After opposing Somali forces clashed on Kenya’s border a few weeks back, Kenya has hinted that it could annex parts of Somalia to keep al-Shabab terrorists out of its territory. The clashes involved Somali government troops and forces loyal to Ahmed Madobe, the leader of Jubbaland, which is one of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states. At least 11 people were killed in the Somali border town of Bula-hawo.
This action was considered an unwarranted attack by foreign soldiers with the intention of provoking Kenya. It also alleged that the Somali soldiers destroyed the properties of Kenyans in the border town of Mandera. “Half of Mandera town has now been deserted,” said Mohammed Mahmoud, a senator from Mandera County. “We already have internally-displaced people and therefore our plea is that our government should intervene.” Kenya’s Mandera Governor Ali Roba warned Wednesday that further conflict between Somali forces would put Mandera residents in limbo.
The fighting is the latest since ties between Mogadishu and Nairobi became frosty over a maritime territory stretching 100,000 square kilometers into the Indian Ocean. The area is rich in oil and gas deposits.
This is the product of a very long maritime dispute that really dates back decades, shedding doubt on whether Kenya’s infiltration of Somalia is to stop Al Shabaab or protect its interest in the maritime territory.
Kenya, however, accuses Somalis of letting al-Shabab terrorists infiltrate and recruit suicide bombers from refugee camps for Somalis fleeing war. The terrorists have carried out dozens of attacks in Kenya in a bid to force Nairobi to withdraw its troops from Somalia. According to Kenya, deploying troops to Somalia’s Gedo region could stop al-Shabab fighters from entering Kenya. Al-Shabab says its strikes on Kenya are in retaliation for its troops crossing into Somalia: Kenya first sent soldiers into Somalia in 2011 to target al-Shabab fighters and in 2012 it officially joined the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.
The Somali government, however, believes Kenya’s interest in Somalia goes beyond stopping al-Shabab and lies in the oil-rich maritime area. Kenya it says, needs “access to Kismayo port to enable illegal access to charcoal export from Somalia, that KDF (Kenya Defense Forces) have allegedly profited from.”
Kenya backs Jubbaland’s President Ahmed Madob, who with the help of Nairobi built and trained Jubbaland’s army and President Kenyatta sees Jubbaland as a buffer against Al-Shabaab militants who have staged several bloody attacks across the border.
All this in a bid to keep Kenya’s border safe from Al Shabaab.