East Africa news – The unseen enemy from above is now hunting Al Shabab on the ground


In what must have been one of the worst kept secrets, probably not meant to be kept at all, has it finally been made official last weekend by US army sources that a number of UAVs are now operating from Ethiopian territory, deployed against the Al Shabab militias but very likely, and very covertly also looking into hostile Eritrea, which has long been accused to harbour militant camps and arming militias and terrorists, not only in Somalia but inside Ethiopia too. Based in the southern town of Arba-Minch, some 500 kilometres from Addis Ababa, the location allows maximum flying time over Somali territory for the unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, which in recent days have already delivered their deadly load on Al Shabab targets, missiles literally coming out of the blue sky with no time to mount defenses nor to hide, inspite of denials by American officials that these drones were not armed. The little used civilian airport was reportedly chosen for being remote to keep prying eyes away as well as near enough to the Somali border and is now home to a number of US army specialists deployed there to maintain and operated the UAVs.

Following the robust forward defense by Kenya, which finally went after Al Shabab and is now aiming to capture their stronghold of Kismayu and other ports nearby ports, some of them also used by pirates in league with the militants, the drones are providing valuable intelligence information, some of which is shared with the AU mission and from unconfirmed reports with Kenyan troops too, while Ethiopia is benefitting to get the latest information about movements by Oromo terrorists and other militants and rebels towards their own border.

The UAVs are a potential game changer in the Somalia as they provide both real time intelligence but can also intervene militarily at a moments notice, just as soon as targets have been identified and cleared for action. They also prevent a direct involvement on the ground by the Americans, who pursue their strategic interests now from the air, giving their allies Ethiopia but also the AMISON and Kenyan troops the details they need to know to mount successful sorties and prepare defenses when needed.

What is however still required is to bring together the Western partners of the naval coalition off the Horn of Africa, where they combat ocean terrorism by Somali pirates, the partners in AMISON, the TFG in Mogadishu and the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments to map out a common strategy to pacify Somali, rid the country of militants, terrorists and Al Qaida affiliates, restore central powers of a federal government and then help Somalia to rebuild the economy to provide jobs and things to do other than becoming pirates or terrorists.

For now however Al Shabab and other militants in Somalia are facing a combined onslaught from the AU force, TFG troops and the Kenyan army, airforce and navy, aided by the unseen strikeforce from the skies over their heads. Needless to say has Al Shabab made threats against Ethiopia, as it has previously against Kenya, Uganda and Burundi leading to stepped up security in all neighbouring countries to prevent their mischief from spreading across the borders, which however, as seen in Kenya and last year in Uganda, does not rule out that they get lucky once in a while. All the more a reason to pursue them until they have no more place to hide and defeat them on the battlefield and the ideological front too. And best wishes to the Ugandan, Burundian and Kenyan troops on the ground defending our freedom and liberties.