As we mourn Kenya’s fallen soldiers and send condolences to their bereaved families, we need to rethink our need to continue being in or withdrawing from Somalia. Unfortunately, it takes tragedies to shock people into seeking solutions for problems like war.
When America was fighting in Vietnam, it took student demonstrations and public debates for the government to end the war.
Having not allowed national debate on whether to send our troops to Somalia or not, we should utilise the current tragedy to have a public debate on whether we have a good reason or not to be in Somalia and whether KDF should withdraw from there or not.
Simultaneously, since it is the people, not leaders who fight, bleed and die in wars, they should be consulted and their consent sought before any war is declared. Governments should never declare war without people’s express consent.
More importantly, governments should send their armies to war only when it is absolutely necessary. Indeed, whenever a war is declared, it should be for a reason that can allow every parent, husband or wife to support sacrifice of the life of their loved one(s) – for instance, freedom of the people or independence of the country.
The Jubilee government, however, seems to be fighting a war in Somalia for reasons that don’t seem to meet this criterion for war.
First, we are in Somalia to liberate the country from the bad leadership of the al Shabaab. But we ourselves are not liberated from bad leadership and Somali people – other than President Mohamud of Somalia – do not seem to want us there. Not long ago, Parliament of the Federal Republic of Somalia voted against the presence of KDF in Somalia. Consequently, only Somalis can truly liberate themselves from their bad governments, though we must give them moral, political and diplomatic support.
Second, from the speeches of President Uhuru, we are fighting in Somalia to prove his valour and that of his Jubilee government. But war should be fought only to meet the national need of securing the safety of Kenya and her people using the least expensive way.
Third, the government says KDF is in Somalia to guarantee our borders and internal security, none of which has been attained. In fact sending KDF into Somalia seems not to have secured our borders which the al Shabaab violates at will to attack Kenya where they want. But the worst strategy of fighting the al Shabaab seems to be to send our army into Somalia, exposing them to the vagaries of guerilla warfare, which our army is not acquainted with.
Fourth, KDF also seems to be in Somalia because the Kenyan government has the support of the Kenyan people. This support, however, seems to be dwindling. A lot of Kenyan people now say they prefer to have KDF withdrawn from Somalia to be posted to our borders to guard the country against al Shabaab’s infiltration for internal attacks. It makes little sense for KDF to be protecting Somali people in Somalia when Kenyan people are being attacked internally by the al Shabaab.
The sixth reason for the presence of KDF in Somalia is to contribute to the global response against global terrorism of the al Shabaab.
Unfortunately, our contribution against global terrorism in Somalia seems to be less appreciated and to be more than we can afford. Global response to the global war against terrorism should be equitably sought from all countries, which is not the case today.
Response against global terrorism can never be global if it is only African and Kenyan soldiers who are bleeding and dying in Somalia.
KDF soldiers should be withdrawn from Somalia as long as we have the current arrangement where Western countries only contribute money, while African and Kenyan troops contribute sweat, tears, blood and life.
In war, attacked countries seem to have a psychological advantage over countries that attack others. During the Second World War, German army lost the war because it was attacking while victim countries were defending themselves with whatever they had.
Though America is militarily stronger than Kenya, she withdrew her invading forces from Somalia and lost her war against Vietnam despite being a world super power.
Strangely, with all her vulnerability, Kenya is insisting on KDF staying in Somalia where America and Europe have no troops and when President Obama has withdrawn American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and is shaping a new policy of not sending American soldiers to countries she is at war with.
Looking at our history, President Kenyatta won the Shifta war against Somali insurgents from both Kenya and Somalia fighting for the dream of greater Somalia because Kenya benefited from advantages of victimhood.
Today, Kenyan security forces are suffering incredible defeats because al Shabaab has local support and advantages of the war of the flea that allows them to retreat and withdraw at will and without shame, unlike the KDF that is fighting conventional warfare under the belief that to withdraw is cowardly.
If President Uhuru truly believes in KDF fighting in Somalia, as British Princes Andrew, William and Harry were deployed to Falklands and Afghanistan, so should Uhuru and Ruto send their sons to Somalia. Kenyan war in Somalia will not be won if it remains a war of commoners.
Finally, while Kenyan soldiers who fell in Somalia are rightly called heroes, the Kenya government must also fly the national flag half mast for them. They gave their all for Kenya.