The Star (Nairobi)

8 November 2011

Kenya: Why Nation Should Pull Out of Somalia

opinion

Kenya should withdraw its troops from Somalia forthwith and also withdraw its support for the Transitional Federal Government(TFG).This is because the pitfalls that exist against Kenya's engagement in the Somalia conflict outweigh any projected benefits.

Firstly, the war is illegal as it violates article 95 (6) of the Constitution which requires the National Assembly's approval of any declaration of war. The Government of Kenya publicly through the Ministers of Defence and Internal security declared war about three weeks ago in a press conference against Al Shabab.

No parliamentary approval was sought prior to that declaration despite article 95(6) of the Constitution implying that the declaration ought to be before the commencement of the war. Even if it was to be construed that the said article allowed an approval after the declaration , presently no such approval has been sought.

Granted,the matter was discussed recently in Parliament in camera but the discussion was centered on a ministerial statement and not a substantive motion debated and passed approving the war as it is required by Parliamentary standing orders. This means the current regime is flagrantly disrespecting the constitution. Kenyans are being made to bear the burden of retaliation by Al Shabaab for a war they were denied through their elected representatives opportunity to analyse its merits.

Secondly,the war is very costly. Pundits have estimated that it is costing Sh10,000 per day to keep every soldier in the war. The costs will run into billions of shillings as the war progresses. Other economic costs involved including the loss of business occasioned to the economy through fear of attacks by the Somnali insurgents.

One of the known reasons for the economic downturn of the United States economy was its involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars in the 2000 decade. In contrast to this, during the same decade, China invested its money in infrastructure and it is now set to overtake US in Gross Domestic Product measure and in purchasing power parity by 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund world economic survey report.

Thirdly ,the reasons given to justify the war are weak. The governments says the operation follows the recent abduction of four Europeans-two at the Coast and two aid workers in refugee camps in North Eastern. Al Shabab has denied its involvement and there is no indication that the Kenyan soldiers are in hot pursuit of the abductors. This has now changed and the stated mission is to overthrow Al Shabaab-not to bring back the abductees.

No explanation has been given why the Government failed to act in similar fashion when hundreds of Kenyans were butchered by Ethiopian militia. The immediate Government response indicates the operation has been in the planning for several weeks if not months before the operation was mounted. That explains the TFG flip flopping on the operation.

Fourthly , the war may weaken instead of strengthen the TFG which is seen as a western imposition by the Somali people. Al Shabaab suffers the same perception though its foreign supporters are viewed by some Somali as being religious brethren. Political Islam is on the ascendancy across the world and thus If Somalia wants to take the route of political Islam which has taken ascendancy across the world by supporting Al Shabaab, Kenya cannot stop that shift.

Finally, the worst case scenario is unfathomable. A humiliated Kenya defeated by Al Shabaab,wasting millions of shillings in a long drawn out war involving other countries such as Eritrea which is suspected to be arming the insurgents.

Kenya should revert to its very good foreign policy -of non-interference,pragmatism ,good neighborliness and neutrality. Kenya should therefore continue with the same trend Somalia, pull out of Somalia, withdraw its support of TFG and negotiate with any group (Al Shabaab included ) to secure its border and increase surveillance of its borders.

Irungu Kangata is an advocate.

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