2/20/2020
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Jubaland Conflict: What is it all about?

by Abdullahi Ahmed Suleiman
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

People may have already formed an opinion regarding the protracted conflict in Jubaland. Basically you could hear that it is generally divided into those who support the government’s position and those who bitterly oppose it. The non-government camp merely characterize this as President Farmaajo’s strategy to unseat Madoobe.  But diving deeply into the conflict, it truly appears that the problem is much bigger and more serious.

Trivializing it as most of Madoobe camp claim indicates a deeper flaw into who we are and into the nature of our unwillingness of drawing a line between what is right and what is wrong. Contrasting everything the government does provides the tools necessary to those who don’t want us to be a country, and those who criticize us of being dysfunctional, and hopeless. Unfortunately, this dominant behavior of our political culture describes the permanent division in our political spectrum.

Understanding Jubaland Conflict

Understanding Jubaland conflict requires understanding Kenya’s interest on Somalia as a whole and in particular Jubaland region.  The question that we must ask ourselves is why Kenya is so adamant to support Madoobe at the expense of violating sovereignty of a neighboring country and damaging its outstanding reputation in the region and across the world. The answer to this question is the key to finding the motives behind the Jubaland conflict. 

Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 with the premises that it wants to set up a buffer zone to protect its border from Al-Shabab despite a strong resistance from the Somali transitional government at that time. Kenya then lobbied successfully in converting her troops stationed in Kismayo port and airport as AMISOM contingent. However, as a member of troop contributing countries (TCC) for peace in Somalia, Kenya always refused to be part of the Al-shabab liberating forces in Jubaland. Understandably enough, Kenya has made clear that her forces are there to defend Kenya’s interest and not to sacrifice for the peace in Somalia.

We all remember last year, how Kenya supported Madoobe for his crusade of grabbing the regional presidency by force and intimidation. It is the only country so far that has openly endorsed Mr. Madoobe’s claim for his bogus victory in Jubaland elections.

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Emerging news from Mogadishu and Nairobi confirm that Kenya was directly or indirectly involved into the escaping of Mr. Janan (alleged criminal) from the prison in Mogadishu. It is also not a secret that Kenyan’s flew him from Kismayo to Nairobi and from Nairobi to a border city with Somalia, where Kenya Defense Force is helping him recruit militia’s to fight the Somali National Army (SNA) in Gedo.  Evidently, Kenya violated IGAD Convention on Extradition as it refused to return the fugitive to Somalia despite an official request from the Somali Federal Government and Amnesty International.

Why all this?

Kenya’s short strategy is to maintain the status quo in Somalia until it finds its own man in Villa Somalia. This entails supporting Madoobe and his team, gathering political backing from the likes of President Deni of Puntland region of Somalia, mobilizing opposition groups, arming militias and keeping the control of Kismayo, the temporary capital city of Jubaland.

Kenya is nervous about the new regional development - the trilateral agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia as it sees a geopolitical shift that will likely lead to a power shift in the region and make Kenya less relevant. Not having Ethiopia on it is side, Kenya has no space to hide, it came out openly to do the dirty job that it used to do always, but unexposed when TPLF ruled Ethiopia.

The most important issue driving Kenya’s aggressiveness in Somalia is the issue of the maritime border dispute in which Kenya has relentlessly campaigned to have the case resolved outside of the court, a move that Somalia literally rejected. Kenya is convinced that retaining Mr. Madoobe in power in Jubaland will give her a leverage of holding and ultimately exploiting the disputed area for years to come.

Overall, Kenya’s short-term and long-term strategy is to have a total control of Jubaland, free from Somalia’s Federal Government authority.  Kenya’s dream has created synergism and inspired prominent Somali-Kenyan politicians who are now openly leading the chart. The recent interview of Mr. Adan Duale, the majority leader of the Kenyan Parliament with the VOA in DC has brought into light Kenya’s ambition of annexing Jubaland when he said we have a border of 8000 km with Jubaland that we must defend. That border was always there, and never has been a concern, but now it is Kenya’s top priority to secure the oil blocks in the disputed area. To accomplish this new border policy, Kenya needs Madoobe and his henchmen to forcefully stay in power and have Kenya’s interest protected.  If Kenyans succeed in this battle, future Somali leaders will not have many options, but to accept working with almost an autonomous Jubaland that is fully controlled by the Kenyans.  Obviously from this point a dream to annex Jubaland could be in theory drafted.  Although, this assumption is far from being realistic, Kenya sees it as a MUST DO project.  It is just a matter of time before we see the concept surfacing out. In broader daylight Russia has annexed Crimea to its territory and the world has done nothing to stop it. The good thing is that Kenya is not Russia and Somalia is not Ukraine. But there are worrying signs that Somalis are becoming more disengaged, more polarized and slowly losing their identity as being one country, and one people with one God.

What should we do?

It is obvious that the conflict in Jubaland is far deeper than the information that is out there for local consumption. It is about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia, it is about the existence of the Somali people and the future of our country.  We should not allow Kenya to deny us to unite our country and our people. It is not Farmaajo agenda.  President Farmaajo is aware of Kenya’s ultimate goal in Jubaland and is unwilling to compromise. Unfortunately, up to now Mr. Farmaajo is alone in this battle. Regrettably, it is an election year and most politicians will not be happy to endorse anything that may seem to benefit the president’s re-election bid, although the threat is imminent. This is simply realpolitik and should not be a surprise as politicians look after their personal interest first before they serve their country. But there is a window of opportunity for the President; he could energize the silent majority and get their backing because at the end, his vision and his fight to defend Somalia will be determined by his success of getting the public behind him.  He needs to speak to the nation and explain plainly what is this all about followed by a well-executed public diplomacy campaign to garner the backing of the Somalis inside and outside the country.  

 I caution my fellow Somalis not to take this issue light. Leaders come and go, but we should never support foreign agendas that is based on divide and rule simply because we dislike the sitting President.

Our enemy is using multiple instruments to fight us.  Deni’s recent call to invite all political oppositions and use Puntland as a platform to categorically unseat the President is a signal that the enemy is once again orchestrating our destruction. Equally, Bihi’s recent remarks, highlighting his full pledge of the unconditional removal of the current government from power without any obvious reason should be treated as a serious matter.

Look at the evil writings of Michael Rubin, an American Jew who has never set a foot in South Central Somalia has now become the mouthpiece of the enemy of Somalia. They pay him to spread rumors and propagate a bad image of Somalia. In his latest article, he is misleadingly accusing the American Ambassador in Somalia of plotting a coup merely because the US Embassy wisely endorsed the outcome of the Galmadug Elections.  His opinion piece is not an analysis of the facts, but a hateful propaganda aimed at feeding a false narrative that Somalis cannot rule themselves.

It is important to initiate a national dialogue to discuss the future of Somalia and find compromising solutions for conflicting issues. Taking destructive roles will only exacerbate our plight as a country.  Somalia needs our unwavering support more than any time in recent history.  We need to defend our country from an enemy willing to keep us weak and divided. In our history as a nation, we went through several difficult moments that threatened our existence and at the end Somalia has always prevailed albeit our shortcomings. I am hopeful that Somalia will thrive again despite all the threats emanating from inside and outside of the country as long as there is an acceptable platform that could be genuinely used to discuss and resolve our political differences.

Abdullahi Ahmed Suleiman
[email protected]



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