Sunday, April 19, 2009


The trail of more than 20 suspected pirates arrested by Nato and European Union forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the frequent incursions by suspected al-Shabaab militants are raising concern within the Kenyan security agencies.

There is fear that the Mogadishu-based insurgents, who are believed by security operatives to have accomplices in Somalia, might help to coordinate retaliation against Kenya.

The Kenya government has been at pains to practise its non-alignment foreign policy, especially with no lines of communication with Somalia — a nation that has borne the brunt of warlords and factional fighting for nearly 18 years.

Somali speaking people cover the entire horn of Africa and number around 20Million spanning Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ethiopian intelligence operatives monitoring Somalia have recommended the invasion of the country and withdrawal. They have done that in their failed attempt to sit in Mogadishu and help the Interim Somalia Government. The Kenyan provincial administration and security officials are forced to rely on unpredictable and sometimes ineffective local religious leaders to mediate and resolve issues.

However, kenya's Foreign Affairs ministry official said the Horn of Africa division, headed by a Mr Maikara, has been monitoring activities in the war-torn country over a long period.
“We have a facilitator, Mr Kipruto arap Kirwa, appointed by President Kibaki as Kenya’s special representative for Somalia at the African Union. The Horn of Africa division in the ministry of Foreign Affairs that handles Somalia issues, is very active.”

But the Somalia issue is a complicated affair owing to its long standing historical problems. Kenya has to do everything to ensure that there are administrative structures in Somalia because what goes on there directly affects Kenya.

“Issues of piracy and al-Shabaab have drawn a lot of international attention,” said an official who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to journalists.

He said Kenya has been in the forefront in rallying the international community to pressurise warring parties in Somalia to work together. The signing last week of a memorandum of understanding between Kenyan Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula and the Somalia minister for Planning, Mr Abdirahman Warsame, is already causing ripples in Mogadishu, with Islamists, the opposition and the media claiming that the Somalia government has been duped into ceding part of its territory to Kenya. In the MoU, the two countries commit themselves to reviewing maritime boundaries under the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea.

So strained have the relations between Kenya and Somalia been that Mr Wetang’ula at one time threatened to ban the then Somalia transitional federal government president, Mr Abdullahi Yusuf, from entering Kenya for what he termed his lack of cooperation to bring order in his country. The Kenyan ambassador to Somalia works from Nairobi.

The northwest frontier, the Previous NFD Kenya, The current North Eastern Province, has been Kenya’s problem since the colonial days when there was an attempt to secede. But the holding of 42 suspected pirates in Kenya, including 10 serving a seven-year jail sentence each at Shimo la Tewa prison in Mombasa and 32 others are facing trial, is likely to put Kenya at a greater security risk.

Al-Shabaab, a somali militia outfit has warned Kenya of dire consequences if it cooperates with the international community in the war on terrorism or piracy. Both local and international intelligence and security agencies fear that the proceeds of piracy are being laundered in Kenya. On a number of occasions, Somalia insurgents have crossed into the country, raided police stations to rescue their colleagues and escaped with weapons and vehicles.

Intelligence sources suspect that insurgents from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab, who are fighting the UN-backed Somalia government and have taken over large swathes of the war-torn country bordering Kenya, are infiltrating the country. Intelligence sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the media, revealed that they gather all the information and pass it on to the relevant security agencies for action. It is for the agencies to do whatever they deem necessary with the information.

The military intelligence, like the National Security Intelligence Service, has been monitoring the activities of Somalia refugees and other people entering the country as they patrol the notorious 1,800km border with Somalia. The money transfer systems, commonly referred to as Hawala and which does not go through the regular banking system, and other cross-border business activities are also under close scrutiny by intelligence and security agents. The influx of hundreds of thousands of Somalia refugees into Kenya, some without the documents, is causing a lot of concern within the government, especially the security agencies.

Kenya Army has instituted an operation by the name OPERATION LINDA MPAKA which was launched on 29 th December 2006 following the breakout of hostilities in Somalia between the main protagonists in the conflict, fighters of Council of Islamic Court (SCIC) fighters and the Transitional Government Forces (TGF) supported by Ethiopian forces. The conflict was trigged by an incessant stalemate in the Khartoum talks. Fundamentally Operation Linda Mpaka is intended to ensure peace and security along the Kenya- Somalia border by denying entry into Kenya fleeing SCLC political leadership, senior commands and their fighters. Since its inception, several arrests of key political leaders have been made. Similarly, persons wanted for their terrorists' activities in Somalia have also been arrested and repatriated. It is envisaged that the operation will continue for sometime subject to a general pacification in the Somalia crisis. On humanitarian civic assistance, the Kenya Army has initiated humanitarian civic initiatives targeting drilling of boreholes and the provision of medical services.

The insurgents are suspected to be involved in the inter-clan fighting that has rocked North-Eastern province on several occasions. It is for this reason that the military was deployed there to embark on a major weapons mopping operation. There are fears that different Somalia factions with cells in Kenya might extend their fighting into the country.

In early March, Somalia militia abducted four senior Kenyan education officers and their driver held them for three days on a charge of crossing into Somalia without permission. They were released after the local leaders’ intervention.

In July, last year, armed Somali militiamen crossed into Kenya at a remote Mandera outpost and ambushed and abducted two police officers. Two days later, the officers’ mutilated bodies were found hanging from trees in a hilly area on the Somalia side of the border. The Kenyan security agents ranted and threatened to cross into Somalia to avenge the officers’ killing, but did not.

In another attack later, Somalia militiamen in three vehicles raided the Dedajabulla administration police camp, about 20km from the border, and rescued two terror suspects who had been arrested by police. They injured a police officer and made awy with a police vehicle and three guns after overpowering Kenyan security forces.

On several occasions, the military and both regular and administration police have been deployed in Mandera to counter acts of aggression by the insurgents. The militiamen then were suspected to be members of the al -Shabaab group that has taken over control of most of Somalia, including the Gedo region that straddles the border.

During a recent operation, security officers in Mandera recovered six mortar bombs and hundreds of guns. All the weapons had been sneaked into the country through the porous border. Some of these weapons find their way into Nairobi where they are used to commit violent crimes.
Sources privy to a joint police military operation in Mandera said the operation was sanctioned following intelligence reports of al-Shabaab’s involvement in the attacks.