Kenyans are already falling for al Shabaab’s strategy with the re-emerging “withdraw our troops from Somalia” debate.
As Voice of America’s and co-author of Inside Al-Shabaab Harun Maruf has said, Shabaab’s new strategy is to attack high-end areas in the capital Nairobi, inflict maximum damage, attract media coverage (local and international) to shape public opinion and pressure the government to withdraw troops from Somalia.
In an exclusive interview by Channel 4’s Jamal Osman, Sheikh Ali Dhere published in December 2013, the spokesman for al Shabaab, says, “Foreign powers have to leave our country because they are not interested in what’s good for Somalis. It is better for us if they leave. We don’t need them.”
When asked why they attacked Westgate Mall, Dhere said, “We have said many times stay away from us. Leave our land, our people, stop fighting us. We warned them [Kenya] again and again but they ignored us. So we had to spill blood a message.”
The Riverside Drive Complex attack was a demonstration of Shabaab’s resilience. This means Amisom needs more forces to contain these criminals, and withdrawing ours weakens it, giving the terror group space to regroup and thrive.
I have argued before that at the point we are, Kenya cannot withdraw Kenyan troops from Somalia. Kenya’s incursion was expected to me a messy affair, but so is all radical surgery that is ultimately life saving. Kenya has already re-hatted its forces into the African Union Mission in Somalia. This is a continental effort, not just about Kenya. And if the region and the continent did not intervene, al Shabaab would have done worse damage than we are talking of. Piracy was at its peak, but now the coasts of Kismayu and Mogadishu are relatively safe.
Bringing peace back to the southern part of Somalia was not expected to be an event, it is a process, one that may take equal or longer than Somalia has remained stateless and that comes with a number of challenges, as I have written before. But we need an exit strategy, which will ensure no vacuum is left. To ensure Kenya and the region is safe, we must finish what we started. If we don’t, we fail. All that we have invested in regional, sub-regional and Horn of Africa peace and security will amount to nothing.
And in these efforts, it important that region works together in crushing these terrorists. In fact, the Security Council has affirmed the importance of international, regional, and subregional counter-terrorism cooperation in a number of resolutions and decisions. It would also be very irresponsible to withdraw and allow al Shabaab to thrive. Former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan said “terrorism strikes at the heart of everything the UN stands for. It presents a global threat to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and stability.”
It is for this reason that we must finish what we started.
Kibii comments on current and international affairs