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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

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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

Kenyan-American Uber driver is challenging Ilhan Omar for US House seat

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Photo: Haji For House
   

A Minneapolis Uber driver is launching a campaign to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

Haji Yussuf is seeking DFL nomination to challenge Ilhan Omar to represent Minnesota’s 5th District in the US House of Representatives.

The Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) is a center-left political party in the US state of Minnesota. It is affiliated with the Democratic Party. Formed by a merger of the Minnesota Democratic Party and the left-wing Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in 1944, the DFL is one of only two state Democratic Party affiliates of a different name, the other being the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.

Haji Yussuf said Ilhan has lost touch with the common people, and accused her of focusing too much on her national profile.

“Most of her ideas are national ideas, the larger progressive movement ideas,” said Haji.

“She’s just repeating those. It’s not something unique that she has come up with,” he said, according to Sahan Journal, a news site that reports on refugees and immigrants issues in Minnesota.

Ilhan is a rising in the Democratic Party, and won 78 percent of the total votes in the 2018 election.

He will be more of a presence in the district than Ilhan is now, Haji said.

Haji’s platform includes speaking out on the burden of paying student loans, fixing “a planet on the edge” of environmental catastrophe and raising worker wages.

He said he is still saddled with debt from his time as a student at St. Cloud State University in the mid-2000s.

The 44-year-old worked at the Minnesota Department of Revenue before taking a job with Uber. While driving for the company, he said he’s spoken with more than 250 people from across the city about what’s been affecting their lives.

During his campaign launch this weekend, Haji plans to introduce some of the people he met while driving for Uber.

Haji said some of his passengers were elders in the African diaspora who say Ilhan is not engaging with them.

“Sometimes they have little things that have to be done, like maybe their Social Security check document is missing,” he said.

“The connection with individual people and communities, the representation of everyone in our community — that is what I feel she’s missing.”

Ilhan is the most prominent Somali politician in the US, and the first elected to Congress. Like Ilhan, Haji is a Somali immigrant. He came to the United States from Kenya in 1999, first to Florida and soon to Minnesota.

In the 2018 election, Minnesotans elected first-timers to four of the state’s eight House seats, and confirmed appointed Sen. Tina Smith to continue in the place of Sen. Al Franken. Two years later, all representatives — and Sen. Smith — must run again to hang on to those seats.

Three other candidates are also in the race for Minnesota’s 5th District seat.

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Politics

Aden Duale is the lonliest man in Kenya

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The National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, appears to be isolated and the loneliest politician in Kenya, abandoned by his colleagues from Northeastern region and the government he wholeheartedly served, thrusting him to uncomfortable position I-can-do-it-alone.

Duale is the senior-most politician in the Kenyan parliament courtesy of the prestigious post of Majority Leader of Jubilee – the majority party in the National Assembly.  He has been the defecto political leader of Northeastern since 2013.

Duale’s political career sprung from the nationwide popularity of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2007, defeating a long time MP and Minister, Hussein Maalim, to claim Dujis Constituency. In 2013, he sought reelection on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket led by William Ruto which formed a coalition government with Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA).

In 2017, both URP and TNA dissolved to form Jubilee party and Duale was reelected for the third term.

Duale, 51, who is also the Garissa Township MP, is one of the few vocal politicians the country has ever had and has defended the Jubilee administration within and without the parliament, attracting praises from State House and Harambee House Annex.

His critics labeled him as a sycophant who says anything to please President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Now everything – from being the darling of the government to being the political leader of Garissa and other Northeastern counties – has changed.

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 and the introduction of a Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) meant to change the way Kenya is governed have limited his government engagements and, a growing rebellion from fellow politicians from the region, mostly from young and first time members of parliament, some of whom are calling for his removal as Majority Leader in the National Assembly, has dwindled his influence in Northeastern politics.

Emboldened by the BBI, Wajir County Woman MP Fatuma Gedi and Fafi lawmaker Abdikarim, both first termers, are breathing down on Duale’s neck.

They even called for his removal as Jubilee leader in the National Assembly. They perceive to be political heavyweights courtesy of the BBI.

It is unlikely Jubilee will replace Duale as its parliamentary leader. And if it happens, the position won’t return to Northeastern.

Despite his weaknesses, Northeastern doesn’t have a smart politician as eloquent as Duale who can replace him as Majority Leader in the August House.

Garissa political leadership has abandoned and accused Duale of undermining his colleagues and creating division.

His isolation is seen as the product of his close association with the deputy president, William Ruto. Governors from the region, previously seen as Ruto allies and members of Tangatanga – a political grouping backing Ruto’s 20222 presidential ambition, have now fled his camp, for fear of arrests and prosecution due to mismanagement and theft of county government resources, leaving Duale behind.

Other lawmakers are also backing BBI for selfish gains; most of them do not understand what it entails but believe it will go through because it is backed by the president and Mr. Odinga.

Duale was not seen in recent press conferences by Northeastern politicians, and hasn’t attended a Northern Kenya leaders’ gathering at Kempinski to ‘thank President Kenyatta’ for appointing Ukur Yattani, a fellow northerner, to be the substantive Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning.

Next week, the region is hosting a BBI rally in Garissa town, but Duale isn’t attending. He says until government fixes the education crisis and insecurity, the region will not support BBI.

The education crisis was as a result of Teachers Service Commission – the teachers’ employer – withdrawing thousands of teachers from the region over what it said al Shabab’s target of non-Somali teachers.

Duale’s support for BBI is unclear. He is trying to earn applause from State House and contrast between himself and Tangatanga movement.

He is in a catch-22 situation, he wants BBI because it proposes the creation of a prime minister’s position, which he believes a lawmaker from smaller community can get.

By supporting his position, he said he ‘wasn’t anyone’s title deed,’ referring to media reports that he had dumped Deputy President William Ruto.

It seems his remark was a rebuke to Ruto, who opposes any form of change to Kenya’s constitution.

The Majority Leader is also positioning himself as Northeastern region power broker in the likelihood that the constitution is changed and regional kingpins will have a say in the formation of the next government. He is taking a risk although he cannot influence how northeastern people vote.

He argues that the president’s and Raila’s initiative will cure the political dominance of the presidential seat by the big tribes.

At the same time, he cannot abandon William Ruto, the man who made him and gave him the position he holds in parliament.

Ruto is opposed to any change to current system of governance, believing any change made to the constitution will deny him any chance of him becoming Kenya’s fifth president.

In not making a clear decision on BBI, Duale has weighed the impact it can have on him, at least for the remaining two and half years as parliamentary leader.

For the 13 years he has been in parliament, he has been trying to reshape the Kenyan political landscape in favour of William Ruto. Now, he has to reshape his future.

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The hard numbers: Who has troops in Somalia?

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The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is planning to cut 1,000 troops from its peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa country in February, and later completely withdraw.

Somali National Forces are expected to take over the responsibility of securing the country from al Shabab militants once Amisom complete its withdrawal.

Amisom draws its troops from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Allowances for the troops are paid by the EU, and logistical support – from food to medical supplies – is provided by the UN.

Under a transition plan agreed in 2017, Amisom is required to conduct gradual handover to Somali security forces, secure main supply routes, reduce the threat posed by al Shabab and conduct targeted offensive operations that support the transition plan.

When President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was elected in February 2017, he promised to rebuild and reform the country’s military which has been crippled by corruption and lack of modern equipment. Three years later, a lot has been achieved but much needs to be done.

Amisom troops are in Somalia for 12 years now helping the government battle al Shabab and expand its authority outside Mogadishu.

Amisom plans to withdraw complete from Somalia by December 2020, and, if this happens, there would be security vacuum. The Somali army is not yet ready to take over the responsibility of securing the country.

Security gains by Amisom and the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in late 2020 and early 2021 respectively could be in jeopardy if Amisom goes ahead in its withdrawal plan.

Although the Farmajo administration undertook some reforms within the military, like paying soldiers regularly and increasing their pay, eliminating middlemen and cutting out commanders who siphoned soldiers’ meager salary, lack of capacity and basic supplies and weapons will hinder its performance against al Shabab group which has been weakened but still capable of conducting high-profile attacks against civilians as well as state installations.

When the African Union (AU) troops complete their mission in Somalia, a UN Security Council resolution was that a United Nations peacekeeping mission replaces them. That plan has now been scrapped. The AU troops will hand over the responsibility of securing the country directly to Somali forces. Already, some places like Warsheikh Forward Operating Base, Mogadishu Stadium, Somali National University and Jaale Siyad Military Academy were handed over to Somali forces.

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