Being extremely familiar with the Somali situation since the 1960s (and even earlier) I often laugh rather bitterly at the naïve comments and ideas flying all over the place about ending the al Shabaab menace.
Sadly the vast majority of Kenyans are sure that if KDF withdraws from Somalia terrorist attacks in Kenya will stop PAP!! Reminds me of the poor female university students who were told by the same terrorists that if they came out of hiding they would not be killed because the terrorists' religion did not allow for the killing of women and children.
Even before I give you the information I am about to give you consider one simple fact. al Shabaab is a group that has extremely close links to Al Qaeda. That means that as long as Kenya continues to host major American and Israeli interests it will continue to be a target. Even if we withdraw from Somalia.
Secondly withdrawing from Somalia will release much more financing to the currently cash-strapped al Shabaab allowing them to launch bigger and more frequent attacks against Kenya.
While you chew on that let me tell you a true story.
Mutunga (his real name) was a police constable and driver to a senior high ranking policeman in Isiolo. The year was 1967 and the Shifta war (which was mostly a guerilla war) was ongoing.
Mutunga was driving his superior one lovely sunny afternoon when suddenly without any warning the police Landrover they were in was lifted high in the air. They had hit a landmine. When the vehicle landed on the ground again with a thud Mutunga’s boss was badly injured with a suspected punctured lung. Mutunga himself was much worse off. Being at the front of the Landrover he had taken the full brunt of the mine. All the bones in his leg had been shattered and were almost powder. He was obviously in great pain.
Frantic efforts were made to radio Nairobi for an aircraft to airlift him for urgent medical attention in the city. The police officer running the operation (and my informant for this article) got Mutunga’s boss to a hospital in Meru where the doctors grimly said that had he arrived moments later he would have almost certainly died because his lungs had stuck together after the explosion meaning that as he breathed there was no movement in his lungs. The police officer breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that one officer had been saved even as he battled to save Mutunga’s life.
He finally convinced a “mzungu” pilot to land his small aircraft in the Isiolo airstrip after running police lorries across it several times up to the moment the aircraft started it’s final approach to ensure that there were no mines.
My source says that he will not forget that moment in the aircraft when he bid Mutunga goodbye giving him a bottle of water to sip (thirst is a sign of enormous internal bleeding). The brave semi-illiterate policeman was still answering “Yes sir” as loudly as he could even as he lay there dying with his badly broken body. Radio contact was maintained as the aircraft flew back to Nairobi with its’ sole passenger. A humble police officer who had never been on an aircraft before. In those days aircrafts could not land at Wilson Airport at night because there was no electricity there yet. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was still decades away from being constructed. So as the aircraft approached Embakasi International Airport the pilot heard some strange noise at the back of his aircraft. He did not need to look back to know that Mutunga had died minutes away from medical attention. The information was radioed back to Isiolo and the sad news was passed on to his colleagues. The Shifta war had claimed the precious life of yet another Kenyan.
Opinion is divided as to how that war finally petered off. Some say that President Jomo Kenyatta got the help of Tanzania president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who acted as a go-between and talked to the then Somali president Siad Barre of Somalia to “cool off.” Others say that the war just run out of steam as other priorities emerged for Somalis.
Whatever happened then, the time has now come for Kenyans to face the naked truth, no matter how unpalatable it is. What I am saying is that Somali extremists have always had what appears to them a good enough reason to be at war with Kenya.
One last parting story.
I personally witnessed a Somali national being refused entry into Tanzania at the Namanga border about 2 years ago. His papers were in order but immigration officials exercised their prerogative to deny entry.
Contrast that to Nairobi’s response. When a Kenyan immigration officer sees a Somali, they see money and a fat bribe. Tanzanian immigration officers are also corrupt but they know the sharp distinction between corruption that endangers national security and corruption that does not. Again former President Moi’s reason for allowing the influx of Somalis into the country was because the foreign exchange they brought in kept the country going at a difficult time. President Kibaki had a chance to tackle the problem but his response like in everything else was inconsistent, disjointed, indecisive and devoid of any long term strategy. During Kibaki’s tenure, flights out of Wilson Airport to Somalia were grounded at least twice for short periods of time. The border with Somalia was also closed once only to be reopened. Army patrols on the same stretch of our porous borders started way too late and have never been consistent.
Yet even a primary school child would have seen a long time ago that Somalis are a serious threat to our national security. For instance all the guns used in crime and murder in the country (save the ones belonging to policemen) come in from Somalia. You can be sure that political assassins are bound to use the same hardware. The taxman also gets deprived of billions of shillings in taxes by the Somalis in Eastleigh. Before President Uhuru's much criticized clampdown on Eastleigh people had started importing stuff from Dubai and receiving it at Eastleigh. Yep Eastleigh had become an increasingly large inland port in Kenya.
The bottom line is that now it is way too late to do much about the Somalia issue except recognize it for what it really is; a war that we must face squarely and fight with all our might to win at all costs.
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