Kenya gets regional support for its Somali incursion

By Simon Allison 18 November 2011

It’s been a busy week for Kenya’s diplomats as they’ve flown around the world trying to secure international support for their country’s incursion into Somalia, where the Kenyan military is in the middle of an audacious (if overambitious) attempt to get rid of the threat posed by Islamic militants Al Shabaab. So far, Kenya’s shuttle diplomacy is paying off. By SIMON ALLISON.

After securing an alliance with Israel, Kenya focussed its efforts on East Africa, a move which paid off handsomely as Burundi and Uganda both pledged their full support and cooperation. This is important, because it’s Burundian and Ugandan troops that make up the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the 9,000-strong force which keeps Somalia’s official government, the Transitional Federal Government, in power. In effect, if not yet officially, this commits the African Union to supporting Kenya’s actions. Kenya has offered to add troops to the Amisom contingent, and called for other countries who have pledged more troops –Djibouti and Sierra Leone – to hurry up and get their men on the ground. Ethiopia is also reported to be contemplating sending reinforcements.

As for the TFG, after initial prevarication they have also come out in favour of the Kenyan intervention. Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed joined his Kenyan and Ugandan counterparts Mwai Kibaki and Yoweri Museveni in Nairobi where they discussed how to combine their efforts against Al Shabaab.

This is an important development. At the moment, there are three fighting forces chasing the militants in Somalia. There’s the Kenyan army, the Amisom forces, and the militias loosely aligned to the TFG. They don’t work together very well, and until now there didn’t seem to be much cooperation. In fact, until now there’s been no clarity on whether or not the TFG even wanted Kenyan involvement. However, even with the renewed cooperation the anti-Al Shabaab alliance is likely to struggle against the guerrilla tactics favoured by the al Qaeda-linked group. DM

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