The government accuses Kenya of supporting separatists in the south who want to establish an independent state. Back in April the government told clan leaders meeting in Kismayo (to organize the new statelet of Jubaland) that the government would not recognize their independence as it does Somaliland and Puntland. This all began two years ago when Kenya told local clan leaders that, in return for their cooperation in chasing al Shabaab out of the area, Kenya would support the formation of Jubaland. Kenyan troops subsequently joined the UN recognized Somali peacekeeping force and are now technically in opposition to any independence for Jubaland. But the local clan leaders are going ahead with it anyway and Kenyan troops are refusing to interfere. Many Somalis also suspect that Kenya has plans to annex the area Jubaland is supposed to include because Kenya has long had a claim on this part of southern Somalia.
The Somali government continues negotiating with the clans of Jubaland about establishing a federal form of government where the regions (including independent Puntland and Somaliland in the north) would have a lot of autonomy. In return the central government would provide muscle to help control bandits and warlords throughout the country. The central government also controls most of the foreign aid coming in.
All this is not that compelling for clan leaders, who are accustomed to having no government at all ordering them around. For nearly all of the last few thousand years the clans answered to no one, except for the occasional empire builder. European colonial powers arrived in the 19th century and established central government that didn’t really take, nor did similar efforts by previous conquerors. Once all the colonial powers were gone by 1960, the newly established Somali government began to come apart, a process that was complete by 1991, and no one has been able to get all the clans to submit to a new central government since. To make matters worse, most of the educated Somalis fled in the 1990s and few have come back. Meanwhile, public education has been absent in most of Somalia for two decades and the literacy rate is under 40 percent (under 30 percent for women). Public health has been largely missing for two decades and life expectancy is about 52 years. Outside of Somaliland and Puntland it’s under 50 years.
The fighting in Jubaland is mainly about who will control the port of Kismayo, which is the second largest in Somalia and a cash cow for whoever controls it. Local clans cannot agree on who will get what and that is turning Kismayo into a battleground.
May 28, 2013: An American Camtopter (a helicopter UAV) crashed while observing a al Shabaab group camped out on the southern coast. al Shabaab claims to have shot it down (after several hours of firing at it) but the U.S. says there was a mechanical failure on the UAV.
May 27, 2013: In Kismayo al Shabaab fired rockets at the airport and Kenyan troops fired back.
May 26, 2013: In the south, near the Kenyan border, al Shabaab gunmen attacked a Kenyan army camp. There were some casualties.
In Kenya (Mombassa) police tracked a wanted Somali terrorist (and al Shabaab member) to his mother’s house, where he was killed in a gun battle and several weapons were recovered.
May 25, 2013: A group of al Shabaab gunmen crossed into Kenya and attacked two police bases at night. Two policemen, three civilians, and a foreign aid worker were killed.
May 24, 2013: Near the central Somali town of Beledweyne, nomadic herders have been fighting with a local group of al Shabaab men for several days. The Islamic radicals demanded some livestock from the nomads, who refused. Al Shabaab then attacked the nomads, and more of the nomads got together and went after the al Shabaab group. Some Ethiopian soldiers showed up to help the nomads. There appears to have been several dozen casualties, mostly among the al Shabaab men, who have since fled the area.
May 22, 2013: In Kenya a Somali child in a refugee camp came down with polio. Five years ago the UN announced that a ten year effort to eradicate polio (by vaccinating nearly every child under five) has succeeded, and Somalia was free of the paralyzing (and often fatal) disease (which can only survive in humans). Polio should have been eliminated world-wide by now but there has been resistance from Islamic clergy in some countries, who insist the vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilize Moslem children. This has enabled polio to survive in some Moslem countries (Nigeria and Pakistan). The disease also survives in some very poor nations, like Kenya, because of the difficulty in getting vaccine to remote areas and tracking down nomad groups. In response to this latest outbreak Kenya will carry out more vaccinations.
May 18, 2013: In the southwest (Bakol, east of Gedo) government troops defeated a local clan militia. This left eight of the rebellious militiamen dead along with one soldier. The troops were looking for al Shabaab men in the area, but some of the local clans are not very friendly either.