Kenya’s intervention in Somalia October 2011, the first since the country’s independence, came as a surprise to the many Horn of Africa observers.
The raison d’être for intervening at that time was to pursue Al Shabaab members who abducted aid workers in Northern Kenya and kidnapped tourist along the Kenyan coast.
While this sounded plausible then, the shifting dynamics in Kenya and Somalia makes this goal at best tenuous and at worst counterproductive.
In Kenya, since the intervention, the security has deteriorated especially along the coast, northern Kenya and Nairobi, calling into question the rationale of the intervention- charity begins at home, and if Kenya is not secure, why are they in Somalia.
While some of the grenade attacks have been the work of opportunistic criminal groups and rival business in fighting, some, like the attack in church in Garissa bear all the hall mark of Al Shabaab. Further, they have through the media outlet made clear they carried out some of the attacks.
Almost three years since the intervention, that Kenya is still suffering this attacks, speaks to a serious intelligence breakdown as far as intercepting these attacks is concerned. The death of police officers in northern Kenya has gone for too long.
And Inside Somalia, and, specifically in Kismayo, Kenya’s support for specif individuals and by extension their clan members, is pushing Kenya into a treacherous waters, which ultimately will undo any gains made since intervention, but such wrongheaded support for some clan makes Al Shabaab look good- they transcend clan divisions, and could easily be used another opportunity for recruitment, and more reason to attack Kenya.
Kenya needs to outline what they want to achieve in Somalia, and set out a clear timetable of withdrawing. The window between when they are regarded as liberators and invaders has long been closed. And the tremendous goodwill by Somalis towards Kenya is at an all time low.
Having a clear objective guards against mission creep- which in this case is clearly the case, but it also make the Somali’s to take care of their responsibilities, something they very eager to demonstrate.