I know that most countries are born of blood. No one cedes territory easily. I guess the French were happy to get paid for Louisiana, but by and large it’s fought over and someone wins. The war in South Sudan breaks my heart. For so long the north and the south have been fighting, and last summer it looked like South Sudan, the newest country in the world would make it.
Being the realist that I am, I didn’t really think they were going to break from the North without bloodshed. I’ve seen people slaughtered in Africa over tribal issues. This isn’t even just tribal: it’s oil. Yeah, goopy, precious oil that the South has. The North, though, has the pipelines and the military. A situation poised for a showdown.
Wherever there are valuable resources in the poverty stricken countries of Africa some do very, very well. But the farmer, the pastoralist, the small businesswoman selling tomatoes or beans on the side of the road, the child chasing a chicken in the middle of the road, these are the ones slaughtered in the fight over the resources. Today’s Washington Post has some particularly poignant photos of the South Sudanese caught in caves, hiding from the bombs and planes flying overhead. I am glad that I can read an American paper that talks about this tragedy. Usually I have to go to an African one. I have put a link to them at the bottom of this blog.
I write today out of sorrow, out of frustration, out a question when or why. I have promised to be only a raindrop and do the small thing that I do, but when do we evolve upwards towards a better being. A patient of mine asked me a similar question today and I tried to answer it. Frankly, I don’t know. I wonder about folks like me, whether indeed we make a difference. I wonder if we shall ever stop fighting over our God, our tribe, our best interests, our resources. And I wonder if anyone cares about the innocents caught in the crossfire. If you do, leave me a note. Let me know what you think. Where to next?
Remember Francis my driver? Despite the grenades going off when last I was in Kenya, he reassured me that El Shabbab was nothing. I can’t tell whether that was wishful thinking or meant to keep my tourist dollars over there.
Today I read an extremely cogent article by Ken Menkhaus of enough project.org. His best sentence is this: Intervention strategies that plan the war but not the peace will fail. That should by the byword for all countries.
It’s not just Kenya, but imagine of Bush had thought about planning the peace in Iraq or Afghanistan.
What is so wonderful about this article is that he painstakingly spells out the problems of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia. Now campers, I wish you would read the whole thing and indeed here is the link:http://www.enoughproject.org/files/MenkhausKenyaninterventionSomalia.pdf
But since I find that folks don’t like to read lengthy articles I’m going to give you the highlights
Kenya’s military capacity to wage war. Kenya’s military has very limited experience in direct combat, and, with the exception of some peacekeeping deployments, has never waged war across the Kenyan border. Some analysts worry that Kenya’s untested forces will fare poorly in clashes with Somali forces on Somali terrain. Related to this concern are worries that Kenya initiated this attack in the early weeks of the dheere rainy sea- son, when track roads become impassable and heavy military equipment gets bogged down. This is one of the reasons Kenyan forces moved so slowly in the first two months of the campaign. This gave many observers the impression that the Kenyan offensive was not adequately planned.
Unclear objectives. Kenyan officials have expressed divergent goals. They have at different points claimed the aim is to prevent Shabaab from engaging in cross-border abductions of tourists, defeat Shabaab, capture the strategic seaport of Kismayo, and to secure the border area.
Shabaab terrorist reprisal attacks in Kenya. Kenya is exceptionally vulnerable to Shabaab terrorist attacks. Shabaab moves freely in and out of Kenya, where the group does business, recruits, and engages in fundraising. A major Shabaab terrorist attack
in Kenya would have devastating consequences for Kenyan tourism and business. Observers have expressed alarm that Shabaab could make good on threats to take
the war to Kenya, and that Kenya would be less secure as a result of its offensive into Somalia. As evidence of this, foreign embassies have elevated security alerts for Kenya. Two grenade attacks in Nairobi, carried out by a professed Kenyan Shabaab member and recent convert to Islam, have amplified these fears. Shabaab leaders have implored their followers in Kenya to launch jihadi attacks in Kenya, a tactic that could produce “lone wolf ” terrorism in addition to planned Shabaab attacks. The actual threat may beoverstated, however, as Kenya’s value to Somali interests makes it risky for Shabaab to launch a major terrorist attack there. But the danger could grow larger the longer Kenyan forces stay inside Somalia.
Kenyan offensive as tool for Shabaab recruitment. Observers have raised concerns that Kenya’s military operation into Somali territory could work to Shabaab’s advantage,
by rallying Somalis against a foreign occupation, in much the same way that Shabaab enjoyed significant popular support when Ethiopia occupied Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008. Though Somalis are exhausted from war and are devoting most of their resources to assisting relatives affected by the famine, a sustained Kenyan military presence, with inevitable reports of civilian casualties, runs the risk of generating a new wave of Somali jihadi recruits and fund-raisers for Shabaab. The ill-advised public announcement of Israeli counterterrorism support to Kenya was exactly the kind of misstep that Shabaab could parlay into propaganda to turn the Jubbaland intervention into a jihadi cause.8 So far few Somalis and Somali Kenyans appear to have joined Shabaab in response to either the Kenyan or Ethiopian military offensives in southern Somalia; Shabaab appears instead to be relying more and more on forced conscription.
Prospects of quagmire in Kismayo. Questions have been raised about how Kenyan forces will fare if and when they take the city of Kismayo. In a crowded urban setting, Kenya’s military will lose some of the advantage it enjoys from its armored vehicles and heavy weapons, and will be more vulnerable to urban guerilla warfare and the use of roadside bombs. It could become bogged down in counterinsurgency warfare that Ethiopian forces and now African Union peacekeepers, or AMISOM, have faced in Mogadishu since 2007. There is reason to hope that local populations are so furious with Shabaab policies—especially forced recruitment and heavy taxation—that they will turn on Shabaab and prevent it from waging insurgency attacks in the town. But most communities in Somalia today are so fearful of reprisals that they are more likely to lay low and do nothing.
It’s a really good article folks.