ABDUCTION OF AID WORKERS FROM REFUGEE CAMP CASTS FRESH DOUBTS
News broke yesterday of several aid workers in the main refugee camp at the border with Somalia getting abducted including two foreigners working with MSF Medicines Sans Frontiers in another daring raid by suspected Al Shabab militants into Kenya.
It prompted immediate doubts on Kenyas preparedness to counter such cross border raids, more so in the light of the abductions of two foreigners from the Kiwayu Safari Village, which has since been closed due to lack of business, and from Lamus Manda Island, which caused tourism to that destination to collapse too when embassies put an embargo on all but the most essential travel to that part of Kenya.
It was only after the second abduction of a wheelchair bound French woman that the government in Nairobi really got into gear, but according to local sources the exercise at the coast is already showing signs of complacency creeping in while statements about defending our borders have come to all but naught with the latest attack yesterday.
Usually well informed sources with up close experience in the Somalia situation have indicated to this correspondent that Al Shabab, under intense military pressure in Mogadishu already, may have changed tactics and expand its operations into neighbouring Kenya to draw the country into an open confrontation and to open up a new front. There is also speculation that the abducted doctors could also be used, not just as human shields but to treat wounded Al Shabab militants and at least one source questioned if the abduction of doctors was not spurred by the need of the other two hostages taken from the Kenyan coast for treatment to keep them alive as bargaining chips.
Diplomatic activity has reportedly also flared up since these latest abductions and a flurry of activities has been unfolding to hold urgent meetings, not just in Kenya but on AU level and UN level to discuss the Somalia crisis which is now, something this correspondent has long said, openly threatening the peace and prosperity in the wider region. Somalias Islamic militants and Al Qaida affiliates operating from or hiding in Somalia, allegedly backed by the regime in Eritrea and godfathers from further abroad are pitted against a coalition of African Union sanctioned troops, presently from Uganda and Burundi, which however is short of numbers and short of crucial UN decisions on a full air and sea embargo, while off shore a naval coalition is dealing with the menace of piracy originating from Somalia.
It is high time, especially in the light of the successful Special Forces operation to free captives from a highjacked vessel held in a Somali pirates safe haven earlier in the week, the first openly admitted on land deployment, to bring the two sides together and map out a common strategy and approach using land based and sea based forces, plus the capabilities of UAVs now based in the region, to comprehensively tackle the Somalia conflict and robustly engage militants, pirates and Al Qaida affiliates. Otherwise, leaving the burden to Kenya to defend her long and porous border with Somali from cross border raids, will only produce more such problems until a forward defense strategy is employed and action taken inside Somali to deal with the menace. Watch this space.