By Shadrack Muyesu
All the war propaganda, all the screaming, lies and lies and hatred invariably come from people who are not fighting – George Orwell
Military men are “dumb” “stupid” “animals” to be used as pawns for foreign policy – Henry Kissinger
360 deaths later and a struggling economy crippled in no small part by numerous travel advisories issued against Kenya, an increasingly defiant nation maintains that she is not about to exit Somalia. But should we really be in Somalia?
Originally, the Somali invasion was informed by the desire to insulate the nation from the Somali conflict while preventing domestic Al Shabaab casualties. With Somali peace nowhere within sight and the Al Shabaab territory in Somalia actually expanding, it’s perhaps time we revisited our goals and considered exiting. Although many would argue that key momentum in the Al Shabaab war was lost when KDF fell under the direct command of the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom), this argument does nothing other than further buttress the position that we are actually no longer in control of our own war.
Exit as an option has indeed been contemplated, but only at the risk of sounding cowardly, unpatriotic or worse, an Al Shabaab sympathiser.
It is the politicians – the grand puppeteers – who lead the “stay” battalion; people who have only interacted with war on a TV set. Flanking them are political analysts who are yet to lose a loved one to war, and worse, arm chair generals who issue commands from Nairobi. The latter is particularly worse since, as numerous reports have shown, far beyond fighting to protect our borders, it is the lucrative charcoal, arms and sugar business they are actually protecting!
Sugar imports attract very heavy taxes domestically which automatically translates to very handsome profits for those illegally importing sugar. Ben Rawlence, for Journalists for Justice, reports that sugar-laden ships dock at Kismayo, offload and then sail off with a cargo of coal. This sugar is loaded onto trucks which attract an Al Shabaab levy of US$1050 (Sh100,000) each while corrupt KDF generals pocket US$2 (Sh200) for every bag. On its way to Kenya through Somalia, each truck is taxed again by the Jubaland Administration and finally by other KDF elements at the Kenyan border.
The same process operates in reverse for charcoal, betraying a sickening collaboration between senior KDF Generals and Al shabaab – the enemy they are supposedly fighting! It doesn’t help that The UN sanction committee has already prohibited the export of charcoal from Somalia because it was such an important revenue source for Al Shabaab.
In his report, Lawrence points out that “KDF, rather than taking the fight to Al Shabaab, are actually in garrison mode, sitting in bases while senior commanders are engaged in corrupt business practices with the Jubaland administration and al-Shabaab.”
Priority projects such as education and health have consistently faced budget restrictions just so government can fund a programmed war. Meanwhile, Mumias Sugar is suffering incomprehensible losses trying to compete with sugar that corrupt officials smuggle inwards on the cheap. Judging from the way they cheer on KDF, some big people in government can only be assumed to be “getting their cut”. It’s a perfect business: the taxpayer takes care of the operation cost, soldiers provide cheap labour and the impoverished Kenyan ensures a ready market. The price is blood.
That said, it’s an open secret that East African governments have never really been for a powerful government in Somalia. Simply, a powerful, stable Somalia would revive pre-Siad Barre notions of a larger Somalia united under the Somaliland banner.
Politics and diplomacy
The implications of this would be the annex of all regions inhabited by Somalis, including the North Eastern province, parts of Somalia and Djibouti and the breakaway Puntland to form one large nation of Somali speakers. While purporting to support a stable Somalia, behind the scenes, the Kenyan government actually pushes for an autonomous Jubaland at the south of Somalia with the hope that it would act as a buffer zone should pro-nationalist Somalis get their way. It is obvious that Nairobi has allowed its policy on Somalia to be arrested by political propaganda and a section of Somali elites out to settle clan wars or stir Somali nationalism. By both accident and design, rather than maintain peace, Kenya and Ethiopia actually seem to be sabotaging peace efforts.
Most importantly however, it ought to be remembered that Amisom is actually a western governments’ project. Amisom is really a product of aggressive protection policies cultivated in the aftermath of 9/11. The West funds and puppeteers the project while our soldiers, at the cost of their lives of course, act as the field pawns.
A US war
Government and the top generals realised this long ago and that is why they took time off to engage in some side hustle. Even then, it would be grossly unfair to impute corruption and treason on the entire KDF top brass. Indeed, such corruption is a mental disease of only a few – also the most powerful and connected. There are upright commanders. They are, however, not in a position to push for an exit from Somalia since, as already intimated; they stopped owning this war long ago.
It may be argued otherwise, but modern fundamentalist wars were never intended for Christians. “Jihad” wasn’t meant to pit Christians against Muslims. As wrong as it is, the victims of Islamist fundamentalism were supposed to be western citizens and their friends – as revenge for atrocities committed by the West in the Muslim East. While there could be persons who honestly think that we should continue with our Somalia project, their notions ought to have been informed by an understanding of the psychology behind this delinquency. The war against terror cannot be won without taking time to understand why these Islamic fundamentalists are fighting in the first place – even willing to give their lives in the process!
The truth is that the West, particularly the US, has made mistakes and they are now using us as foot soldiers to right their wrongs so that their own do not perish in the process.
From the destruction of Libya, Somalia, DR Congo, Vietnam, Iraq, El Salvador, Egypt, Afghanistan to Syria, a keen eye will observe that hardly is the US involved in anything to positive effect. Everything they do has a selfish agenda attached to it, whether it is siphoning of minerals, creating combat bases, spreading Western versions of democracy, pushing heroin or creating a market for arms. Wars and lives have been lost fighting on the basis of a lie but most sadly, the lives lost are hardly ever those of say US marines. It is the pawns that die, our poor soldiers. Look around; when Saddam couldn’t share oil, he had to be removed. There was no better way to do it than to advance gruesome theory that he was stocking up nukes. Ghadaffi had to go as well; it only took 28 days to marshal and complete a NATO invasion to remove the “despot that Libyans didn’t want.”
I do not support their actions, but don’t you think that these are histories that perhaps irk the poor Muslim man and push him to pick his gun?
Lest we forget, Kenya’s incursion into southern Somalia actually started after Somali gunmen killed British tourist David Tebbutt, 58, and abducted his wife Judith, 56, from a resort on the northern Kenyan coast. This came days after another group of Somali gunmen had kidnapped and killed a 66-year-old disabled French tourist, Marie Dedieu followed by the abduction of two Spanish aid workers from Dadaab (emphasis is mine). The people killed were not Kenyans, so why bother, and more so, bother so drastically, irrationally and heavily?
It has been argued, rightly so, that the continuation of such killings would have hurt the country, and that it was in our best interest for Kenya to react the way she did. But instead of hastily charging into Somalia, we could have protected ourselves better by improving border patrols, strengthening immigration policies, improving intelligence organs, improving the road network in north-eastern (which would have the multiplier effect of developing the rest of sectors there, including security) or even more drastically, erecting a wall along the Kenya Somali border. Moving into Somalia was to surrender ourselves to an endless battle that had nothing to do with Kenya.
Starting a war is not a sure way to bolster a country’s security. In any case, physical combat should, as San Tzu taught, be engaged in as a last resort. Moving into a country we did not know and whose conflicts we did not understand not to mention going there with a small battalion of only 2000 soldiers compared to the huge Al Shabaab forces were all inexcusable mistakes of war which ensured that we lost that war ab initio. In extension, with misplaced confidence, we charged into a war without an exit strategy. We made the same mistake the US did before us in Iraq and Afghanistan, assuming that the attack phase of the war was the whole war.
Moving forward, KDF formally fell under the command of the US-controlled Amisom and Africom (African Command). As already stated, it’s at this point that the KDF soldiers officially stopped fighting a war they believed in – a catastrophe if you ask San Tzu. As the great teacher taught:
“An army prepared to defend its beloved homeland from capture, or an army cornered and fighting for its life, when compared to an army fighting without due cause, will find its soldiers’ commitment to a fight more in line with the Way of life. Such an army may prove impossible to defeat in battle short of total annihilation. An army imbued with the moral law is simply more willing to fight on and fight to the death than one without the moral law.”
Good people, therein lies the difference between the US, Islamic fundamentalists and say KDF. While the former ( the US and Al Shabaab) fight because they feel thoroughly aggrieved; our forces, ill equipped and commandeered by corrupt generals, do not even understand what they are still doing in Somalia. This is the reason why we have so far lost to this “rag tag” group just as the US lost to the smaller, less equipped but highly motivated Vietnam and Taliban armies. But, of course, we never learn do we?
Partakers of a joke
The fight was between Al shabaab and the US and her Western allies, not us! We got hurt in the process. Noting this, “big brother” swooped in to do what she does best – promise us a bag of goodies and ask us to fight on her behalf! With leaders such as the battalion of jokers we have in Parliament, we readily agreed. Sadly, of the three countries East African countries involved in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia, ours it the least militarised and perhaps least disciplined force. Not only so; we share perhaps the longest unmanned border with Somalia. Why then are we surprised when Al Shabaab reacts, why we die?
To the extent that we continue to suffer causalities and Al Shabaab territory continues to expand, we have lost. The war in Somali is no longer about combating terrorists, but about money. The wilderness is the chess board, our young gallant soldiers the pawns and corrupt KDF generals, their Somali business counterparts and the West (US) the grandmasters.
It’s time we played selfish as every other nation in the world does. We should leave Somalia and consider protecting ourselves from within. Let the young newly wedded wife enjoy her husband in peace instead of sending him to his doom fighting a corrupt war.