Kenya: The Westgate Attack and the Somali Labyrinth – Alex Ndungu Njeru


Two years ago, when Kenyan soldiers brazenly invaded Somalia, I wrote a piece on my third rate blog condemning the move . At the time Kenya was beating herself on the chest, don’t we have one of the best military forces in the Eastern Africa region? Don’t we have the power to obliterate the enemy and flush them out from their dungeons and bunkers? At that time I we seemed to think that we were larger than life, that we were invincible, and that we could swash Al Shabab away like a man would do to a housefly with a fly whisk.

Part of the reason I did not support Kenya’s military foray is that I felt we were going in at the spur of an emotional moment. We were not ready for war and even if we were, we were not ready for the consequences. A few months before the Kenya Defence forces foray into Somalia there had been a few sporadic attacks mainly in Lamu a Coastal tourist resort town and some other areas as well. I thought we were itching for war, I thought that we would get more than we bargained for. I was not seeking for vindication as a matter of fact I cringed at any form of vindication.

On Saturday the 21st September, we suffered the biggest terror attack of the decade, more than 62 people lost their lives, and hundreds more were physically injured. Thousands more are suffering from psychological scars, suffering from torrential questions, and wondering why we had to suffer this. When the Kenya Defence forces went into Somalia in December 2011 there was a clear sense of optimism that they would obliterate Al-shabab.

To Kenya, Somalia is neighbour that is so near yet so far, we know very little of the land apart from  the few pictures and footages we see on international media of a war and hunger ravaged country. The Somali culture is so different from the culture in Kenya and certainly we had little or sparse intelligence on Somalia. On those counts alone I thought that we needed not and on the count that we needed not beget violence and terror for our military overtures we made into Somalia.

When we were going into Somalia we had very little intelligence of Al-shabab, the AL-shabab like most guerrilla like fighters are; fluid amorphous and hydras-esque. Kenya was shooting and groping in the dark, they had no jugular to go after and thus the solution to obliterating Al-shabab becomes elusive.

The facts of the matter are this; Somalia is a large balkanized country, its pretence at statehood ended in the early nineties and there are numerous clans that come up against each other, tribal lords control huge swathes of land and Somalia is probably the only place on earth that would benefit from an Eastern Europe-esque balkanization. Somalia as an entity recognized in by the international community needs to cease to exist. Smaller political units say four or five need to develop as smaller units will be easier to control and bring under law and order.

Somalia is a labyrinth, one wonders what the land and the people of Somalia desire for peace. There is an economy on Somalia solely dependent on conflict and anarchy, the main players in these economy of conflict are perhaps the biggest impediment to peace in Somalia. There are all sorts of trades that go on in Somalia like the charcoal exports to the Gulf nations which are worth at least 25 Million US$D a year, and the smuggling of various goods like electronics through a 400 mile porous border with Kenya. There are tycoons dependent on conflict are the ones that fan the Somalia conflict, they fund the militias and certainly do not want the war to end.

The terrorism that confronts the Horn of Africa region is a global problem. There are pretty pronounced allegations that most of the Westgate siege attackers were from different nationalities including Western nations. Nations of the world need to work in synergy to strangle down the life blood of most terrorist organizations the life-blood being finances and fertile ground for indoctrination.

Alex did warn the Kenyan authorities on Al Shabab