Why the instability in Somalia
should be concern for Kenya
Letters - Daily Nation
ABDULRAHMAN HUSSEIN, Nairobi.
10. March 2008
Last week’s US military strikes on a Somalia town close to the
Kenya border have worked to once again spotlight how hardships in
Somalia continue to affect Kenya.
Throughout the 16 years that Somalia has been without an effective
government, Kenya has had to establish new security guidelines for
its neighbour and the border that separates them.
Somalia could be harbouring terrorists, and that worries Kenya.
When the Islamic Courts Union was ousted from power, security
concerns in Kenya continued as thousands of refugees streamed
across the two countries’ border for sanctuary in Kenya.
Open warfare in Somalia eased briefly, but then radicals began
insurgency that soon created bloody skirmishes in many parts of
Mogadishu. Snipers shot from rooftops, car bombs were detonated
and public places were blasted — all in an effort to keep Somalia
Since early 2007, the Somalia government and its Ethiopian allies
have been targets of almost daily attacks by Islamist radicals.
Somalia recently heated up again, as insurgents created serious
turmoil trying to recapture Mogadishu. Thousands more Somalis fled
the city, many of them heading for the Kenyan border. The
increased fighting also killed a Kenyan policeman in Mandera, the
third Kenyan police officer killed in such circumstances this year.
The incessant fighting has led to a humanitarian catastrophe. The
radical-inspired insurgency has displaced at least 90,000
residents, adding to the exodus of 400,000 inhabitants in earlier
Gunfire continues to ring out in many parts of the capital, and in
one episode, a child was killed in a shootout with radical militia.
Police said the radicals were trying to catch eight aid agency
workers who had refused to pay them protection money.
Even though thousands of Somalis are fleeing Mogadishu, they are
finding life harder and more painful elsewhere. One woman tried
desperately to hold onto the security of her Mogadishu home for
herself and her family despite the daily gun battles.
She abandoned hope, however, when a mortar shell killed three
people in a nearby house. She packed a few belongings and fled
with her six children. They are now with about 500 other families
in a camp for displaced people in Elasha, 20km south of Mogadishu.
Many refugees have erected makeshift shelters on the road. Most
people agree that life in the camps is hard, but returning to
Mogadishu is not an option. Some refugees see their biggest
problem as getting water in the camps. Hundreds of women wait with
their jerrycans for local charities to deliver water in tankers.
Many days they head back to their shelters without a drop.
In another incident, about 40 people — mostly Somalis — drowned
while crossing the Gulf of Aden trying to flee to Yemen. Nearly 90
others survived and managed to reach Yemeni southern shores of
Shokara after their rickety vessels capsized.
The UNHCR has reported that at least 439 migrants have died while
attempting to cross the Gulf of Aden in 2007, and another 490 are
Also in 2007, more than 10,000 Somalis reportedly arrived in Yemen
Meanwhile, despite the need to help people in desperate
circumstances, Kenya keeps its security antennae raised high.
Kenya closed its border with Somalia in January to prevent
extremists from crossing, but humanitarian considerations forced
it to accept thousands of homeless refugees.
Observers agree that humanitarian issues must be faced, but so
must security matters. The choice is difficult, but protecting
one’s country is imperative.