By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa
Call it what you will an incursion, an invasion, the pursuit of kidnappers, a military offensive against a terrorist group – Kenya’s operation in Somalia has dominated our collective consciousness over the past week.
What initially started out as pursuit of kidnappers seems to have turned out to be a much more ambitious project – an operation involving thousands of Kenyan troops targeted at routing out Al Shabaab. According to government spokesperson Alfred Mutua, the government aims to “track down and dismantle the Al-Shabaab.”
On Sunday, 16.10.11, Kenyan troops crossed the border into Somalia, in pursuit of the Al Shabaab. On Wednesday, 19.10.11, the military spokesperson announced that the government had killed 70+ Al Shabaab rebels and captured three towns. In return Al Shabaab threatened reprisals unless Kenyan troops immediately withdraw from Somalia.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Minister for Internal Security Orwa Ojodeh has proposed security measures that involve:
- Restricting chartered flights to and from North-eastern Province,
- Screening of all buses and flights headed to and coming from regions bordering Somalia
- Vetting and identification of all passengers on such flights or buses
- Clearance certification for flights headed to and coming from North Eastern, Upper Eastern, Upper Rift Valley and Northern Coast to be obtained from the police
The Assistant Minister has stated that that in the coming week the mother of all operations will be carried out in Eastleigh. His exact words, ‘This (the Al Shabaab issue) is like a big animal, the tail in Somalia, and the head of the animal is hidden here in Eastleigh…After the Somalia thing is over, I am going to do a mother of all operations here in Nairobi to remove all Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda.”
It’s difficult to estimate the social the impact and the unintended consequences of the incursion as yet. The Al Shabaab threat looms heavy. MPs Aden Duale, Hussien Ali, Aden Keynan, Mohamed Affey, and Bonny Khalwale have already pointed out the likelihood of the new security measures being used to discriminate against Kenyans of Somali descent.
There is also the financial cost of the operation. An article in the Business Daily estimates that the cost of maintaining a soldier in the battlefield is 7,000 Kshs a day and that the country could end up spending 210 million Kshs per month. The Treasury has also announced possible spending cuts to fund the operation.
While we all support our Kenyan troops among the public two distinct schools on thoughts on the operation have emerged some stating that such action is long over due, while others are vehemently opposed on the basis that such an operation an against a guerrilla group is counter-productive?