Since the current maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia exacerbated, Kenyan authorities seemingly approved a new plan to drive a wedge between Somali communities on both sides of Kenya-Somalia border and in Jubaland. This policy is intended to have Kenya’s interest in the region unaffected and, at the same time, designed to get indirectly a maritime concession from the Somali government.
The philosophy behind this age-old policy is to first turn these communities against each other to sway the optimistic perception of the world community on Somalia’s steady recovery process. It is a strategy to showcase Somalia as a failed state that cannot govern by itself, protect its own boarders and more importantly cannot be trusted on the security of its territorial waters.
In this plan, Kenyan authorities categorized certain Somali clans in Jubaland as the enemy of the state who are against Kenya’s interest in the region. It was planned to not only marginalize these clans, but in addition to reassure the loyalty of “its allies” in the state. This recycled drumbeat of divide and rule tactic is designed to spoil the slowly fading tensions among these communities.
But, what is the most effective tool Kenyan authorities are currently employing to carry out this policy?
This carefully planned strategy is frequently released through reliable columnists and newspaper journalists some of whom have very close links to government officials in Nairobi. It is no secret that Kenyan media intensely serve as a reliable platform through which authorities disseminate tirades, and at times threats, against its adversaries in the region—including Somalia.
However, that is an expected alliance between the media outlets and the authorities as they view the maritime dispute a looming threat to their national interest.
Peter Kagwanja, who is a regular Daily Nation contributor and a privy to the ruling classes’ innermost information, is one of these informed columnists. He argued in a recent published analysis that Kenya will need ingenuity and flexibility to maintain its foothold in Jubaland. He believed that it was necessary to challenge a new diplomatic ambush from a Cushitic coalition formed by three Horn of African nations.
The columnist implied that such talent and flexibility partially relies on how Kenyan authorities would profit from the ongoing clan feuds in Jubaland. The sentiment to benefiting from clan differences in Jubaland, and on both sides of the border, is becoming routine among different influential circles in Kenya.
He argued that the battleground of the imminent contention between Kenya and its adversaries, the newly formed Cushitic alliance, is Jubaland and its upcoming election in August. The election, he believed, is between the current Jubaland president and a rival clan he perceived as the region’s force.
Peter Kagwanja is the spouse of Kenyan Foreign Secretary, Dr. Monica Juma, who is currently leading the diplomatic crusade against Somalia to pull the maritime case out of the court. She is tirelessly working to persuade the International Community how the maritime case at the ICJ can be a serious security threat to the larger East Africa and Southern Africa regions. However, Somalia remained resolute and rejected the idea of pulling the maritime case out of the court.
Kenya’s Star journalist, Imende Benjamin, echoed Kagwanja’s sentiment. He tried to rationalize the narrative that certain Somali clans in Jubaland are purposely used by Alshabab militant group and Somali authorities to incite violence against Kenyan Somali communities. He was referring to an intelligence report from Kenyan government.
This journalist conflated Somali authorities’ desire to peacefully remove Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) from Jubaland with Alshabab’s bloody wars against KDF. Linking Somali authorities and Somali clans in Jubaland to Alshabab is incorrect, bias and at the same time dangerous. There are no reliable reports relating Somali clans in Jubaland, particularly those living along the border areas, to radical groups. Somali communities in these areas are the main victims of the violent militant groups.
The reason behind this intelligence report is to demonize and subjugate Somalis on both sides of the border to achieve specific objectives. The report was likely a devised intelligence conspiracy from Kenyan authorities. There were in the past a number of fabricated stories where Kenyan authorities accused individuals from the Somali citizens in Kenya—including an academic—of unfounded terror related activities.
Nation TV (NTV), operated by Kenya’s Nation Media Group, was much more destructive. It aired a Kenyan intelligence report instigating violence between Somali communities on both sides of the border. The report, according to NTV, warned security agencies in Mandera, Wajir and Garisa that a local militia from a Somali clan in Jubaland was preparing attacks against Somali communities on Kenya side of the border.
A week later, Kenya’s Daily Nation reported that an ambush by an individual from Marehan clan against a business man from Somali Dagodiye clan in Kenya was foiled. Citing an intelligence briefing, the paper reported that Marehan militia were also planning attacks against Somali clans in Kenya to abduct Kenyan Somali teachers, medics, and government employees.
The newspaper also shared an incident where militia from another Somali clan, Galjecel, was preparing attacks on Garissa County. It reported that Galjecel militia kidnapped a Kenyan Somali Abdalla clan elder in Neqeysiyaq village.
These media onslaughts are so far unproductive smear tactics designed to create tensions among Somali communities in Jubaland and between Somali communities on both sides of the border. There is no consensus view among the communities in Jubaland to have conflicts with their fellow Somalis in Jubaland and in Kenya. Therefore, any isolated incident from individuals, regardless of the motive, cannot and should not represent the views of the Somali communities in the region. These are phony assumptions from Nairobi to farther divide Somali people in these regions along clan lines.
As a final point, the intellectuals from the Somali communities in Jubaland and on the border areas should realize the magnitude of the media incitement against their people. They need to reject these fabricated reports targeting the peaceful coexistence among their communities. They also need to educate the public about the motives behind these deceptive reports and the best ways to lessen their negative impact on the communities.
Somalia, however, seems to be the prime target of this policy. Kenya is vigorously working to influence how Somalia is perceived by the international community. Hoping to profit from this tactic to display Somalia as a failed state, Kenya wants to halt the maritime litigation proceedings at the ICJ. So far, Somali Federal Government is determined not to give in to this deception and rejected to reenter another round of unsuccessful bilateral negotiations. Whether or not Kenyan authorities discharge invented intelligence reports through privy elites and media outlets, Somalia’s position on the maritime dispute will remain unchanged. Somalia will rely on the international arbitrations as the regional mediations are improper and ineffective at the same time.
Dr. Abdirisaq H. Nuurre