Al Shabaab war drives new Ethiopia-Kenya-Uganda intelligence alliance
Posted Sunday, January 9 2012 at 13:46
The war in Somalia has led to closeR intelligence collaboration between
Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda that is thought to have thwarted plans
by the Al Shabaab militia to launch terror attacks in the region over
Christmas and New Year holidays.
The first public indication of this increasingly tight-knit intelligence
networking from countries with troops in Somalia came during the November
2011 extraordinary session of the Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development (Igad), held to discuss the Somalia crisis. It has emerged that
there was a technical meeting on the sidelines to try hammer out a framework
for joint operations.
Kenya's Assistant Minister for Internal Security, Joshua Orwa Ojode, noted
that there was a close collaboration among all the neighbouring states in
monitoring Al Shabaab activities.
"Even though each state has its separate intelligence gathering network, we
call each other often and exchange information on the activities of Al
Shabaab. However, there is no joint regional intelligence entity to deal
with the group," he said.
With Kenya's entry into the war, followed by Ethiopia's return a month
later, sources tell The EastAfrican that Nairobi has become a "beehive of
intelligence co-ordination" for the war effort in Somalia.
Kenya and Uganda, for instance, had warned citizens of major reprisal
attacks over Christmas and New Year celebrations, but the holidays passed
without incident, barring a grenade attack at a Garissa nightclub on
Analysts said the fact that the attacks did not happen deeper into Kenya
indicated that it a faction of Al Shabaab without a regional network was
involved - possibly non-Somali fighters from Afghanistan and the Middle East
who have joined the militia in recent years.
An Amisom source agreed. "If they were Somali, they would not be
concentrating their attacks in parts of Kenya populated almost exclusively
by Kenyan Somalis," he said.
The inability of the Shabaab to attack over the holiday season, apart from
the fact that they are probably quite weakened, could also be because the
ethnic Somali populations in the other East African countries "have not
bought into the terrorist project," he argued.
But for the security agencies in the region, it is not yet time to
Last week, the Kenyan police warned that Al Qaeda operatives had joined Al
Shabaab to plot attacks on key installations in the country and beyond.
Nevertheless, the co-operation among countries in the region recently
enabled Kenya to publish the names of 15 suspects with Al Shabaab
connections who are believed to have entered the country from Kismayu. The
group comprises nine Kenyans, two "Asians" and four Somalis aged between 24
On January 4, defence ministers and senior military officers of six East
African countries met in Addis Ababa to work out a strategy to deal with Al
They endorsed a plan to increase the authorised strength of the Amisom force
from 12,000 to 17,700 troops.
This came amid ongoing discussions in Addis Ababa between the African Union
Mission in Somalia, (Amisom), the Kenyans and Ethiopians on the conduct of
joint operations in 2012.
The discussions centred on how to assign each country joining Amisom
specific regions of engagement to avoid confrontation between the military
operations and misunderstanding between the various forces.
In an effort to further enhance co-operation, ministers in charge of
security from the five East African Community states will be meeting in
Arusha from January 16-19 to review the situation.
The meeting, under the auspices of the EAC Sectoral Council on Co-operation
in Defence, Inter-State Security and Foreign Policy Co-ordination, will
discuss issues relating to early warning and conflict prevention mechanisms.
Kenya Defence Force spokesperson Emmanuel Chirchir would not be drawn on the
scope of future operations, but said a clear picture will emerge after the
ongoing meeting on Amisom military operations in Addis.
KDF has begun closing in on Al Shabaab since the beginning of the year.
On January 4, three of its fighters including one of the commanders in
charge of the Gedo region, identified as Sheikh Hassan Hussein, were killed.
Al Shabaab also lost several villages and adjacent rural lands in Takora,
Bay-Jamal, Degalab, Jungal, Makoley, Eel Adde and Eel Gaduud.
Ethiopian troops are supporting pro-government militias in the central
region, where they recently captured most of the central Somali town of
Beledweyne from Al Shabaab militants.
Rashid Abdi, a Somalia specialist with the International Crisis Group, noted
that Amisom, Ethiopian, KDF and other troops in Somalia have managed to
substantially dismantle the command structure of Al Shabaab by killing
senior leaders in the past one year, affecting the militia's planning and
But he warned that the fact that Al Shabaab did not retaliate over the
holidays does not mean that they are down and out.
Mr Abdi said that there is still a wide gap on the Kenyan side in terms of
training to pre-empt attacks and a knowledge base on the Shabaab, compared
with Ethiopia, which is better equipped because of its history of
intervention in Somalia.
While Kenya last month asked to join Amisom, Ethiopia has said that it will
not join the UN mission and plans to leave Somalia soon.
This raises the questions of whether the AU will try to persuade more
countries to join to fill the gap left by Ethiopian troops once they
In Mogadishu, the recent entry of Djibouti has boosted Amisom, which now
controls 98 per cent of the city. Signs that the militia are feeling the
heat came last week when Al Shabaab leaders reacted angrily to news that the
AU is arranging to intensify its military campaign, a move the militants
described as plans for "terrorist attacks."
In a sign that war-weary Somalis are optimistic that the tide could be
turning, a recent meeting in Garowe, Puntland saw the first discussion on
something some leaders of the TGF in Mogadishu had been avoiding - the shape
of a future federal Somalia.
The sensitivity of this issue had led to suspicion that Kenya and Ethiopia
were part of a plot with the US and NATO to balkanise Somalia into
mini-states run by different clans as a strategy to suck out the oxygen from
the militants, and also partly as a self-interested ploy to establish
spheres of influence.
Puntland, unlike Somaliland, has indicated that it is willing to rejoin
Somalia if it embraces the idea of a true federation or loose confederation.
The haggling over a post-conflict Somalia might just have begun.
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Received on Mon Jan 09 2012 - 09:34:02 EST