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Why al Shabab keeps on attacking Kenya?

Al Shabab sees Kenya troop presence in Somalia as invasion and it singled out the country as a soft target

Editorial Team

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Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October 2011 to fight the al Shabab militants after it blamed the Somalia-based group of a series of kidnappings , al Shabab has carried out more than 150 attacks on Kenyan soil, targeting buses, schools, police stations, schools and shopping malls, killing hundreds.

The most brutal were attacks on a Kenyan army camp in El Adde killing 200 soldiers in 2016, a 2015 attack on a Kenyan college campus that killed 148 people, an attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi which killed 67 people in 2013, and a 2019 attack on a hotel in Nairobi which killed 21 people.

Al Shabab has seen the presence of Kenya troops in Somalia as invasion and it singled out the country as a soft target. The Kenyan government has invested in the army’s operation in Somalia while giving leeway to al Shabab attacks inside Kenya.

The al Qaeda-affiliated group has stepped up its attacks both in Kenya and Somalia in the last few months.

The Kenyan security forces are bureaucratic and under-resourced. There have been intelligence failures of Kenyan intelligence agencies, and security forces’ response have been slow and shambolic, and al Shabab sees these weaknesses and takes advantage.

Kenya ha many foreign diplomatic missions compared to other countries in the region, so an attack here attracts global attention.

Al Shabab is taking advantage of Kenya’s vibrant media and the presence of foreign journalists in the country. An attack on the country receives global media coverage, and al Shabab is exploiting this to spread its propaganda.

The frequent attacks on Kenya is aimed at shaping the Kenyan public opinion so that citizens can pressure the government to withdraw troops from Somalia.

Al Shabab also wants to create religious division and turn Kenyans against each other. While carrying out attacks in Kenya, al Shabab mainly targets Christians, and in Somalia, they kill fellow Muslims.

In December 2019, the group attacked a joint US-Kenya military base in Lamu and killed three Americans, a soldier and two contractors. The attack on the Manda Bay Airfield was al Shabab’s first attack against US forces in Kenya.

At least four students have been killed by al Shabab fighters at a school in Garissa county.

On January 2, al Shabab killed four people when it attacked a convoy of buses in Lamu.

In December, the group killed 11 people including 8 police officers after pulling them from a passenger bus along Wajir-Mandera Road. Also, in December, five security forces were killed when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Wajir. In Garissa, two construction workers were killed.

Al-Shabab’s offensive shows it is recovering after suffering high casualties from US drone strikes and pressure form the African Union forces.

Last year, the group carried out an attack on a US-run military base in Baledogle in southern Somalia.

Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, and implement its own version of Islamic law.

Formed in 2006, its initial aim was to fight Ethiopian troops after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union that ruled most of the southern and central parts of the Horn of Africa country.

Since then, it has been fighting successive Somali governments and the African Union troops stationed in the country.

It has been driven out of Mogadishu and other major cities by Somali forces backed by African Union troops, but it is still capable of carrying out high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia. It has carried out attacks in several neighbouring countries, but Kenya, its western neighbour, has been the most vulnerable, despite the US significantly increasing airstrikes against the group and broadened its troop presence and involvement in Somalia in 2017.

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Politics

White House endorses Somaliland, Taiwan diplomatic ties

Editorial Team

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Somaliland foreign minister Hagi Mohamud and his Taiwanese counterpart Joseph Wu during the signing ceremony of diplomatic cooperationa
   

 

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The United States is backing the recent diplomatic engagement between Somaliland and Taiwan, a decision that will infuriate both Mogadishu and Beijing.

The support comes barely a month after Hargeysa and Taipei announced they are opening representative offices in each other’s capital.

On July 1, Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu said Taipei and Hargeysa had agreed to establish ties based on ‘friendship and a shared commitment to common values of freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law.’

The two sides have signed agreements in February 2020, but only made the details public in July. According to the agreement, the new relationship will focus on agriculture, education, energy, fisheries, health, information and communications, and mining.

“Great to see Taiwan stepping up its engagement in East Africa in a time of such tremendous need. Taiwan is a great partner in health, education, technical assistance, and more,” the US National Security Council said in a tweet.

The National Security Council is the principal forum used by the US President for consideration of national security, military and foreign policy with senior national security advisors and cabinet members.

The move by the US will enrage China, which says the People’s Republic of China represents ‘whole of China’ on the global stage.

China describes Taiwan as the most sensitive issue in its ties with the United States.

While the United States has no official relations with Taiwan, the Trump administration has ramped up backing for the island, with arms sales and laws to help Taiwan deal with pressure from China.

Taiwan is claimed by China, which sees the island part of its own territory. Beijing says the island could be brought l under its control by military force if it deems necessary. In elections and public opinion surveys.

Somaliland is a self-declared republic which broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when a coalition of clan militia toppled President Siyad Barre.

Although no country recognises Somaliland, it has an effective government system; has its own currency, a central bank, police, army and other state institutions.

Only 15 countries recognise Taiwan as an independent nation.

Somaliland is located in one of the most strategically contested parts of the world – The Horn of Africa. The region serves as a political and cultural bridge between Africa and the Middle East and borders the Red Sea — a gateway to the Suez Canal and a vital corridor for maritime trade.

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Reform

Kenya to reopen places of worship next week

Editorial Team

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Kenya will reopen its places of worship in four phases beginning Tuesday next week, the Interfaith Council looking into opening of mosques, churches and temples has recommended.

However, there are guidelines to be met before the reopening takes place. These include; hand-washing, wearing of proper face-masks at all times, practicing social distancing, no more than one hour service, attendance of not more than 100 people at a time and people aged above 58 years of age should not be allowed in.

The council, working with the ministries of health of interior, said it had meetings where it received views from various religious leaders on how places of worship would begin operating in compliance with health safety rules.

Kenya closed mosques, churches and temples mid March after the country recorded the first few cases of COVID-19.

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Politics

Somalia has a ‘man problem’, and it needs to fix it

Editorial Team

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An all-man group photo of Somalia government director-generals
   

This week, a group photo of director-generals of government ministries appeared on social media. The director-generals were 22, all men. Somalis asked, where are the women? No one in government bothered to answer that question.

While there are an uncountable number of professional Somali women, the photo gave the impression that there are no women who are qualified to hold this kind of work.

Somali women are under-represented in every sector of the society: economic, social and politics. The minimum quota for women in parliamentary representation is 30 percent, but this has not been achieved yet: women have just 24 percent of seats.

Although this is an improvement, women were not involved in the initial stage of the election. Currently, the Somali politics is a clan-based which requires male traditional elders to select delegates which would in turn elect members of parliament. Even if the country goes for a direct election, women will still face the same challenges.

Women rights are some of the many casualties of a three-decade old civil war in Somalia that followed the collapse of the last effective central government in 1991.

Somalia is now ranked the fourth most dangerous country to be a woman and the endless civil war continues to fuel violence against women.

The government has taken positive steps to create laws that guarantee women their rights, doing away all forms of discrimination in employment, politics and education. The problem is it has not been implemented.

For example, in 2016, the cabinet proposed a bill, known as the National Gender Policy, and sent it to parliament for approval. It is still lying there. If passed, we do not know when, women will the legal rights to earn as much as men and to run for political office, including the presidency.

A number of women have declared their interest to stand in the last presidential election, but withdrew their candidacy due to threats from al Shabab group and other sections of the society.

Islamic scholars as well as ordinary Somalis condemned the bill. They said it promoted Western culture by granting “excessive” rights to women, and some even thought it endorses same sex relationships.

Al Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow the government in Mogadishu, has also condemned the gender policy at the time, saying it “promotes Western culture.” A pro-Al-Shabab website Somali Memo reported the policy under the headline: “Somali government passes law legalising same sex marriage.”

The country’s top Islamic body, the Somali Religious Council, reacted to the proposed gender policy bill. “It is a dangerous policy, which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, the council chairman.

It is a recipe for rebellion against their parents and husbands; a situation that is likely to weaken Muslim society, the council’s chair said.

In an interview with Radio Shebelle, Ahmed accused the peacekeeping force Amisom – African Union Mission in Somalia – of promoting the policy by helping organise women conferences. This prompted Information Minister Mohamed Mareye that Amisom was not involved in policy making.

Social media users reacted too, with many contributors mistaking the “gender equality” to mean same sex marriage.

The Somali Religious Council later said it supports the bill after consulting the government, although it insisted the policy gives ‘excessive right’ to women.

In 2013, a court in Mogadishu handed a six-month jail sentence to a 19 year-old woman who said members of the country’s security forces raped her. Two journalists who reported the rape were also jailed for “defamation and insulting state institutions.” Reporting on rape is one of the most sensitive topics in the conservative Horn of Africa nation due to culture and social stigmas.

And in 2018, al Shabab killed a woman they accused of being married to 11 women at the same time. They buried her neck-deep and stoned her to death at a public square in southern town of Sablale. Victims of al Shabab brutality do not get fair legal representation at al Shabab “Islamic courts”.

These are just examples, a big number of Somali women continue to suffer the same way.

Until the government changes its behaviour toward women and women in parliament and outside of it speak up for their rights, more than half of Somalia’s population will continue to suffer in injustice.

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