The US "war on terror" brought nothing but terror to the Horn of Africa. Kenya is a US client state which has spent years destabilizing Somalia under the guise of fighting terrorism.
Kenya rarely showed political inclination to interfere with Somalia’s internal affairs until 2010 when it sent troops across the border under the US mantra of the global war on terror. At this critical conjecture, Kenya became the latest proxy warrior for the US and the US rewarded Kenya with an ample amount of military aid. Civilians in Gedo, a state in the administrative region of Jubbaland in Somalia have been brutalized with aerial bombing since.
The US had been restructuring the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) to become more aligned with its vision of fighting terrorism. For example, on May 5th, 2023, the US Embassy in Nairobi announced the introduction of a newly created Marine Unit within the KDF. The stated purpose was to fight terrorism.
Moreover, According to State Department, "In FY 2020, U.S. peace and security assistance totaled over $560 million. Kenya has purchased over $139 million worth of U.S.-made military equipment over the past three years, making Kenya a key strategic military partner."
In addition to this funding, the US maintains close operational ties with the KDF. They maintain the forward base near the largest KDF camp at the outskirts of the port city of Kismayo, in the administrative region of Jubbaland, Somalia.
In 2015, reporter Ty McCormick for the Foreign Policy Magazine wrote about the base. The reporter's details included drone operations and direct intelligence support to the KDF. Brig. Gen. Daniel Bartonjo, a commander of KDF forces in Kismayo told McCormick that, “his troops have made gains against insurgents “with the help of the Americans who are here.”
These facts establish that the US is a full partner in Kenya’s atrocities in Jubbaland.
Kenya invaded Jubbaland in 2010 under the disguise of combating Al Shabaab. Kenya had no United Nations or African Union mandate in the initial incursion. It was a clear violation of Somalia's sovereignty.
The KDF lacked an accountability framework in the early days of the invasion, which led to gross human rights violations and an international public relations problem for the Kenya government.
In order to address the absence of accountability, Kenya troops were incorporated into an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and later renamed as African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). The purpose of this United Nation chartered mission was to assist the Somalia government in itsbattle against Al Shabaab.
Kenya also needed a narrative for citizens at home. The rationale for the invasion to the Kenyan public was that KDF must fight Al Shabaab in Somalia instead of within Kenya borders. That narrative has turned out to be untrue.
Daily Nation Kenya, one of the newspapers with the largest circulation, recently chronicled the number of attacks inside Kenya for the month of June 2023. The publication documents a spate of attacks inside Kenya by Al Shabaab.
KDF bombs civilians in Jubbaland unmercifully to pretend that it is doing something against Al-Shabaab. KDF aerial attacks are the Kenyan version of wag the dog. KDF carries out attacks on Somali civilians in order to distract the Kenya public. The aerial bombings do nothing to deter terror attacks inside Kenya.
Al Shabaab enjoys a high level of autonomy inside Kenya. The group recruits, fundraises, and attacks in Kenya as it pleases. All the while, Kenya troops are amassed at the port city of Kismayo.
However, the KDF’s vicious bombings have ruined Jubbaland. Extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate aerial bombings that killed civilians and livestock became frequent.
Between 2015 and 2021, Kenya forces carried out 71 airstrikes in Gedo and 38 in other locations in Jubbaland. All caused civilian death, displacement, and destruction of infrastructure.
Kenya clearly targeted civilians. No member of Al Shabaab was harmed in any of the 71 airstrikes in Gedo.
Kenya's air campaign primarily destroyed vital public infrastructure in Jubbaland. The most critical infrastructure Kenya destroyed was the Telecommunication Systems. The most vulnerable population immediately shoulders the impact of Kenya's destruction.
Somalia is nearly a cashless economy. Most transactions involving necessities are done through digital currencies over mobile phones. When cell towers are destroyed, life virtually stops in Jubbaland. The local population is denied food and water.
The policy of indiscriminate aerial bombings further alienates local populations making terror groups recruit more fighters. It is an act that has the exact opposite effect.
Kenya invasion has also complicated Jubbaland politics. KDF backed Ahmed Mohamed Islaam (Madoobe), a former commander in the ranks of Al Shabaab who defected but still maintains strong connections with the group. KDF backing of Madoobe splintered the region.
Jubbaland consists of three states: Gedo, Middle Jubba, and Lower Jubba. Each state is composed of four or more districts. Every state is administered by a governor and each district is led by a commissioner. District commissioners are supposed to report to governors and governors should be reporting to regional administrators or the president.
KDF backing of Madoobe increased political acrimony and discord in all three levels of regional government. Warring functions ended up controlling different states and districts in Jubbaland.
Gedo, for example, the largest state, has been at a political impasse for nearly 10 years with the rest of the province. Gedo has been effectively self-administered most of the time Jubbaland existed as an administrative province.
Al Shabaab maintained complete control of Middle Jubba. The group also controls all the districts except three in Lower Jubba.
The remaining three districts are controlled by Madoobe. Among these three districts is the port city of Kismayo where US and KDF maintain bases.
The puppet president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who returned to power in 2022 with the help of the US, failed to bring about political reconciliation among warring factions in Jubbaland. Mohamud embraced Kenya's atrocities.
The US sets the terrorism vision for Kenya. Kenya is a happy proxy warrior committing atrocities at the behest of the US. Civilians in Gedo in the administrative region of Jubbaland, Somalia bearing the brunt of this brutality while the US public is footing the bill.
Jamal Abdulahi is a Technology Entrepreneur and longtime civic leader. Follow him @fuguni .