Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From The Horn Of Africa, Vows Of Revenge

The Islamic Militant community was initially quiet following the death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, but they're starting to make up for lost time with statements vowing revenge for the killing of their spiritual head, and now the top Islamist group in the Horn of Africa has weighed in. According to regional media reports, Somalia's al-Shabaab (“the youth”) has said they will “take revenge for him [bin Laden]” in a videotaped statement by their media wing. Al-Shabaab's likely target won't be the United States or its forces but rather the “non-Muslim invaders” in Somalia – troops from the African Union's peacekeeping mission to the failed state.

One country that has been growing more wary of al-Shabaab is neighboring Kenya, which fears that the instability in Somalia could spread, both through direct terror attacks launched by al-Shabaab and through Somali refugees fleeing to Kenya to avoid fighting between al-Shabaab, the African Union peacekeepers and the militias supporting Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) - the internationally-backed attempt to bring governance back to Somalia after a two decade absence. Last month, Kenya offered their support to “Jubaland”, a new autonomous region in southern Somalia, which borders Kenya. In announcing their semi-independence, the government, so to speak, of Jubaland also pledged their determination to fight al-Shabaab. According to Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper though, Jubaland is less of an expression of self-governance than it is an attempt by Kenya to create a “buffer zone” within Somalia proper between Kenya and the forces of al-Shabaab. “The Jubaland initiative will be Kenya’s first major attempt to reassert its influence in a country that has posed a major social and security nightmare for the last two decades,” said Elias Bare Shil, a former member of Kenya's parliament, adding that Jubaland could not only help Kenya with security but also reopen a trade route to the Somali port city, Kismayu, which fell into al-Shabaab's hands several months ago.

Kenya's willingness to so overtly interfere in Somalia's internal operations is an expression of frustration over how long the international community has allowed the Somali situation to fester. While the TFG is a sincere attempt to establish a working government in Somalia, it has been underfunded by the international community and under-supported by the African Union, which has had difficulty in even finding member nations to send troops to the peacekeeping mission. As a result, the TFG militias and AU troops have had a difficult time just keeping control of just Mogadishu, Somalia's capital city, and have been wholly unable to bring law and order to the rest of the nation.

Kenya will likely face a stiff fight from al-Shabaab for control of Jubaland, while al-Shabaab will also look to make good on their public declaration of revenge in the name of bin Laden. It seems like it will be a tense next few months in the Horn of Africa.
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