Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kenya bogged down into a stalemate in Western Somalia war


Sillouhette of Kenyan troops in Somalia/FILE
NAIROBI, Feb 14 – The Kenyan army says it has crippled Somalia’s Shebab rebels four months after launching an offensive to defeat them, but its superior firepower alone is unlikely to win the battle, analysts said.
Military officials claim air strikes and ground assaults have scuttled the Al-Qaeda-linked militants and disrupted their revenue sources since the incursion — Kenya’s first since independence in 1963 — began in October.
“Al-Shebab is considerably weakened,” said Kenyan army spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna. “In our own assessment, 75 percent of revenue collection of Al-Shebab has been disrupted.”
But the troops have gained little ground in the 17 weeks since they announced on October 16 that their tanks had rolled across the border two days earlier.
Their advance was bogged down at the start by mud and bad weather, and then slowed by Shebab’s guerilla tactics — mingling with civilians before attacking.
“The Kenyans’ military strategy as well as political strategy has so far not achieved much. There was a lot of over-optimism on the Kenyan side for success, and that has clearly not turned out to be the case,” said Rashid Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst.
“You need a combination of measures. You need a clearly well thought-out military plan, but at the same time one which is complemented by a political strategy,” Abdi told AFP.
Politically, Kenya had hoped to form a new security administration inside the southern Somali regions of Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba — together also known as Jubaland — and had trained Somali forces for the buffer territory.
However, the idea has gained little traction, and the international support from Western allies in terms of the military aid Kenya had hoped for has at best been modest.
“Kenyan officials were seriously out of touch with how the world operates, if they went to war without adequate funds and counted on the international community,” said J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council think tank.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a November report that Nairobi should cool its high hopes of defeating the Shebab, a ruthless and resilient militia fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government in Mogadishu.
“Downscaling expectations must start with reorienting the mission towards the one modest goal that is achievable in Somalia — degrading Al-Shebab’s military capabilities and encouraging a negotiated solution,” the group said.
Kenyan officials have also contradicted each other on whether the operation’s ultimate goal is to capture Kismayo, a port town in southern Somalia and a key revenue source for the Shebab, or to simply secure Kenya’s border areas.
“The military must resist the temptation to seek spectacular gains,” the ICG think tank said.
“It makes perfect military sense to target Kismayo port… but it should be done deliberately and other measures such as an economic — not humanitarian — blockade of the port, and the attrition of fighting on multiple fronts allowed to work.”
Kenya’s “Operation Linda Nchi” — Operation Protect the Country in Swahili — has certainly altered the dynamics of the Somali conflict, upping the pressure on the Shebab, while other regional states have since sent troops to Somalia.
Nairobi has offered its troops to join the African Union Mission in Somalia, a 10,000-strong force based in the capital Mogadishu made up of soldiers from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda.
Ethiopia has also sent in columns of tanks and troops into western and southern Somalia.
But beyond its military offensive, Kenya should seek a wider strategy to restore stability in Somalia, a lawless country that has had no effective central government for 21 years, experts warn.
“Kenyans have an opportunity to broaden their aim – it shouldn’t be just creating this buffer territory,” said Abdi. “They should be seeking to stabilise the whole of Somalia.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tens of thousands flee northern Kenya violence AFP

Tens of thousands flee northern Kenya violence

ADDIS ABABA — Aid workers said Wednesday they estimated that around 20,000 people had fled across the border and needed support after a recent upsurge in deadly clashes.

Clashes in northern Kenya between rival ethnic groups in recent weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to flee into neighbouring Ethiopia, the UN has said.

"Conflict between the Borena and Gabra clans in northern Kenya has displaced tens of thousands of people," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released Tuesday.

The majority of those who have crossed into Ethiopia were living with host families, UN added.

Food for 15,000 people has been sent to the area, along with plastic sheets and household items for some 3,000 people, it added.

Fighting over land grazing rights in Kenya's remote northern Moyale region killed at least 18 people last month after two days of intense violence between men armed with automatic rifles and machetes.

The region was hard hit by severe drought in the Horn of Africa last year, exacerbating tensions over land in the area, and sparking tit-for-tat cattle raids.

Clashes between rival cattle herding pastoralists in the region are common, with herders often carrying guns to protect their animals, but the recent fighting has been unusually heavy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How Ethiopian militia turned Moyale into battleground  - News |


Posted Saturday, February 11 2012 at 22:20

The battle started at a peace meeting convened to end the deadly feud between members of two communities divided by little else than the fact that they share the same district and their leaders have a poisonous hatred for one another.

Elders from the Gabra and Borana communities filed into the compound near the Moyale Boys Secondary School – the only school elevated to national status in Marsabit county – in the mid-afternoon of January 3 to begin negotiations that the provincial administration hoped would bring peace to the troubled region.

It was not to be. The meeting degenerated into a shootout as armed men from both communities engaged in battle. That served as the start of the latest chapter of conflict between the Borana and Gabra. By the time the guns fell silent on January 28, 30 people had died.

A week-long investigation by the Sunday Nation revealed that the vicious battle was fought on behalf of the communities by Ethiopian militias within and around Moyale town under the noses of Kenyan security officers, including the military, who have a barracks in the town.

Heavy weaponry

For the first time in recent memory, heavy weaponry, including mortars and assault rifles brought in from Ethiopia, was used.

Outnumbered both in terms of numbers and weaponry, Kenyan police officers were reduced to bystanders to the deadly conflict that has shone a light on the troublesome inter-communal relations in the district and which observers warn could spiral out of control.

“Nobody should lie to you. The recent clash was between militias from Ethiopia who were fighting on behalf of their kinsmen. Both the Gabra and Borana, who have kinsmen in Kenya and Ethiopia, brought in their people through the porous border to help them,” a police officer, who cannot be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said.

The battles were so fierce that authorities all but abandoned the area. There was no one to collect the bodies of those killed; they were left to hyenas.

But Moyale DC Elias Kithaura was quick to defend the government’s inaction, saying that it was not easy to prevent the militias from crossing the border because they do not use designated entry points.

Further, with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) having set up bases in the area for about 10 years until they were flushed out by the Kenya Government, people there have experience in the use of guns, the DC added.

The battle started as sporadic killings on November 28 between the two communities on the Ethiopian side. Soon, however, the fighting spilled into Kenya.

And following the abortive peace meeting, the battle intensified, with the worst clash taking place on January 26-27.

For the first time in Moyale, the sound of mortar and machine gun fire rent the air, forcing the army out of their barracks when it became evident that this was more than an ordinary clash between the two communities.

The government also sent a contingent of GSU officers, but by the time they arrived, the guns had fallen silent.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Kenya, South Sudan to form team for oil pipeline project | TradeMark SA

Kenya, South Sudan to form team for oil pipeline project

Nairobi: Kenya and South Sudan will form a joint commission to streamline plans for the construction of an oil pipeline between Juba and the port city of Lamu. South Sudan intends to construct a pipeline through Kenya to export its crude oil while the government would build a refinery in Isiolo to process the crude for local use and export to countries like Ethiopia.

“We do not have the money to build the pipeline. South Sudan has said it will build it but it will be jointly managed by the two countries,” said Energy PS Patrick Nyoike.

The PS said a similar arrangement would be adopted for the planned refinery, possibly on a 50:50 basis.

Last Tuesday, Kenya signed the oil pipeline and fibre optic deal allowing South Sudan build and own a pipeline through the Kenyan territory.

“We will form a joint venture on the twin projects. We have a counterproposal from Toyota Tsusho Corporation to build several multi products to Lamu and Nakuru,” he said. Another line is planned to deliver products to the border town of Moyale to be tapped by Ethiopia. A pipeline would also be built to connect to the oil fields in Hoima in northern Uganda.

Mr Nyoike said it was possible to complete the project in a year given that the 2,000-kilometre line from South Sudan oil fields to Port Sudan was laid in 18 months.

The refinery, pipeline and fibre optic cable are part of the Sh16 trillion Lamu Port and Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project. The project includes resort cities along the corridor and airports linked via a modern railway line.

The pipeline offers South Sudan an alternative route to transport oil, which accounts for 98 per cent of its revenues while opening up northern Kenya for development.

Toyota Tsusho Corporation is planning to build a 1,400-kilometre oil pipeline under Build Operate and Transfer before handing over control of the facility to the two governments after 20 years.

The pipeline would carry a projected 450,000 barrels of oil a day from Juba in southern Sudan to Lamu on the Indian Ocean. The estimated cost of the pipeline is $1.5 billion dollars (Sh135 billion).

“The pipeline is a gateway to move Sudanese oil to the market including Kenya. Both the crude oil line and the refinery are urgent. Our plan is to deliver both at the same time,” said Mr Sylvester Kasuku, Infrastructure specialist at Kenya’s Office of the Prime Minister.

He said Kenya would earn transit fees in line with international best practice adding that preliminary works on other aspects of Lappset such as roads and port building have started.

Landlocked South Sudan exports roughly 350,000 barrels per day but has started shutting down production after talks collapsed with Sudan over transit fees and revenue sharing.

Sudan says South Sudan has not paid for use of northern export facilities since its independence and is demanding $1 billion in fees and $36 per barrel for the crude to be exported through Port Sudan.

In the event of exports through Port Sudan being blocked, South Sudan has said the country can survive on borrowing (using its crude as collateral) until a new export avenue is created.