Kenya’s foray into Somalia sows seeds of backlash at home
As Kenya attempts to pacify the Islamist Al Shabab movement in Somalia, issues of poverty and security may go unaddressed back home, says guest blogger Alex Thurston.
By most accounts, Kenya’s incursion into Somalia has succeeded militarily, as measured by Kenya’s goals of taking territory and inflicting casualties on the Muslim rebel movement Al Shabab. In a sense, the Kenyan advance has also succeeded politically: Kenya has gained some international legitimacy for its mission by moving to join the African Union forces there, a step the United Nations seems to be endorsing.Skip to next paragraph
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But on other political fronts, seeds of a backlash are being sown.
For one thing, there is the question of radicalization inside Kenya. A wave of minor attacks have occurred in Kenya this winter, and Britain warned earlier this month that more attacks are on the way. A Kenyan Muslim organization now says it is officially representing Al Shabab in Kenya, reports the Associated Press:
The statement by the Kenya-based Muslim Youth Center came amid a flurry of warnings from embassies about planned terror attacks in Kenya. The Somali militant group al-Shabab has promised to attack Kenya for its decision to send troops to Somalia in October.
The Muslim Youth Center was named in a United Nations report last year for recruiting, fundraising, and running training and orientation events for al-Shabab. An official al-Shabab spokesman did not answer questions about whether the center now represents al-Shabab in Kenya, but a statement published on the center’s blog on Wednesday was unequivocal.
“There can be no doubt that Amiir Ahmad Iman Ali’s elevation to become the supreme Amiir of Kenya for al Shabaab is recognition from our Somali brothers who have fought tirelessly against the kuffar on the importance of the Kenyan mujahideen in Somalia,” the statement said.
The UN Monitoring Group report that the AP mentions can be found here.
Announcements of open support for al Shabab in Kenya not only increase fears of upcoming attacks, they also threaten to increase political tensions in Kenya. The large Somali community in Kenya has become a target of violence and repression by other groups and by authorities in the past. In a year when Kenya will hold a potentially tense election, where ethnic hatreds could flare up, increased religious tension will only make the situation more precarious.