At least five people, including three children, were killed when a displaced persons camp at Jilib in southern Somalia was bombed yesterday, the charity Doctors Without Border (MSF) says. Now, predictably, the Kenyan army and Shabab rebels are blaming each other. Kenya’s military released a statement saying the camp had come under fire by a Shabab “technical battle wagon” mounted with an “anti-aircraft gun.” Sheikh Abukar Ali Ada of the Shabab countered: “Kenya has brutally massacred civilians already displaced by hardship. We will ensure that Kenya mourns more than we did.” (The Telegraph, BBC News, Capital FM News, Nairobi, Oct. 31)
Kenya’s offensive in Somalia—dubbed Operation Linda Nchi, Kiswahili for “Protect the Nation”—is also exacerbating tensions and violence at home. The UN news agency IRIN reports that Somali refugees in Kenya as well as Kenyans of Somali ethnicity are “living in fear” after grenade attacks on a pub and a bus stop in Nairobi last week, which resulted in one death and several injuries. The government says the Shabab are behind the attacks, as well another on a vehicle carrying Ministry of Education officials that left four dead in the northeastern town of Mandera. Following the blasts, one Kenyan Somali was arrested in Nairobi with a cache of weapons, including several grenades, and apparently admitted his involvement in the attack on the bus stop as well as being a member of the Shabab. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Somalis in Kenya say they are being treated as terrorism suspects due to their ethnicity.
A BBC News report loans credence to Shabab claims that the Kenyan intervention is an assault on Somalia’s sovereignty—and even its territorial integrity. BBC’s Will Ross cites unnamed “analysts” as saying that “for several years,” Kenya, “with international [read: US] support,” has been seeking to carve a semi-independent enclave called “Azania” out of Somalia’s border region as a “buffer zone to shield its territory” from the neighboring country’s lawlessness. The taregtted area, traditionally known as Jubaland, consists of the administrative regions of Gedo, Lower Juba and Middle Juba. Ross reports: “It already has a flag—blue, white and red—a parliament, a house of elders and a president in waiting.” He interviews Abdullahi Shafi, personal assistant to the governor of Lower Juba region, who is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Azania” and says, “We have been in hell for the last 20 years. We need a new Somalia.”
This ambiguous comment seems to imply that the envisioned Azania would still be “technically” a part of Somalia. But—as a map accompanying the BBC story makes clear—the now truly fictional state of Somalia is already divided into four independent entities: Somaliand and Puntland in the north, and the Islamist-controlled and “government”-controlled zones of Somalia proper (the latter being somewhat smaller than the former). Azania would now be a fifth. And—in contrast to Somaliland and Puntland, which are truly autonomous—would presumably be under Kenyan military control.
See our last post on Kenya and Somalia.