KENYA GOVERNMENT CHANGES STRATEGY, ALLOWS HOT PURSUIT
In a long awaited policy shift has the Kenyan government now given their military, and probably all security organs involved in keeping Al Shabab at bay, permission to cross the border with Somalia in pursuit of militants. While it was not immediately known if this is being applied in retrospect to the cases of the abduction of four foreigners from Kenyan soil, first a tourist from Kiwayu, then a part time resident from Manda Island in Lamu and two days ago two MSF doctors who were working at the worlds largest refugee camp a short distance from the Somali border, that much is now clear that any further incursions will trigger a military response. A statement released yesterday in Nairobi the minister for internal security announced that The Kenyan Government has decided to take robust measures to protect and preserve the integrity of the country and the national economy and security. This is taken as a thinly concealed reference to keeping Kenyas vital tourism sector assured that border security and what is generally considered a forward defense is not officially on top of the agenda and that finally all measures available will be taken to ensure the safety of visitors, and Kenyans of course alike. The Dadaad camp near the border now houses over half a million refugees from Somalia, most of which are trying to escape the senseless violence inflicted on them by hardline Islamic militias, which try to enforce a warped and what has been described perverted Islamic rule, or the cross fire when fighting breaks out amongst competing militias trying to widen their territorial control. However, there have been allegations that militants have used the constant stream of refugees across the border to the UN operated camp to hide amongst genuine asylum seekers aimed to create a fifth column in the camp or else slip away into Kenya ready to commit terror attacks. International staff have been withdrawn from the camp for the time being and Kenyan security operatives are now starting to screen the camp population attempting to flush out militants posing as refugees.
It is understood that several units of the Kenya Army and also of the Kenya Air Force have been mobilized and are enroute already to their new deployment areas, a development reminiscent to the Shifta War in the 1960s, when the government in Mogadishu tried to repossess what they claimed was Somalias land across the border in Northern and North Eastern Kenya, leading to an undeclared but nevertheless active war, which Kenya eventually won. This was the only active engagement Kenyan troops ever had to undertake, other than countering a coup attempt by the air force on 01st August 1982, when they were deployed with General Service Units and other pro government security organs to counter the coup plotters, clear them off the streets of the capital and neutralize them.
Kenyas navy is already deployed since the second abduction in Lamu and is now actively patrolling the waters along the extensive coastline from the Somali border to beyond Lamu and they too it is understood from a Nairobi based source are now free to engage in hot cross border pursuit. If this is a broad signal that Kenya is now actively hunting across the border for the militants and their hostages has not been confirmed but it is thought a likely scenario, considering the heated internal debate between a government which has hitherto sat back and reacted while the public at large demanded active and robust responses against the constant violation of the countrys border with Somalia.
The most likely scenario now seems that units of the Kenya Army, supported by air force surveillance and navy units, will establish a forward buffer zone inside Somalia to widen the distance militants would have to travel to get into Kenya without being challenged and then run hot pursuit missions on the ground, assisted by air support, very likely in a coordinated fashion with the African Union mission in Mogadishu, which is also seeking more troops to expand their operational capabilities and push the militants back.
This latest development has been broadly welcomed by regional powers already involved in the AU mission as it will likely force the militants to fight on two fronts in the future, and it is understood that in particular Ethiopia is keenly monitoring Kenyas move, very likely prompting a renewed engagement in Somalia in support of the AUs force on the ground. There is also greater pressure on the UN Security Council now to consider and decide on imposing a full air and sea embargo on Somali to make it considerably harder for Al Shabab and other militants to get fresh supplies from their foreign godfathers and either complement or take over the role the African Union has played on behalf of the world community in the past years.
Meanwhile though have words of caution also been voiced, demanding that security inside Kenya be stepped up considerably and immediately, following this change in policy, to prevent any attempts by Al Shabab and other Al Qaida affiliates to destabilize Kenya, with in particular the tourism and aviation sectors being potential targets. Watch this space as new developments are evolving.