Kenya’s Military Defeat at El Adde: Time to End War on Terror in Somalia

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A year ago, Kenya’s army suffered its worst attack in history inside Somalia chiefly due to lack of clear objectives and operational strategies. The government has kept the exact details secret, even as it spends $1 billion annually without crushing al-Shabaab. Meanwhile lecturers, doctors, nurses and other workers are up in arms demanding better terms. The military invasion of Somalia, now in its sixth year, has failed and should be halted. An alternative reconstruction plan for Somalia is needed.

Introduction

It was in October 2011 when the Kenyan armed forces invaded Somalia in the well-publicized anti-terrorist campaign called Operation Linda Nchi (defend the country). One year afterwards, the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) seized the port of Kismayo in Southern Somalia under the Operation Sledge Hammer. This strategic port had been the center of the lucrative illicit trade in charcoal, sugar, petroleum products and other commodities worth more than $400 million per year. This ‘victory’ over Al Shabaab at Kismayo gave rise to the celebratory mode of the Kenyan military circles with publicity that Al Shabaab was in retreat. This refrain of 2012 was taken up at the highest levels of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), repeated at the United Nations in New York and in the corridors of the National Security Council of the USA. General Carter Ham (in his last days as the head of the US Africa Command) used the taking of Kismayo as a reference point to justify the role of AFRICOM in Africa. But these narratives of victory were demolished with spectacular attacks by al Shabaab after 2012 culminating in January 15, 2016 when a small group of Somali insurgents overran the camp of the 9th and 15th battalions of the Kenya Rifles at El Adde and killed over 150 Kenyan soldiers. The exact number of the dead is not known because the Kenyan government has refused to release the information on this military defeat.

In its refusal to give the true picture of the military defeat at El Adde, the Kenyan government has compounded this military rout with a moral defeat, reinforcing the immorality of those sectors of the Kenyan society who have turned the war on terror into a business enterprise. The amoral act by the Kenyan government of refusing to acknowledge the scale of the deaths in Somalia compliments the intellectual impoverishment and its political rout in Somalia. The sum total of these experiences of the Kenyan role in the War on Terror in Somalia at a time when the resources on counter terrorism could be spent on social services should be a lesson on the need to end the war on terror in Africa. This is urgent in order to separate Somali nationalists from religious zealots and anti-social elements. The close to $1 billion that is spent annually by the Kenyan government on ‘military operations’ and ‘military modernisation’ can be better spent on social needs such as health, education, housing and food for the peoples of Kenya and Somalia. This article will argues that the African Union must end the war on terror in Somalia, withdraw all of the ASMISOM forces and send in thousands of teachers, agronomists, engineers along with doctors, nurses and environmental specialists to participate in the reconstruction of Somalia. These reconstruction specialists should be supported by police experts who will isolate the criminal elements in Somalia and Saudi Arabia who are financing misguided youths to maintain the climate of terror and fear in Somalia and East Africa.

Why the Kenyan armed forces invaded Somalia in October 2011

From its inception in 1963, the Kenyan army has been confused about its mandate, whether it is to support foreign interests and repress the African peoples or whether the armed forces is just a ceremonial force recycling used ordnance from the United States and Britain. At its inception in 1963, the Kenyan military and security forces were manipulated by the British to be involved in th so-called Shifta war, instead of examining the Pan-African prospects of unifying the peoples of Eastern Africa.

Chester Crocker, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa in the Reagan Administration did his doctoral work on The Transfer of Power in Africa: A Comparative Study of the British and French system of Order and outlined the role delegated for the Kenyan military in keeping order for empire in Eastern Africa. Yet, even in this political purpose, the Kenyan Defense forces have been deficient so that for fifty-three years after independence the Kenyan government has maintained a defense agreement with the British military to come to the aid of the Kenyan government when threatened. The Kenyan military looked on as other branches of the security and intelligence forces became rich with the former boss of the Special Branch, James Kanyotu, going down in history as one of the participants in one of the biggest scandals in Kenya, the Goldenberg scandal. The scandals about corruption followed in tragic comedy succession with a brand new scandal every year involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Since the advent of the Uhuru Kenyatta administration in 2013 these scandals have continued, with the National Youth Service episode where the government handed out over one hundred million dollars to fictitious companies associated with powerful individuals in the administration.

Prior to this mega-corruption scandal, one of the biggest after the Goldenerg was the Anglo Leasing scam. The latter scandal exposed the central role of the security services in illicit financial deals and how the Kenyan government had paid out tens of billions of shillings in dubious procurement deals – for security related goods and services.

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Image credits: Puntland Observer