By Benson Kamary
Prior to the 2010 G20 Seoul Summit, I was privileged to be a delegate of the Y20 Summit, a university students’ version of the larger G20.
In one of my submissions as a representative of Africa, I robustly raised the issue of security in the Horn of Africa. The submission was taken rather reluctantly by fellow ``world leaders” as many of them were acutely engrossed in economic recovery strategies following a global economic crisis. Overall though, the young minds adequately deliberated terrorism as a key global concern.
The issue of peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, Somalia in particular, remains sensitive, complex and its impact real. It is a problem that can no longer be wished away neither can it be approached with panic. Kenya, arguably Somalia’s most significant neighbor, is currently in an offensive military action against Alshabaab, a militia group inside Somalia and often linked to al-Qaida. Apparently, a question of whether or not Kenya’s military action within Somalia is justified has floated across local and international media channels. By all means, that is a genuine query to ask.
Some analysts have pointed out that the head of Alshabaab is right in Nairobi while its tail is wagging in Somalia. They argue that Kenya’s internal security structures have been lax for too long and subsequently failing to intercept the movement of Alshabaab agents and their sympathizers into Eastleigh, Nairobi.
They have a point but there is so much a country can take in. Eastleigh is a suburb within the Kenyan capital often referred to as ``Little Mogadishu" due to the fact that the area is largely populated by people of the Somali origin or immigrants from Somalia. This view thus suggests that Kenya’s first grand military assault since independence is entirely misplaced. Kenya attained its independence in 1963.
Nevertheless, perhaps Kenyans and friends of Kenyans including the people of Somalia who have borne the brunt of Alshabaab militia will appreciate the ongoing ``Defend the Nation” operation by the Kenya military. Not surprisingly, a recent statement by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, opposing Kenya’s military action in Somalia was met with regional protests including in his own homeland. That was quite telling for a government leader whose operations across the country are hugely limited by Alshabaab and similar armed rebels.
In her quest for stability in the region, Kenya has carried the heaviest consequential burden of the Somalia’s instability. A few months ago, a large exodus of Somali refugees fleeing hunger ended up in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, raising the numbers to over 380,000 exiles. Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world and the numbers therein must be swelling with the ongoing military offensive.
Further, the recent abductions of foreign tourists within the Kenyan soil and which became a trigger for the ongoing military incursion has had a damaging impact on Kenya’s most valued economic activity ― tourism.
Though Alshabaab has since denied involvement, the militia’s numerous threats to carry out attacks in Nairobi have never been withdrawn. The ongoing military action must therefore send a clear message that every act of aggression will be met with equal clout if the mission is to protect Kenya’s sovereignty by stabilizing the region.
Reassuringly, the African Union has backed Kenya’s mission against the Alshabaab. The importance of regional and international support to neutralize terror groups cannot be overemphasized. It is everyone’s mandate. God forbid! A failure to stabilize the Horn of Africa at this time may mean a long-term struggle in militia battles, piracy and abductions: the stakes are high.
And this is neither a warning nor a prediction, but a call for the world to stand for justice, peace and stability.
The writer is a freelance journalist, Ph.D. candidate at Kosin University and secretary-general of the Kenya Community in Korea. He can be reached at email@example.com.