Vol. 36, No. 6
Kenya, Somalia's response to al Shabaab
On Thursday October 13, two Spanish doctors working with Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped by al Shabaab gunmen at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa. This was the third incident in two months in which foreigners were abducted by gunmen and taken to Somalia.
It marked an escalation of cross-border raids by the Islamic militants who have abducted two tourists, Marieu Dedieu from France and Judith Tebbutt from England, whose husband, David, was killed.
The attackers, who were armed with AK-47 rifles, were reportedly among the refugees who had stayed in the camp for some time. Many believe that there are more al Shabaab fighters in the camp pretending to be refugees.
On October 18, Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reported that at a meeting in Mogadishu between Sheikh Shariff, president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), and a Kenyan delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, the TFG and the Kenyan government agreed to develop a common security strategy to fight the militia, since the al Shabaab constitutes a common enemy.
An article published on the website Somali Youth for Peace reports: "The meeting with the president was convened against the backdrop of the growing spate of armed attacks by the al Shabaab elements on Kenya.
"The meeting deliberated on the current situation on the ground, and noted as follows:
"That the prolonged situation of crisis and conflict in Somalia, resulting from the collapse of the Somalia state in 1991, has progressively mutated into a myriad of threats to the Somalia population, the neighboring states, the region and the international community.
"The region, through IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] and the AU [Africa Union], has consistently called upon the international community to focus serious attention on these growing threats. However, most of these pleas have been met with inadequate, inconsistent and unsustainable support.
"The security situation in Somalia improved following the defeat of al Shabaab after six months of intensive military operations by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM [Africa Mission in Somalia] forces and their subsequent withdrawal from Mogadishu on 6th August 2011. However, the al Shabaab group has since re-grouped and is posing a significant threat to the peace and security in Somalia and throughout the region.
"Further, the al Shabaab relocation towards Lower Juba, near the border, has seen some of its elements infiltrate into Kenya and commit heinous crimes, including abductions of foreign nationals within Kenya, attacking civilians, destroying property and obstructing humanitarian efforts for the more than 600,000 refugees hosted in the Dadaab complex. More fundamentally, these activities increasingly pose threats to public safety and security within Kenya, create anxiety among the populations and negatively impact Kenya's economy.
"The recent spate of blatant attacks is indicative of a changed strategy by al Shabaab calculated to terrorize civilians. This warrants decisive action to forestall the threats of al Shabaab elements to the humanitarian operations, restore security in the border areas and ensure that insurgents do not launch attacks against Kenya, the region and beyond.
"Based on the discussion, the two sides agreed that al Shabaab constitutes a common enemy to both countries, and therefore, they should evolve a common political and security strategy to address this threat. In this regard, they agreed to:
"1. Continue working together to stabilize Somalia and to stamp out the threats of the al Shabaab elements ....
2. Cooperate in undertaking security and military operations in the Lower Juba regions of Somalia and to undertake coordinated pre-emptive action, and pursuit of any armed elements that continue to threaten and attack both countries. In this regard, both sides agreed to revamp the joint mechanism to ensure enhanced cooperation and coordination in all aspects.
3. Reaffirm their commitment to continue to work together in urging the international community to favorably consider the recommendations and decisions of the IGAD and AU in relation to strengthening the Peace Support Operation in Somalia.
4. Express their determination to strengthen the existing cooperation between the two sides. In this regard, they agreed:
- To facilitate cooperation among communities along the border on matters of mutual interest.
- To cooperate and collaborate in sharing and exchange of information that is relevant to the fight against cross border crimes.
- To continue working with the international community in the implementation of Peace Support operations as well as humanitarian action in Somalia.
6. H.E the President of Somalia reaffirmed the commitment of the TFG to fully implement the Kampala Accord of 9th June 2011."