Kenyan Motives in Somalia Predate Recent Abductions
man/index.html?inline=nyt-per> JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: October 27, 2011
NAIROBI, Kenya - The Kenyan government revealed on Wednesday that its
extensive military foray into
malia/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Somalia this month to battle Islamist
militants was not simply a response to a wave of recent kidnappings, as
previously claimed, but was actually planned far in advance, part of a
covert strategy to penetrate Somalia and keep the violence in one of
Africa's most anarchic countries from spilling into one of Africa's most
For several years, the American-backed Kenyan military has been secretly
arming and training clan-based militias inside Somalia to safeguard Kenya's
borders and economic interests, especially a huge port to be built just 60
miles south of Somalia.
But now many diplomats, analysts and Kenyans fear that the country, by
essentially invading southern Somalia, has bitten off far more than it can
chew, opening itself up to terrorist reprisals and impeding the stressed
relief efforts to save hundreds of thousands of starving Somalis.
Somalia has been a thorn in Kenya's side ever since Kenya became independent
in 1963, and the two countries have followed wildly different paths. Somalia
has become synonymous with famine, war and anarchy, while Kenya has become
one of America's closest African allies, a bastion of stability and a
favorite of tourists worldwide.
Kenyan officials said it was becoming impossible to coexist with a failed
state next door. They consider the
ab/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Shabab, a ruthless militant group that
controls much of southern Somalia, a "clear and present danger," responsible
for piracy, militant attacks and cross-border raids.
When Kenya sent
to-battle-shabab.html> troops storming across Somalia's border on Oct. 16,
government officials initially said that they were chasing kidnappers who
ya-dies.html> abducted four Westerners inside Kenya, two from beachside
bungalows, and that Kenya had to defend its tourism industry.
But on Wednesday, Alfred Mutua, the Kenyan government's chief spokesman,
revised this rationale, saying the kidnappings were more of a "good
"An operation of this magnitude is not planned in a week," Mr. Mutua said.
"It's been in the pipeline for a while."
Many analysts wonder how Kenya will be able to defy history and stabilize
Somalia when the United Nations, the United States, Ethiopia and the African
Union have all intervened before, with little success. They argue that the
Kenyan operation seems uncoordinated and poorly planned, with hundreds of
troops bogged down in the mud from rains that fall at this time every year.
Kenyan military officials also publicly said the United States and France
were helping them, but both countries quickly distanced themselves from the
operation, insisting that they were not taking part in the combat.
"The invasion was a serious miscalculation, and the Kenyan economy is going
to suffer badly," said David M. Anderson, a Kenya specialist at Oxford.
The Shabab, who have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, have killed hundreds in
suicide attacks in Somalia and are now vowing to punish Kenya, much as they
struck Uganda last year for sending
There have already been two grenade attacks in Nairobi, which Kenyan
officials said were the work of Shabab members, and this usually laid-back
capital city has shifted into war mode. Security guards peer into purses at
supermarkets, shopping centers are deserted because many Kenyans are now
scared to congregate in public, and the American government has warned of
> "an imminent threat of
terrorist attacks" at malls and nightclubs.
Despite their close relationship with Kenyan security services, which
receive millions of dollars in American aid each year, American officials
said they had been
f-kenyas-march-into-somalia-officials-say.html> caught off guard by the
"The United States did not encourage the Kenyan government to act, nor did
Kenya seek our views," said Katya Thomas, a spokeswoman at the American
Embassy in Nairobi. "We note that Kenya has a right to defend itself."
Pentagon officials are now watching cautiously. "This is not something
that's coordinated with us at all, so it's not something we have much
knowledge about," a senior Pentagon official. "We want to see how this
Pentagon officials said the immediate impact of dispersing Shabab fighters
was good. But without knowing much about the overall Kenyan strategy or
long-term plan, they are a bit wary.
"It's difficult to discern what's the next step," the official said.
Kenyan officials say the next step is marching to Kismayu, a port town
controlled by the Shabab, who derive tens of millions of dollars a year in
taxes from it.
But Lazarus Sumbeiywo, a former leader of Kenya's army, said the Kenyans
were erring tactically. "It should have been surgical strikes," Mr.
Sumbeiywo said, arguing for small teams of special forces to hunt down
militants and eliminate them quietly.
In 1990, before he became chief of staff, Mr. Sumbeiywo said, he ran special
operations to kill Somali gunmen who had infiltrated Kenya. He said that his
men had worked in small units - tracker, sharpshooter, translator - and
that Kenya had been bedeviled by Somalia for decades. "It was like that all
the way from the beginning," he said, describing how Kenyan forces fought
Somali militants in the 1960s and 1970s, losing hundreds of men.
Kenya has tried to use proxy militias in Somalia to push out the Shabab and
create a buffer zone stretching to Kismayu. But the militias have been
struggling, and Kenyan officials said their plans for a major port in Lamu,
near Somalia's border, were imperiled by the instability pouring out of
"This isn't about tourism," said a senior Kenyan official, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity. "This is about our long-term development plan. Kenya
cannot achieve economically what it wants with the situation the way it is
in Somalia, especially Kismayu."
"Just imagine you're trying to swim," he added. "If someone is holding your
leg and your arm, how far can you swim?"
Somali officials, despite being enemies of the Shabab, have been
-raises-fear-of-widening-conflict.html> furious about the Kenyan incursion.
Somalia's president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, called it an "inappropriate"
encroachment on Somali sovereignty
The dispute has left Western diplomats to mediate between the two sides, but
Mr. Mutua said that "a lot has been lost in translation" and that the
Kenyans and the Somalis were still close.
Still, aid organizations are deeply concerned that the military operations
will affect efforts to reach starving people in Somalia's famine-stricken
interior. The United Nations has said that
> tens of
thousands of Somalis have died and that 750,000 could starve to death. The
Shabab control many of the hardest-hit areas, and have
blocked most Western aid groups from entering.
"Some of the drought-affected people who arrived from other parts of the
country are now facing multiple displacements in the wake of the military
ituation%20Report%20No.%2019_2011.10.25.pdf> United Nations report said
Wednesday. "Movement of humanitarian personnel and supplies are also likely
to be restricted, subsequently affecting the timely delivery of assistance."
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Josh Kron from
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Received on Thu Oct 27 2011 - 16:18:18 EDT