Letter from America #10. Kenya’s Major Mistake!

Letter from America:  Kenya’s Major Mistake!

By margaretta wa gacheru  November 2, 2011

I can’t believe how disturbing I find the news that Kenyan troops have not only gone over the line and essentially “invaded” Somali to chase down Al Shabaab rebels who they apparently hold responsible for the kidnapping of white tourists at the Kenya Coast.

Tragically, the motivation for sending Kenyan troops across the border seems to take on a different tenor and tone every time some local official tries to answer the question: why did you do it?

In one instant, it’s all about Al Shabaab infiltration into Kenya, which one might think would best be handled be being more vigilant at the Kenya border and inside the refugee camps.

Another official will claim it’s to eliminate the threat to the tourist industry that we saw when the two European women were abducted from their remote encampments on the Kenya coast.

But I have to say that no greater deterrent to tourists coming to Kenya can exist than the Government opening a full-fledged war front at its northern border.

The one other decision that might be even more effective in deterring foreigners from coming and spending their cash in Kenya would be to announce local police will be conducting sweeps of “Little Mogadishu” once known more readily among locals as Eastleigh. The sweeps would be aimed at routing out Al Shabaab activists who are swimming like fish within a veritable sea of fellow Somalis, many of whom, though not actively involved with Al Shabaab, are utterly in sympathy with that wing of Al Qaeda that supposedly has teamed up with Somali pirates who bring billions to Eastleigh in off- shore bounty manifested as not just jobs but high rise hotels, shopping centers and malls that are lit up 24 hours a day.

The Kenya government including the military clearly get some comfort in news coming from the likes of the American Ambassador who promises moral support and arms and even air power, although no US troops will be coming to reinforce the Kenyans.

I wonder if there is an anti-war movement building among Kenyans who hate to hear the government announce it plans to conduct “air strikes” in Central and Southern Somalia on sites believed to be inhabited by Al Shabaab bad guys.

As we all know, whenever bombs are dropped anywhere, the majority affected are called “collateral damage” meaning women and children who can’t manage to run away quickly enough from the munitions, whatever type they may be.

To think of my peace loving Kenyans engaged in what feels like a proxy war breaks my heart. Kenyans have been living for years with Somalis in their midst without any problems. Kenyans even saw Siad Barre staying in Nairobi, courtesy of the former Kenyan head of state, Daniel arap Moi. And nobody made much of a stink about it.

Of course, the Somali pirates have been pesty, and only recently started intruding themselves along the Kenya coastline; but the decision to engage in a full scale war with its next door neighbor is heart-wrenching and upsetting beyond words.

Meanwhile, we hear that Al Qaeda has a different strategy for winning a war….war against whom, by the way? Is it war against Kenya, war against the US who launched its ‘war on terror’ right after the 9.11 assault on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001? 

Al Qaeda is making friends and influencing refugees by handing out cash to drought victims in the north. Call it cash-centric recruitment, call in Islamic philanthropy, whatever name it’s given, it’s not looking good for peace-loving Kenyans.

Either way, Kenyans must have heard the threats made by Al Shabaab that if these assaults by Kenyan troops persist, there will be retaliation comparable to what took place in Kampala after Museveni sent Ugandan troops to join AU forces in Mogadishu, or worse. The bomb blast in Kampala’s city center was unprecedented and devastating to scores of people, several of whom lost their lives.

Ideally, Kenyan troops are in Somalia to ensure Al Shabaab doesn’t continue to cross over the border and bring in munitions, money or militant manpower. Whether the “preemptive’ strategy succeeds, to crossing over and push for a shut down of the town of Kismayo where most of Al Shabaab’s supplies come inland off the sea, only time will tell.

One only prays that however success gets defined, it comes very soon. The alternative is for Kenyans to consider how peace can be most quickly restored. That’s the topic I’m yearning for.


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