Inside the Kenya-Ethiopia Battle for Jubaland

Inside the Kenya-Ethiopia Battle for Jubaland

The vicious battle between Kenya and Ethiopia has played out in the open, and also brought to the fore the high stakes that foreign countries have in the just-concluded Jubaland elections.

The allies-turned foes have high stakes in Jubaland because they both have troops in the United Nations backed African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the former based in Kismayu sector and the later in Gedo.

Kenya also sees Jubaland as a buffer zone in the war against terror. There are talks that should Jubaland go the Somalialand way, then it would be a strong ally especially looking at the port business in Kismayo and the disputed oil fields.

The re-election of President Sheikh Ahmed Islam Madobe occasioned a major setback for President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s efforts to gain control over Somalia’s federal states and establish a strong central government.

Sheikh Madobe won a second term by garnering 56 of the 74 votes cast by members of parliament, despite the strong opposition from Mogadishu, backed by Ethiopia.

But whereas Kenya supported Madobe’s re-election, Ethiopia wanted him out because he was a one-time ally who was born in the Ogaden region of that country, but later abandoned them when he moved south to Jubaland.

He worked closely with Ethiopia when was a member of the now disbanded Islamic Courts Union (ICU) but changed when he started working with Kenya in the fight against terrorism after he was first elected in 2013.

Somalia itself had declared it would not recognise the elections results until the traditional elders, who were selecting members of the new parliament, were registered with the interior ministry.

As a member of the Islamic Courts Union, he was closer to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti but although his relationship with Kenya is much younger, it is more strategic and about the shared destiny.

The manoeuvres Mogadishu was involved in to ensure Madobe was not elected started during Siad Barre’s era when the Marehan clan ethnocracy dominated and marginalised other tribes, among them Madobe’s Ogaden clan.

The entry of Middle East politics in Somalia has also monetised politics to an extend that an MP in the country now earns much more than US counterparts and Kenyan legislators.

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