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Ratio Blog: No Somalia Solutions AU Summit, but Higher EAC Risk? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Initially, this month’s AU summit was going to focus on mother and child health. But that topic suddenly lost much of its importance: The summit took place in Kampala only a week after the horrific bomb attacks in which more than 80 people died in two venues where they had watched the World Cup final. After some smug expressions of general-purpose approval of the bombings, Al Shabaab – not exactly known as vuvuzela-blowing party animals back home in Somalia either after they slapped a ban on footie watching – then claimed responsibility for the attack.

Regardless of this, the summit went ahead in Kampala, with security cranked up a good bit more, and a lot of very gung-ho, manly chest-beating calling for troop increases. Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni in particular wanted 20,000 or even 30,000 more troops in Somalia. Uganda is practically the only country that was willing to provide troops for the current ANISOM mission in Somalia, sprinkled with a few men from Burundi. A few years ago when the US tried to nudge the UN into a peacekeeping mission, hardly anyone in Africa was ready to send their people – perfectly understandable since there was no peace to keep in the first place, even the best-equipped army in the world, the US military, couldn’t hack it in Somalia in the early 1990s, and in any case, the official Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia is little more than a joke, powerlessly clinging on to a few streets in Mogadishu thanks to the international support and squabbling away. Even the Ethiopians, again paid for by the US, found that it was all a bit of an explosive headache, and so pulled out of Somalia.

Partly, what will happen next will boil down to money: often, developing country governments are quite happy to provide troops for UN missions: they collect good money for these assignments and don’t pass all of it on to the people who actually get sent on the mission. So the typical division of labour is that rich countries pay, and poor countries go out and get shot at. The US - still the military superpower and historically keenest on an intervention - are overstretched and overspent in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so they will not have the financial resources for another large-scale intervention. And thankfully, there appears some gradual acceptance that such an approach would not stand a better chance than any of the previous attempts. So at the moment, there is talk of another 2,000 soldiers being shipped to Somalia in the short term, a far more modest solution.

Either way, the non-vuvuzela-loving Al Shabaab will probably receive any additional troops with open arms. Figuratively only, mind you, because the actual reception will still be with guns and explosives: Having foreigners to fight against is useful as it unites the combat professionals in Somalia. In the absence of any outsider to unite against, they will then return to fighting each other.

However, what I find most troubling is that in the discussion of beefed up military interventions, little attention has been devoted to the fact that Kenya and Uganda remain as ever vulnerable to such devastating attacks as in Kampala recently or in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The threat of an attack by Islamic militants has been on Kenya’s risk profile since then. On a day-to-day basis, most businesses worry more about other security risks: theft of their goods either in transport or from warehouses, muggings of their employees, fire hazards, and so on. Nevertheless, there is an awareness that Kenya is at risk of suffering another bomb blast, and private or diplomatic security services for places like Westgate and Village Market have factored this in. But look at the security services provided by the government: Mostly we’re relieved if the police don’t hit on us for cash or stick a gun in our faces. And, to be fair, underpaid und underequipped, the police don’t really have very supportive employment conditions. In Uganda, the situation is similar. One of the main suspects of the previous bombings in Kenya, Fazul, is said to have traveled through Kenya repeatedly and escaped arrest. Cross-border fighting in northern Kenya during the AU discussions just underscored the gap between ambitious rhetoric and fact.

It is practically impossible for Somalia’s neighbouring countries – or anyone else, for that matter – to find a military solution to the conflict in Somalia. But improving domestic security is possible. Difficult, clearly, given the legacy issues, but possible. And it’s long overdue. If anything, the events in Kampala shouldn’t trigger another round of calls for an aimless military intervention, but some good hard thinking about domestic security. For Kenya, this becomes even more important in the context of extensive infrastructure plans for northern Kenya around Lamu. If these are not another white elephant and go ahead, the Kenyan government will stick a port, pipeline, possibly a refinery and other installations conveniently on the doorstep of the militants. This generously saves them the long and dusty bus ride to Nairobi. What’s the plan to secure these facilities, GoK, other than hosting the odd chair-throwing exile government in a Nairobi hotel?

Republished with kind permission by The Star.



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written by Kalangala Ferry, August 11, 2010
The comedy kinda got in the way a little but an otherwise good piece.
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written by Kalangala Ferry, August 11, 2010
The comedy kinda got in the way a little but an otherwise good piece.
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