After last weekend’s terrorist attacks in Nairobi, Deputy President William Ruto said Kenya will not pull Kenya Defense Forces out of Somalia. This week, the government also got parliamentary authorisation to increase Kenyan troops in South Sudan.
But committing a country to war is a very serious and expensive responsibility. It should be declared only as a last resort and with full support of the country and everybody.
Though I fought for Kenya’s salvation from Kanu dictatorship for many years, I had very good reasons for it. My rebellion against dictatorship was obedience to God. But if I was a young man again today and was called upon to fight in Somalia and South Sudan, I would probably not do itm. Instead, I would be a conscientious objector to these wars for lack of clear and compelling reasons for them.
Though we are told Kenya went into Somalia to fight back terrorists that were abducting our tourists, had I been abducted while on a visit to Mombasa, I believe President Uhuru or his deputy would not have sent KDF to Somalia to rescue me from the al Shabaab.
Additionally, DP Ruto says we must continue fighting in Somalia or we shall look cowardly if we pull out. But courage alone has never been a sufficient reason for people to make war.
I may not know for sure whether we are fighting America’s war in Somalia against Islamic fundamentalism, but I am not convinced either that we are fighting this war for national interests that we can only procure with war. My instincts suggest we are in Somalia for reasons that relate to political and personal interests of President Uhuru and his deputy Ruto only.
As for sending our soldiers to South Sudan, I don’t believe it is to protect ordinary Sudanese or stop genocide. Presidents Kenyatta and Museveni are in South Sudan to rescue Salva Kiir from collapse by blocking Riek Machar from taking over Juba. But in fighting for Kiir, Uhuru and Museveni are also fighting for their personal political interests.
Yet I am neither a supporter of al Shabaab nor of Riek Machar. If I don’t believe our government has compelling reasons for war in Somalia and South Sudan, my patriotic duty is to say no to war.
Recently, America, Britain and other Nato governments wanted to wage war against Syria. They said there was genocide there and it was their international duty to end it. Being democracies, they asked their Parliaments to sanction the war but people said no to it and ended the war talk of their leaders.
When I went to America for my university studies, the country was at war with Vietnam whose communism the American government objected to. But many ordinary Americans who were economically oppressed did not believe Vietnamese were their enemies or fighting them would help liberate them from poverty and racism. Further, they were convinced their government had no good reasons to wage war against peoples of South East Asia. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders spoke against the war. Mohammed Ali who had won gold in the Olympics and other young men and women became conscientious objectors to the war that America eventually lost.
On the other hand, African students in America were annually demonstrating and holding rallies in Washington DC to say no to the military occupation of Namibia by the Apartheid regime in South Africa and Portugal’s colonial wars in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau. Finally all these unjust wars were lost to people fighting for their freedom.
Given my opposition to other wars before, if I am today asked to go to war in Somalia or South Sudan, would I be a conscientious objector like Mohammed Ali or would I enlist and go to war without asking questions? Much as I hate the al Shabaab and the fighting in South Sudan, my conscience does not support going to war to keep Salva Kiir in power or rescue Somalia from the al Shaabab. I believe no people or country can liberate another. People must liberate themselves. Yes, we can assist the Somalis and South Sudanese to secure their peace but we cannot successfully fight for their freedom. Liberation begins in the hearts of the oppressed.
For me to go and fight in Somalia or South Sudan, even as an ordinary citizen whose humble effort can assist victory and whose son may volunteer to go and fight, I must be convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that the war in which my son will shed tears, sweat and blood is not only worthy it but also unavoidable. Just pushing me into war whose real reasons I don’t understand will not do. Even lives of the most little persons must not be sacrificed without their consent.
If leaders are so convinced that wars are necessary and justified, let them be first to dispatch their sons and daughters there.
War is neither a picnic nor a walk in the park. And as the Swahili proverb says, never underrate an enemy even though weak. Sun Tzu was also right when he said, “The best strategy of war is when one wins without fighting and accomplishes the most by doing the least.” If we insist on having many wars without absolute justification, we could pay a price that will cripple us for a very long time. Tanzania has never recovered from the high cost of its war with Uganda, even though they defeated the so called Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada.