Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24 Kenya. The stories here come from users.

Latest Badges:

Kenya's Somali gamble

29 November 2011, 14:34 Prof Hussein Solomon

By any reckoning, 2011 was not a good year for Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Striving Youth) or al-Shabaab (the Youth) as it is more commonly known. This Islamist and al-Qaeda aligned group in Somalia suffered various setbacks.

In March, Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces together with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) recaptured the town of Bulo Hawo. In April, the town of Dhobley, near the Kenyan border, also fell under the control of the TFG. By August 6, al-Shabaab was driven out of Mogadishu as a result of the co-ordinated attacks from AMISOM and TFG fighters.

In the process, some senior and experienced al-Shabaab commanders were killed. On March 16 Abdelkadir Yusuf Aar who served as the group’s leader in the Juba and Gedo region was killed. On April 3 another senior al-Shabaab operative, Hassan Abdurahman, was killed in Dhobley. On June 11, Fazul Abdullah Mohamed was killed by security forces in Afgoye, north-west of Mogadishu. Not only was Mohamed an al-Shabaab commander but he was also a senior al-Qaeda operative.

In addition to this military pressure from AMISOM and the TFG, al-Shabaab was also suffering from a series of organizational problems. Tensions between the movement’s northern and southern commanders escalated on the ideological and tactical fronts; less money was entering al-Shabaab’s coffers from the Somali diaspora at the same time when support for the movement from the Somali business community was ebbing; and clan militias increasingly challenged al-Shabaab’s territorial hegemony in its heartland of southern Somalia.

Attempting to lure Ethiopia

It is in this context that the authorities in Nairobi embarked on an ill-conceived, badly planned and poorly executed Operation Linda Nchi (Swahili for “Protect the Nation”) which involved hundreds of Kenyan troops crossing the border into Somalia on October. The immediate catalyst for the operation was the kidnapping of several tourists from Kenya by ostensibly al Shabaab militants*. In doing so the government of Mwai Kibaki has played into the hands of al-Shabaab.

For some time now al-Shabaab has been attempting to lure Ethiopia, the US and Kenya into sending boots on to Somali ground. In having a foreign “occupation” force once more on Somali soil, al-Shabaab hopes to play the nationalist card and to unite all factions under its banner whilst simultaneously weakening the TFG which is then seen as the “puppets” of these foreign forces.

Washington, however, has refused to play by al Shabaab’s rules, preferring surgical predator drone strikes. Addis Ababa, having withdrawn their troops and having learned their mistakes from its earlier intervention see no reason to once more re-engage militants on their home turf. Unfortunately, Nairobi still has to learn this painful lesson. Far from using its armed forces to seal its borders with Somalia or using its air force to provide support to TFG forces as it did at Dhobley, Kenya chose to send troops into al-Shabaab’s heartland in southern Somalia to take on the movement directly. This will prove to be a costly mistake for Nairobi.

Objective not clear

In the first instance, the Kenyan authorities were not clear as to the objective of its military intervention. Thus whilst at first, Nairobi stated that their armed forces were pursuing al-Shabaab fighters across the border, subsequent statements suggests that the military objectives became ever more expansive. These expanded objectives included dismantling al-Shabaab itself as well securing Kismayo, an al Shabaab- controlled port, 155 miles from the Kenyan border.

Second, given the expanded objectives and the topography of the region the military force deployed was much too small to attain the avowed objectives.

Third, Kenyan military planners seemed not to have factored the weather when drawing up their plans. One reason for the offensive to have stalled was because of the heavy rains and mud which is slowing the advance.

Fourth, rather than fight the Kenyans in conventional terms, al-Shabaab is employing guerilla tactics – which the Kenyan military unfortunately did not anticipate. Fifth, the intervention is exacerbating popular anger against Kenyans – especially when innocent civilians are being targeted. On October 30, for instance, the Kenyan air force, conducted an aerial bombardment of an internally displaced persons camp in Jilib which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, and the wounding of 45 others. Of the latter, 31 were children. Al-Shabaab has tapped into this popular anger as it recruits more fighters.

It is already clear that Nairobi is seeking a not too gracious exit from the Somali stage. Recently a Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that if the TFG commits to fighting al-Shabaab (which it has been doing), Kenya will halt its military advance. This Kenyan misadventure in Somalia may well prove to have given al Shabaab a life line.

* It should be noted that al Shabaab never claimed responsibility for these abductions.

Solomon is a Senior Professor in the department Political Science at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
William Korir
Kikuyu 2022 vote will go to Peter...

The 2022 Kikuyu vote will go to Peter Kenneth, a Rift Valley Governor has warned DP William Ruto. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
CORD threatens to boycott 2017 po...

The CORD Coalition says that it will be forced to boycott the 2017 elections if there is no new voter register in place by the time. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Disgraced Jeptoo stripped of 2014...

Organizers of the Boston Marathon are stripping Kenyan runner Rita Jeptoo of her 2014 victory as part of the athlete's newly extended doping ban. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM beats Jubilee in 3 by-electio...

ODM dominates Jubilee Party in by elections.

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Kenyan ivory seized in Vietnam

Vietnamese authorities have seized 1 tonne of ivory smuggled from Kenya, the fifth such seizure in the past month. Read more...

Submitted by
Cyril Mike Odhiz
Kenyans furious on young lady aft...

A young Kenyan woman is the talk of town after she posted a photo with her elderly lover after a round of steamy sex, or so the photo suggested.  Read more...