008 after a bloody conflict.
The various stakeholders in Kismayo need to change tack in order to avert widespread hostilities that can change the security landscape of the Horn of Africa. They should do the following:
- Recognize that the Somali Federal Government is the sole legitimate entity assigned with the task of helping form regional administrations and federal states in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution of Somalia and refrain from meddling in Somalia’s internal political affairs.
- Start facilitating the work of the Federal Government of Somalia, which it is mandated to support, empower and strengthen in order to help the government execute its national political program.
- Facilitate safe passage and movement of parliamentary and government delegations and committees dispatched to its sector of influence so that they can lead a process of local reconciliation that can lead to a negotiated settlement to the Jubbaland deadlock.
- Stop supporting groups opposed to the Federal Government of Somalia such as the Ras Kamboni militia in order to force these groups to come to the negotiating table with other stakeholders in Jubbaland under the leadership of the Federal Government of Somalia.
- Continue the fight against Al Shabaab which came to a standstill for the past nine months with vast areas of the sector assigned to the KDF still controlled by violent groups.
The Federal Government of Somalia:
- Demand full respect for Somalia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence from Kenya.
- Reach out to Kenyan opposition groups as a way to exert pressure on the ruling party and show the negative consequences of meddling in a country’s internal political affairs.
- Hold a reconciliation conference in Mogadishu for all willing stakeholders in Jubbaland as agreed by the presidents of IGAD.
- Engage and fully support local stakeholders, including traditional elders, political leaders, civil society and other groups that recognize the role of the Federal Government of Somalia in setting up regional administrations.
- Request the United Nations Security Council to transfer the Kenyan troops to other sectors as a means to end their apparent conflict of interest in Jubbaland and seek the establishment of a UN office in Kismayo.
- Respect the Federal Constitution of Somalia to the letter in helping the people of Jubbaland and other regions to forming their own regional administrations and federal states.
- Realize that the era of making appointments from Villa Somalia is long gone with the adoption of a Federal constitution that recognizes the will of the people to self-govern and learn from the lack of progress and public discontent in Hiiraan, Bay, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle where the government installed ineffective governors from Mogadishu.
- Support the leadership role of the Federal Government of Somalia in internal political affairs of Somalia.
- Push all stakeholders in Jubbaland to respect the leadership of the Federal Government of Somalia.
- Ensure that their actions match their words by requiring results for the specific recommendations made by the IGAD Heads of States.
- Bring the Kenyan troops in Somalia under the full command of AMISOM in order to ensure unity of purpose and avoid a popular resistance against Kenya.
- Undertake a reshuffle of AMISOM troops stationed in the four sectors to end conflicts of interest that threaten the mandate of AMISOM member countries.
The United Nations/UNSOM:
- Open an operational office in Kismayo to observe Kenya’s compliance with the UN Security Council mandate and facilitate the work of the Federal Government of Somalia in the sector.
- Evaluate the performance, the operational modalities, and command structure of the Kenyan forces in Somalia in relation to AMISOM.
- Consider moving the Kenyan contingency from Jubbaland to other sectors to diffuse tension and eliminate the conflict of interest that is apparent in Kenya’s actions.
- Investigate allegations of corruption and collusion between Kenyan soldiers and opposition militant groups in Jubbaland.
The Ras Kamboni Militia:
- Avoid violent confrontation with locals as has happened recently and seek political compromise with stakeholders in Kismayo.
- Realize that the barrel of a gun cannot give them legitimacy if the local population is opposed to their domination and that they stand no chance of winning in an armed conflict.
- Refrain from any inclinations to oppress the local people by denying them participation in their city’s political and economic fate and stop supporting Kenya’s bid to exploit Somali resources.
- Accept that the Jubbaland process, although it started off as an exemplary project, notwithstanding the absence of S.F.G. leadership and deficiencies in its representativeness, has ended in a messy manner with its hijacking by Ahmed Madobe, a fact that invalidated the whole process and eroded its legitimacy.
- Realize that the way out of the current mess is through dialogue, reconciliation, compromise and genuine outreach to all local stakeholders.
- Enable the Federal Government of Somalia to lead the process of establishing a legitimate administration that can fairly represent the people of the region and realize that the Prime Minister, a Jubbalander himself, should be the driver of the effort to set up an administration in the region.
All Jubbaland Stakeholders:
- Avoid armed conflict which can lead to death, destruction and displacement of civilians who are surrounded by Al Shabab.
- Support the efforts of the Federal Government of Somalia to mediate the conflict and establish an administration that can effectively represent and deliver to the people of Jubbaland.
- Initiate a local process of grassroots peace building and conflict prevention by reaching out to all stakeholders including the Ras Kamboni group.
Somalis in the Diaspora:
More than 1 million Somalis live in North America, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. These Somalis in the Diaspora have a duty to agitate for an end to Kenya’s mistreatment of the Federal Government of Somalia and empowerment of a militia group at the expense of the local population. In addition to using social media platforms to reach decision makers, they can call or write to their countries’ leaders and international and regional organizations that have authority over AMISOM.
In conclusion, the standoff in Jubbaland has wasted valuable time and political capital and needs to come to an end. All sides need to play their role in ending this unbecoming deadlock and enabling the Federal Government of Somalia to implement its political program to stabilize the country. Anything less will have undesirable consequences and lead to a total reversal of the gains made in defeating Al Shabaab.
Jibril Mohamed is a Lecturer in the Department of African American and African Studies at the Ohio State University. He can be reached at Mohamed.firstname.lastname@example.org.