It is with a sad heart rather than a self-righteous-I-told-you-so attitude that I remind regular readers of this blog of the warnings I issued about Somalia last year, long before the current crisis even started showing signs of erupting.
Two events happened late yesterday that clearly sounded warning bells that Kenya is in serious trouble over the Somalia crisis. Firstly President Kibaki cancelled a trip to his native Othaya to chair a security meeting in Nairobi. Then local TV channels gave the Somalia crisis unprecedented prominent coverage in the prime time news slots.
Although there has been fighting for weeks as American-backed Ethiopian troops swept through the country uprooting elements of the Islamic courts government, something in this seemingly endless crisis changed yesterday that makes Kenya even more vulnerable. And that is the American air bomb raids on what they believe are al Qaeda strongholds in the country. The American bombing was a big mistake and in my opinion will only fan flames of hatred and make a peaceful conclusion to the Somalia crisis even more difficult. It was a mistake because the success of air raids is surely a very dodgy affair ad it would have been best to leave any clean up operations to the Ethiopian troops already on the ground. By now everybody knows what terror groups are best known for, nay what they do best.
Personally I believe that it is no accident that Kenya has been the victim of terror attacks not once, but twice since 1997. It is mainly because Somalia is a major al Qaeda outpost. Indeed the terror group's international terrorism campaign grew out of this tiny East African nation that has not had a government for over a decade. The Nairobi and Dar-es-salaam US embassy bombings were an important step leading to the 9/11 attacks on American soil.
Something else that I am persuaded to believe is that the Kibaki administration must be under intense pressure from the American government to act against Somalia. Hence the current purge on Somalia nationals living in the country. Given the government's reluctance in the past to bend over quickly to American whims, blackmail in this case cannot be ruled out. As the Americans themselves would put it, this is an issue where they are bound to play hardball. So although I have no hard evidence there is little doubt that there is an American hand in the recent bold moves taken by the Kibaki administration.
So what is the worse we can expect from the Somalia crisis? The probability is high that we might see terror attacks on key installations in Kenya launched by remnants of the fallen Islamic courts outfit that ruled a significant chunk of Somalia until the Ethiopians rolled into town last week. Even more likely will be escalating violent crime involving weapons spilling over from the Somalia crisis. More so in view of the fact that one of their major fund-raising activities of piracy off the Indian Ocean coast has been curtailed by heavy American presence and patrols currently taking place there. Closing the border was the right decision but it is hardly the sort of thing that will stop Somalian insurgents from sneaking into the country.
There is good reason for Kenyans to hold their breath and pray hard over these latest developments.