The Nation (Nairobi)

4 November 2011

Kenya: Nation Teaches the Shabaab a Thing or Two About Fighting a Proper War

opinion

Al-Shabaab, the Somali militia group allied to international terror network al Qaeda, is not playing fair in its war with Kenya.

In the ongoing conflict with the Kenya Defence Forces, the Al-Shabaab are acquiring planeloads of arms, using guerrilla tactics such as transporting arms by the donkey, and spreading false propaganda -- in total contravention of the professional rules of military engagement.

Al-Shabaab tactics are driving donkey prices through the roof in total disregard of the fact that the Kenya shilling is taking a beating on the currency market.

Now, the military is forced to spend much needed revenue on outreach programmes to discourage patriotic citizens from selling donkeys to people who speak with an Al-Shabaab accent.

All this is not fair on the Kenyan taxpayer, who is mostly civilian. Obviously, the Al-Shabaab's commanders have never heard of the Geneva Convention.

This is why the Kenya Defence Forces is offering remedial public education for their benefit through regular updates on its plans of air raids and troop movements.

The rules of war require that one warns enemy combatants well in advance before striking so that one minimises civilian casualties.

It is because of the desire to obey the articles of the Geneva Convention that the Kenya Defence Forces has felt constrained to warn the residents of Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayu and Afmadow that it could strike these towns very soon.

Although the Kenya Defence Forces has watched friends of Al-Shabaab fly planeloads of weapons to these towns thrice, it has been held back by the rules of war which prohibit the harming innocent civilians.

It has chosen instead to send warnings to Al-Shabaab and all those concerned that it is watching them keenly, and will act at an appropriate time.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 specifically forbids the murder, injury, mutilation, torture or other maltreatment of civilians.

Further, the law of war forbids the taking of civilians or persons who have surrendered as hostages. It also prohibits subjecting them to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Thankfully, the people of these towns have started running for dear life so that when the Kenyan forces attack, there shall be no civilian to turn into casualties.

The action by Al-Shabaab to prevent civilians from leaving for safety indicates a desire to use these people as human shields in total contravention of the Convention.

The same laws of war prohibit flights over enemy or enemy-occupied territory except where there is a written agreement.

Aircraft that is detected overflying enemy territory is expected to obey all orders to land, and only proceed after due inspection, but obviously, some individuals in Al-Shabaab do not know that.

The profligate flying of aircraft over all the three sectors secured in Somalia and controlled by the Kenyan Defence Forces is a clear breach of the law of war, and act of impunity that can be read as a provocation warranting appropriate retaliation.

The care with which the Kenya Defence Forces is conducting itself is informed by the need to obey international law both for its own sake and to forestall future problems.

As it were, there are already six Kenyans facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. The prospect of more Kenyans dealing with war crimes is unbearable.

Faced with such a law-abiding enemy as the Kenya Defence Forces, it is only be a matter of time before the Al-Shabaab leaders see the folly of their ways, lay down their arms and sue for peace.

kwamchetsi@formandcontent.co.ke

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2011 The Nation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.