Why capturing Kismayu could trigger proxy wars for Kenya

As Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia clocks two weeks, the major cause of concern among diplomats, military and intelligence experts is starting to turn from taking over the port of Kismayu to how to manage the aftermath. File

 

As Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia clocks two weeks, the major cause of concern among diplomats, military and intelligence experts is starting to turn from taking over the port of Kismayu to how to manage the aftermath. File

As Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia clocks two weeks, the major cause of concern among diplomats, military and intelligence experts is starting to turn from taking over the port of Kismayu to how to manage the aftermath. File

Turkish connection

In the meantime, Sharif and other players in Somalia are moving away from their traditional friends and allies in the Middle East, toward Turkey.

Turkey’s role, diplomats say, is one of the factors that make this moment in Somalia ripe for peace.

Turkey is rising as the new Muslim power in the world, and unlike the theocracies in the Middle East, it is eager to showcase the “modern” face of Islam, to show that a country can be Muslim and be a democracy, with free markets, full rights for women, and play a role in the world without a persecution or victim complex.

Its involvement in Somalia would help more secular and moderate elements to rise.

Secondly, despite the continuing attacks in Somalia by unmanned US drones, this time it is the French who are playing a greater role in the Kenya campaign.

For starters, Gandi is seen as “France’s man.” He is one of the very few Somalis who speak fluent French and is married to a Frenchwoman. In the past nearly 10 years that he has lived in Nairobi, most of his costs have been paid for, a source told The EastAfrican, with “French money.”

France has assumed a very aggressive, and equally controversial role in Africa.

It was very forward in using its military to help rebels oust Laurent Gbagbo from power in Ivory Coast in April this year, after the strongman lost elections to rival current president Alassane Ouattara, but refused to hand over power, leading a resumption of civil war.

France also assumed a high profile in the Nato bombing of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s embattled regime, to aid the rebels of the National Transitional Council. Gaddafi was captured, and very quickly killed in a gruesome incident by rebels in his hometown and stronghold of Sirte, just over two weeks ago.

France now seems to have turned its attention to East Africa. President Nicolas Sarkozy became the first French leader of the past 20 years to bury with the hatchet with Rwanda’s ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front.

The RPF blames French forces who were in Rwanda for collusion with Hutu extremists in the 1994 genocide, in which nearly one million Rwandans, most of them Tutsi, were killed.

French authorities, on the other hand, had long blamed the RPF, alleging they shot down the plane carrying then Rwanda president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi’s Cyprian Ntaryamira over Kigali in 1994, setting off the last deadly phase of the genocide.

Not only has Sarkozy visited Rwanda and extended an olive branch, but Kagame too went to Paris.

France is seen as more likely to be willing to soil its hands in Somalia than the Americans, who have preferred to use proxies and drones, since their invasion of Somalia in 1992 ended in disaster and humiliation.

This is particularly important for Kenya, as it will need someone who is willing to share the bill for what looks set to be a drawn-out and expensive campaign.

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