Why KDF should get the hell out of Somalia

KDF officers fire in the air during the burial of a soldier killed in Somalia


  • The terrorists Kenya is chasing are not in Somalia
  • The real terror is corruption right here in Kenya and it is claiming more Kenyan lives than Al-Shabaab

In 2011, Kenya invaded Somalia, much to everyone’s surprise to “stop the kidnapping of foreigners in Kenya”.

That explanation, however, didn’t make sense because, instead of securing our borders to avoid Al-Shabaab crossing over, the government decided to go after rag tag militia without a centralised operational base. That’s how the chasing of ghosts started, culminating into a wave of deadly attacks in Kenya.

One thing is certain, since the pursuit of Al-Shabaab into Somalia began, Kenya has become more prone to terror attacks and made private security companies very rich, in the process.

Explosions and gunmen targeting churches and malls, and innocent students in school became part of our narrative. Kenya invading Somali introduced us to a world of metal detectors. You cannot enter a building, church or a shopping mall in any of our cities and towns without going through a metal detector.

Meanwhile, an independent report by the United Nations implicated Kenyan soldiers in the in Sh41 billion sugar and charcoal smuggling business that funds Al-Shabaab militants. Some of the proceeds from the smuggling end up in the hands of Al-Shabaab.

So basically, instead of KDF targeting the insurgents, they’re trading with them. Kenya hasn’t made any effort to investigate the claims and blanket denials do not suffice. It appears that we are in the state of Somalia for the benefit of a few, selfish individuals, the overall consequence being the insecurity of all Kenyans.

Kenya’s presence in Somalia has also helped well connected politicians make billions supplying food, fuel, tents and ammunition to the troops. Stories are told of families of soldiers who die in Somalia are blackmailed by the military not to share their experience lest they lose their pension.

The real question is, why are we in Somalia? According to the government we are there to stabilise Somalia and therefore stifle any and all operations by Al-Shabab.

The effectiveness of this strategy has been tested on countless occasions, but the most important issue is largely being ignored. Our government should be focusing on securing our borders first. In April 2015, the government announced it was going to build a Sh20 billion, 700-kilometre wall along the Kenya-Somali border.

Money was allocated, a few pictures were taken at the border and that was it.  As you read this, the taxpayer has no clue whether the fencing project started, stalled, or was completed. 

Question is, why the hell can’t we get out of Somalia? Could it, perhaps, be because the war is benefiting a few people?

First, we must acknowledge that the biggest impediment in our fight against terrorism is corruption. Information abounds on how terrorists have managed to infiltrate Kenya, either by buying documents at the immigration office or police turning a blind eye at various checkpoints.

The allure of quick money has seen Kenyans sacrifice their fellow brothers and sisters. The terrorists Kenya is chasing are not in Somalia; the real terror is corruption right here in Kenya and it is claiming more Kenyan lives than Al-Shabaab.

Kenya cannot enjoy peace because our borders are porous. Al-Shabaab bullets have felled workers at a quarry, passengers in buses, shoppers at a mall, and over 148 students at Garissa University.

The Kenya Police have also not been spared, as the attacks have even been launched right at the doorstep of police stations. We cannot, therefore, allow the lives of KDF soldiers to be inconsequential.

The president should recall our troops from Somalia to come and man our borders instead. The continued and needless presence of our soldiers in Somalia lends credence to the oft murmured view that this is purely a business venture by powerful people who are minting millions by putting our boys in harm’s way. 

The writer is an award winning photo- journalist, human rights activist and politician.