Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Al Shabaab War: Did Kenya Count the Cost?


Since its independence, in 1963, Kenya has nary embarked on any war with any country. Now the “Ordnung” or unchallenged order has been broken.

Almost all Eastern Africa countries, except Kenya have had war either with neighbours or within their boundaries. Kenya has however known small scale riots namely, the shifta uprising (1967) and post-elections chaos (2007). The country has been relatively peaceful but the Al-Shabaab incursions are putting this record to test.

Should Kenya ignore all realities and shun taking on Al-Shabaab or let her security hang in the balance? Logically, the choice is obvious. However, before making it, there were some issues that needed analysis and consideration.

First, before going to war with Al-Shabaab, Kenya ought to have secured support from neighbouring African countries. Unfortunately time and circumstances did not allow this. So too, neighbours are duty bound to support Kenya militarily and politically simply because Al-Shabaab’s activities in the region have always affected all countries. Refer to the piracy in the Indian Ocean that has badly affected the economies of the region, the Uganda attack during the World Cup games as well as the Dar es Salaam and Nairobi Al-Qaeda bombings in 1998.

For other African countries to come into the big picture, they must obtain consent from the African Union (AU) which should have declared war against Al-Shabaab. This would avert the danger of other countries blaming Kenya for invading the failed state of Somalia. Countries such as Britain, United States and other that have already been affected by terrorism, must not sit back and watch.

Secondly, Kenya whose shilling is now in a free cascade should have ensured that the war will not damage the shilling further. Remember, Tanzania lost her economic stability in 1978 when it took on Idi Amin. The economy of Tanzania has never recovered even though this is not the only reason for the country’s sick economy and currency.

Kenya’s economy depends heavily on tourism. Therefore, when Kenya is taking on Al-Shabaab for attempting to sabotage and suffocate tourism and security in Kenya, it must have ensured that the war does not stifle tourism.

As for national security, this is sine qua non. Nobody can discuss or put a choice on this. Kenya has to fight to make sure that Kenyans and their visitors are secured so as to enjoy their lives. This, if anything, is non-negotiable.

Kenya is not facing Al-Shabaab only. She has looming wars almost in all her boundaries except the boundary with Tanzania. On the west there is Migingo Island crisis with Uganda while in the north, Ethiopian bandits have always put Kenya on alert. Now that Kenya has decided to take on Al-Shabaab, the message for the rest will be crystal clear: a peaceful country can turn to war if it is forced to do so.

The Al-Shabaab spokesman recently warned that Kenya's beautiful buildings and tourism would be badly affected for engaging Al-Shabaab. Such verbiage must agitate Kenya even more to make sure that Al-Shabaab is exterminated soon. How can Kenya allow Al-Shabaab to keep on spitting on it and get away with it under the strength of issuing threats? Nunca mas, (never again)!

Going to war depends on the seriousness of provocation especially when it has to do with national security; the personal behaviour of a country’s commander in chief and the economy. Nobody wants to go to war games. But if you are forced as it is in this case, you have no choice but to go to war. It is not an easy choice, this is why Kenya is currently vacillating amidst many battles.

Source: The African Executive Magazine October 26, 2011.

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