Kenya is pressuring the United States and European nations to do more to improve the capabilities of the Somali security forces, particularly the army. Kenya is the one neighbor of Somalia that has suffered the most, and for the longest time (centuries) from Somali violence. Kenya has always been the closest heavily populated non-Somali population that Somali raiders could hit and Somalis raided constantly. This was preferable to attacking other Somalis because that would start a costly blood feud that could go on for generations. Kenya sees the current situation as a rare opportunity to end, or greatly reduce, the violence generated by their unruly neighbor. Some Somalis agree, but many do not. That’s why so many of the peacekeepers are from neighboring countries who share Kenyan concerns. Ethiopia and Uganda share these concerns. Ethiopia has been fighting, with more success, Somali raiders for as long as Kenyans and more successfully but would like Somalia to settle down. Uganda does not border Somalia but is the western neighbor of Kenya and wants to help bring peace to the region.
Some parts of Somalia are more unruly than others. The more peaceable areas are in the north. Galmudug is an autonomous region of Somalia just south of the self-declared state of Puntland. Galmudug was formed in 2006 and has a population of about 1.8 million. Northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The north has been an example to the rest of Somalia. The economy in the north is doing much better and there is a lot less crime. There were problems with pirates in the north for a while, but these seagoing brigands were mainly preying on foreigners and the foreigners with navies responded. The pirates were largely out of business in 2012, the last year they captured a large ship that could yield a multi-million dollar ransom. The few pirates still in business now try to grab the smaller foreign fishing ships. Even that has become more difficult because the international anti-piracy patrol is still off the coast and during the first six months of 2016 pirate activity off the Somali coast reached its lowest levels since 1995.
The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in perpetual chaos since 1990 and the new government there is still a work-in-progress. The south has a larger number of Islamic conservatives and that led to extremists like al Shabaab. The current strategy is to eliminate extremist groups like al Shabaab and then deal with clan conflicts and the endemic corruption.
Another reason for peace in Somalia is that it would make it easier to get Somali refugees in Kenya to go home. Despite opposition from Somalia, the UN and foreign aid groups Kenya is moving forward with its recent (April) decision to close two major refugee camps and send all the Somali refugees back home. So far this year over 12,000 refugees have returned to Somalia. The Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeast Kenya has become the largest refugee camp in the world since it was established in 1991. Containing over 330,000 Somalis it was built outside the town of Dadaab. The population in the area is largely ethnic Somali but the camp is unpopular because it disrupts more than benefits the locals and has become a base for criminal gangs and Islamic terrorists. The other camp, Kakuma, is in the northwest and has some 150,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia. Like Dadaab it has become unpopular with nearby Kenyans and for the same reasons. The UN is trying to convince Kenya to keep the camps open but faces accusations of repeated broken promises and tolerating bad behavior by refugees. For example Kenya sought to expel all legal and illegal Somali refugees in the country in 2015. The expulsion threat came in response to ever more horrific al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, including an April 2015 massacre of 148 Christian students at a university. The UN halted this expulsion by making a lot of promises it did not keep. Now the UN says it will help with refugee camp security and moving more of the refugees back to Somalia. The UN offers this as an alternative to closure of the camps and expulsion of all the Somalis back to Somalia. These assurances are not very convincing because they have been made before and the UN quietly failed to deliver every time. In Somalia politicians and al Shabaab agree that Kenya should stop mistreating Somalis in Kenya if only because this mistreatment is used by al Shabaab for recruiting. The Kenyan government recognizes this problem and talks about curbing violence against Somalis in Kenya but controlling popular hatred of and hostility towards murderous Somalis is even more difficult. The local Kenyans vote while the Somali refugees don’t. Thus the continuing al Shabaab activity in Kenya reminds every one of the centuries of Somalis violence against Kenya. It’s an old problem that does not lend itself to quick or easy solutions.
Refugee officials have always had problems maintaining security in the Somali refugee camps and a growing number of foreign aid organizations are withdrawing from some camps because of the chronic violence. Kenya believes that it tried to deal with the refugees since the 1990s and found it is not worth the effort, especially in terms of many Kenyans who have been victims of Somali violence since the refugees were allowed in. The Kenyans also note (and the foreign media does not report much at all) that the UN and other foreign aid groups tend to be corrupt and full of people who are more interested in getting rich than in protecting Kenyans from unruly refugees. The Somalis in the camps also complain about the corruption but little is done to even recognize this problem much less do anything about it.
August 2, 2016: For the first time peacekeepers accused of criminal activity in Somalia were tried by a military court while still in Somalia instead of being sent home for prosecution. If nothing else this makes it easier and cheaper to use local witnesses. This time 18 Ugandan soldiers were on trial for the usual crime of stealing weapons, equipment and supplies and selling the loot to local civilians. This is a common problem with UN peacekeeping missions and continues. In the past this sort of thing was kept quiet and often not prosecuted in Somalia but in 2013 Uganda cracked down, conducted an investigation of the many incidents that had become public and arrested 40 of its soldiers, including a brigadier, for corruption while serving as peacekeepers in Somalia. The arrested men were accused of the same crimes as the current group. Uganda supplies most of the peacekeepers in Somalia and these prosecutions do not stop the corruption but appear to have reduced it considerably.
July 31, 2016: In Mogadishu al Shabaab used two suicide car bombs and several gunmen to attack a police base. The attack failed and at least fifteen people (civilians, police and Islamic terrorists) were killed.
July 29, 2016: In northern Kenya (Mandera) al Shabaab gunmen entered the offices of the local communications company and forced employees to turn off cell phone service in the area for several hours. It is unclear if this was in support of al Shabaab activity or part of an effort to extort money from the telecom companies. The area around Mandera is near the Somali border and has long been the scene of fighting between the Kenyan Murule (ethnic Somalis) and the Marhan from Somalia. In 2015 about a hundred armed Marhan crossed the border and raided Murule territory. The Marhan have long been accused of supporting al Shabaab while the Murule oppose Islamic terrorism. The Kenyan government keeps sending more police and soldiers to the area to keep the Somalis out.
July 26, 2016: Outside Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide car bomber attacked an army base near the airport and killed 13, mainly security personnel.
Earlier in the day (before dawn) in northern Kenya (Mandera) al Shabaab attacked police guarding a communications tower. The Islamic terrorists managed to damage the communications equipment, which police and civilians in this rural area depend on for Internet and cell phone service. Police pursued the attackers towards the Somali border. There was a similar attack in this area in June.
July 24, 2016: the port town of Adale (200 kilometers northeast of Mogadishu) al Shabaab attacked an army base using a suicide car bomb and gunmen. The attack failed and at least two people died. Peacekeepers and soldiers drove al Shabaab out of Adale in 2014.
July 21, 2016: In the south (Juba), near the Kenyan border soldiers and peacekeepers attacked a group of al Shabaab who had been using a phony police checkpoint to extort cash and other items from anyone trying to pass. Three al Shabaab were killed and the rest fled as the checkpoint was shut down. Other al Shabaab men in the area joined with those fleeing the checkpoint to attack the security forces. This included using explosives to destroy a bridge the troops would use. The Islamic terrorists managed to avoid contact with the troops and are still active along the border.
In Kenya (Mombasa) police raided an al Shabaab hideout and killed two Islamic terrorists. The two dead men had been under surveillance for some time and the hideout contained weapons, bomb components and instructions on how to make bombs. The two suspects were ethnic Somalis and Kenyan citizens. About 76 percent of the Moslems (four million people) in Kenya are ethnic Somalis who are citizens. Kenya is largely Christian with a Moslem minority (11 percent of the population) that has been harboring Islamic terrorists.
July 17, 2016: In the central Somalia al Shabaab fired on a convoy of Ethiopian peacekeepers passing through a village. The Ethiopians fired back and during a 30 minute gun battle at least 14 local civilians were killed. Apparently no Ethiopians were killed and some of the dead “civilians” may have been local members of al Shabaab. Clan leaders in this area near the town of Baidoa (250 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu) are hostile to the Ethiopians who tend to respond quickly and violently towards any Somali attacks. This has been going on for centuries and the Ethiopians are not inclined to try using less violence until the Somalis do.
July 16, 2016: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region) soldiers and peacekeepers cleared al Shabaab from four camps and villages they had been occupying. Ten Islamic terrorists were captured along with some weapons and equipment.
July 14, 2016: In northern Kenya, near the Somali border, at seven policeman died when an off-duty police officer entered the station angry over an undisclosed matter, went berserk, grabbed a weapon and killed six fellow officers before he was shot dead. At first police blamed the mayhem on a suspected al Shabaab recruiter they had just arrested who managed to grab a pistol from one of the policemen.
July 12, 2016: Al Shabaab claimed to have retaken the small port of Marka (70 kilometers south of Mogadishu) after the military garrison left. The troops had not been paid and left as a protest. The local authorities (who may have been involved in stealing their pay in the first place) quickly announced the matter had been taken care of and soon the soldiers were back in Marka and any al Shabaab that had been there had left. AU peacekeepers and Somali troops drove al Shabaab gunmen out of the port town of Marka in 2012 but the Islamic terrorists continued operating in the surrounding area. Until 2012 Marka had served as a base for al Shabaab terrorists carrying out attacks in Mogadishu.
July 11, 2016: Early today al Shabaab attacked an army base fifty kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. After using a suicide car bomb at the main entrance al Shabaab gunmen entered the base. The shooting went on for several hours. At least 22 people died, twelve of them al Shabaab. The Islamic terrorists promptly declared this a great victory but it was a failed attack and the local civilians noticed that.