Mid-this week, East Africa’s leadership including Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki , Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza are in London for a meeting to discuss Africa’s sick man, Somalia.
To think that the fate of Africa’s most troubled and fragmented nation is being discussed and considered over 8,000 miles away is in itself significant. Somalia has since 1991 degenerated into a lawless society in which militias are a law unto themselves.
These illegal groups have made one of the longest and the most beautiful coastlines of Eastern Africa to be unsafe and impossible for the purposes of exploitation for people’s welfare instead turning this area into a den of banditry and extortion.
Somali people have never known peace for the last 21 years after the ouster of Dictator Siad Barre, yet the question begs, why should this matter concern East Africans? At some point, Tanzanian security forces were heard to gloat that nothing untoward would happen to shake down their vice like grip on the security situation within the borders of Tanzania and on its coastal waters.
Suffice to say that this was more of a public statement made based on little understanding of the operations of terror networks, piracy and the handy-work of lawless bandit groups. Over the last 6 months, accompanied by several visits by the TGIF transitional President, Tanzania has conceded that indeed it has much to lose as nations that border Somalia like Kenya and Ethiopia.
It has come at a cost including the arrests of alleged pirates off the Tanzanian Coast, threats to its internal security based on trials of these pirates and arrested terror suspects, beefed up security intelligence to ward off potential soft target hits, and finally, the need to have a peaceful settlement of the Somalia case.
Three years ago Burundi and Uganda were the only countries that volunteered soldiers to serve in Amisom as per UN resolution and for this reason, Al Shabab terror cells have led to bombings inside of both Burundi and Uganda that have led to death and destruction, even further afield inside Kenya, Somalia’s Southern Neighbour.
Kenya on her part has probably borne the biggest brunt of the breakdown of law and order in Somalia. Traditionally, Kenyan Somalis and Somali Somalis have nothing that distinguishes one from the other in terms of facial features. Kenya has held more than a million Somali refugees in the North Eastern Province.
These numbers have brought a strain in the relations between residents of the Daadab areas where they find themselves poor and seemingly forgotten while the refugees are getting aid from the international community including water. Somali refugees have flooded Nairobi’s Eastleigh coming with all manner of arsenal. Pirates’ money has bought out the whole area. It operates like a little Somaliland. In East Africa today, it is only in Somalia where guns and other small arms as well as ammunition are hawked in markets.
It cannot be gainsaid that the international community left Somalia to its own fate. This has been so determined by the outcome of the disastrous attempt by the US to intervene which resulted in American Marines being dragged on the streets and tortured to death. As victims of a lawless neighbor Somali nation sit to discuss their sick man state, the international community has no option but to work with not direct the brother nations on how Somalia can be saved.
Even more importantly, Somalis in Somalia must be granted a say in what the future of their country shall be and in that no one has more right than themselves. Today there are more than 3 armies in Somalia and counting. These armies are there for their own countries’ interests and under international right to protect oneself.
The Mighty nations of the world must put their money where their mouths are in Somalia and support these armies. Failure to do so will be to postpone the dates when Al Shabab and its Al Qaeda surrogates shall overrun the East African coastline. To every East African’s detriment. *The writer , a Media consultant, is the founder of Media Development Rights Agenda.
He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.