Diplomatic dilemma as Kenya mulls over Somalia exit strategy

By PAUL WAFULA

 

Kenya’s exit strategy from Somalia has hit a major diplomatic wall after Mogadishu developed hostility towards the new leadership of a newly formed autonomous region in southern Somalia.

 

The Standard on Sunday has also learnt the reluctance by Somalia’s federal government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to warm up to Sheikh Ahmed Madobe’s leadership at Kismayu has created tension between Mogadishu and Nairobi.

 

This development has complicated Kenya’s plan to exit the war torn-country in what jeopardises an operation that has already gobbled up more than Sh18 billion and lost several lives.

 

Buffer zone

 

It is understood that Kenya is counting on the new administration at Kismayu to take charge of the region and form a buffer zone before its troops, alongside the African Union (AU) forces, fade out quietly.

 

Multiple sources interviewed in Kismayu among them the Kenya Defence Forces, the new President of Somalia’s newest region and locals reckon it will now take much longer than expected to pull KDF out of Somalia. Kenya has been fighting alongside Somali forces since October 2011 in an operation dubbed Linda Nchi, and it was expected to have left the nation after the war against the militant group is completed. People familiar with the operation said Kenya does not want to follow the footsteps of US and Ethiopia who were forced to exit without finding a long-lasting solution.

 

US in 1992 retreated without success while Ethiopia was forced to pull out in 2009 after three years of heavy casualties.

 

“Just getting rid of the Al-Shabaab would have been simple, but the new challenges like stabilising Jubaland, handing over the region to a new leadership have made it impossible to tell when we are ever going to leave Somalia,” a captain in charge of one of the troops in Somalia told The Standard on Sunday in an interview at Kismayu. “We have also been delayed by the conferences that have seen the election of new leaders. Details are still sketchy but we are working with a tentative plan of moving to capture the remaining towns, especially in the Gedo region. The truth is we are not leaving this place any time in the near future if events on the ground remain this way,” the captain not authorised to speak to the media said.

 

But it is Mogadishu’s refusal to participate in the political process, which is now at the final stages in Kismayu that is proving to be the greatest headache for President Madobe’s leadership.

 

Madobe factor

 

Sheikh Islam, popularly known as Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, was elected through a process that cost Sh330 million ($3.9million) as the president of the Jubaland State of Somalia. Jubaland comprises of three regions– Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedo and is located towards the south of Somalia. Madobe was elected by a conference 500 elders and local leaders.

The reluctance by Mogadishu to recognise the new leadership at Kismayu is threatening to widen the rift and mistrust between the federal government and Madobe’s local government.

 

Giving out cash

 

It has also emerged that Mogadishu could be dishing out money to elders in Kismayu, with a view to weaken the support that Madobe has on the ground.

 

“We have seen the delegation from Mogadishu here in Kismayu at a local hotel call out individuals aside. Talking to them, we have established that some are being given some money. People are very poor here and some money can easily turn one clan against the other,” the source said.

 

Madobe maintains that his government will proceed with the remaining bit of stabilising Somalia under the realisation that the troops in the country will not be staying in Somalia forever.

 

“The delegates are currently in the process of electing 65 members of parliament who will be drawn from all the clans here in Jubaland. We will then appoint a cabinet to start work. Our first assignment is to liberate the remaining area of Jubaland from the Al-shabaab,” President Madobe said.  “We also want to be able to put in place the mechanism that will provide for the realization of one man one vote, deal with security, education, reconciliation and rehabilitation issues,” Mr Madobe said.

 

But it is not just the central government that is opposed to the new administration in Kismayu.

 

Warlord’s decree

 

Last week, a warlord in Jubaland declared himself “president” of the region, shortly after the election of Madobe to the post.

 

Mr Barre Hirale, a former Somali defence minister and warlord who comes from a rival clan, declared himself as president at separate conference. However, Mr Madobe dismissed this development arguing that everyone was aware of the process that saw him elected as president and any other person is an imposter.

 

However, the move by Somalia’s other state, Puntland, to congratulate the new leadership at Kismayu has been seen as a major boost to president Madobe’s reign.

 

“Puntland congratulates the people of Jubaland State and the new President-elect on organising a community-led consultative conference, adopting a new State Charter, and electing a new President today,” a statement from Office of the President of Puntland said Wednesday.

Puntland said the formation of Jubaland State was fully in accordance with the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) of Somalia.

 

Source: Standard Online Media

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