January 13, 2007

Somalia's impact on Kenya

So the Ethiopian military has helped the transitional Somali government force out the Islamists who brought calm in a country that had anarchy for approximately 15 years (?). While Ethiopia gets itself into a Catch-22 situation in that if they leave Somalia, the UIC will be back, and if they don’t they’ll be the main target of insurgency attacks, Kenya remains as the one to take the burden yet again.

Kenya has been helpful in providing shelter for Somali refugees and allowing, rather enabling, NGOs to deliver aid to those camps. Kenya has also benefited from the huge demand of khat that many Somalis cannot live without. The (illegal) daily flights are well known about yet little is done to stop it – why bother.

But let’s not talk about Somalia. Let’s talk about the impact of what the war has on Kenya – especially this year being election year.

The build-up to elections in Kenya is always signified by the vicious rise in crime and general insecurity. Bank robberies for the hard cash that is distributed to buy votes becomes common. Terrorising of the people is also on the increase. This is all entangled in the all too complex web of supply and demand of money, votes, support, morale and ultimately power. And we all know that power in Africa means the licence to plunder the vast resources a government is trusted to control with its people’s interests at heart.

Lets analyse the situations. If the transitional government in Somalia maintains control and no insurgency attacks escalate then the campaigns will be on improving the economy of Kenya and sustaining the reputation of the country and increasing tourism etc.

If Somalia falls into full out civil war, then Kenya has no choice but to get dragged into it. The aid agencies, US navy, military and AU will have to use Kenya if they try to bring about any sort of hope for the Horn of Africa. That could mean two things. The US will press (read: force)into power somebody they can twist for access to who knows what as they look to get involved in the oil rich lands of Somalia.
The other situation that I’m thinking of is the need for a leader who is tactful in the art of war incase the need to defend the Kenyan nation itself arises.

Not too far from all this lies the genocide in Souther Sudan. Once again an economy driven by a neighbouring country’s demands could be explosive. Oil is certainly what everyone wants in Darfur. Apart from Uganda, only Kenya has the ability to build the infrastructure to support the growth of Juba and beyond.

The next few months are crucial for Kenya. The campaigning strategies of each political party and candidate will hopefully result from their analysis of the situations across the Kenyan borders. The one candidate who forgets the implications of whatever happens in Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and possibly Ethiopia as well should also forget about the licence to plunder.


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