Issue 1, Volume 24
As Kenya's military advance into Somalia continues to advance at a
far slower pace than military and political leaders had anticipated, it was
more a case of moving the pieces around the chessboard in advance of the end
game rather than any serious fighting this week.
Kenya can point to some limited successes. They backed
pro-government forces inseizing four villages in Gedo,
andthen announced they haddestroyed a suspected al-Shabaab skiffoff
Lower Juba,complete with avideoshowing a
They also carried out anair strike on an al-Shabaab base in
Jilib, saying that ten al-Shabaab militants were killed.This,
however, is where the controversy starts. Many analysts have warned Kenya must
be careful not to cause civilian casualties, as it could boost support for
al-Shabaab, but several civilians were reported killed in the air strike. Kenya
laid the blame at the door of a technical, which it said was on fire and drove
into an internally displaced camp before exploding and causing deaths and
injuries. This does seem a rather weak attempt at shifting blame, considering
one can assume the reason the technical was on fire was because Kenya had
bombed it in the first place.
The attack and resultant deaths broughtcriticism from the TFG,
which finally got around toclarifying its supportfor
the Kenyan mission during a visit by the prime minister. Al-Shabaab was almost
gleeful with the turn of events, saying all ten who were killed were civilians
and that the bombing showed the "barbarity" of the invasion and plans
to launch a full-scale war against the Somali people. Such rhetoric will be
wheeled out every time a civilian is killed, and Kenya will do well to learn
from this and take more care with its bombs.
And it seems there will be plenty more bombs. Army spokesman Major
Emmanuel Chirchir, who has become something of atwitter celebrity, used the
social medium to announce that ten towns will be under constant attack.
Presumably those people who begantrying to fleewere
not glued to their iPhones, but heard the news through more traditional forms
of media. Exactly why Chirchir chose twitter, not the most appropriate
messaging platform to announce death from above, as his way of issuing such
warnings is a mystery, but the spokesman does appear to be displaying the early
stages of tweet addiction, perhaps driven by his rapid increase in followers.
The problem for many citizens in the towns being targeted is that
al-Shabaab is reticent to let them leave. Having plenty of civilians around to
be caught up in the conflict would suit their purposes, but they are also
trying desperately to recruit cannon fodder to face the Kenyan guns. Youth have
been forcibly recruited inKismayoandother areas, although the
group's claims they had struck a deal with the Ayr to help in the fight wasdenied by the important sub-clanwith
strong links to Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaa.
Al-Shabaab is essentially looking for people to tote the new
weapons thathave been arriving in Baidoa,
allegedly delivered by Eritrea. The Eritreans, who love nothing more than
backing the enemies of enemy Ethiopia and have often been accused of arming the
insurgents, denied the charge, but Somalia Report was told of four separate
flights carrying weapons into the al-Shabaab-controlled town
The weapons delivery came as many believed the Ethiopians, who
sparked the insurgency with their 2006 invasion, were about to re-enter the
conflict on a large-scale. Hundreds of Ethiopian forces came across the border,
but it turned out they were onlylooking for rebels from the
Ogaden National Liberation Front, and quickly withdrew.
These reports of weapons being landed are concerning for Kenya,
but fortunately Major Chirchir was there again to take to twitter and defuse
the threat, promising to have a pop at any aircraft that may try to land. We
can only hope there aren't any more UNICEF flights scheduled to drop aid into
the city in the near future.
Chirchir lashed out at many targets during his tweet frenzy, but
the most unusual one came in theform of donkeys.The
major has been informed that al-Shabaab has been using donkeys to ferry weapons
around in the muddy conditions, and essentially threatened to bomb any large
congregations of the animals. So, donkey owners, don't have a donkey-swapping
party any time soon. Considering Kenya's troops are struggling to go anywhere
in the mud, they may even consider copying the insurgents and using donkeys,
perhaps modified to have an RPG mounted on either flank, to approach the
battlefield. Now that would be a sight to behold.
Our publisher Robert Young Pelton alsotakes a look at the changing rationale
of Kenya's decision to crash the party uninvited, and lays out his
take on how things might turn out.
And so, on to piracy, where there was plenty of activity this
After 11 months in captivity, the MV Blida and her crew of 25were freedfor a sum
reported between $2.6 million and $3.5 million, bringing in welcome cash for
pirates who have been looking elsewhere for sources of income by kidnapping
tourists and aid workers in recent months. It ended a long and convoluted saga
involving sacked negotiators, death threats and stalled negotiations.
The Blida's place was taken by theunfortunate MT Liquid Velvet,
which became the first high-value vessel to be successfully seized in
months.It is perhaps no coincidence that this vessel did not have an
armed security team on board, making it easier to take.As can be seen
fromour list of attempted hijackings over
the last month, many of them failed because the security team fired
Elsewhere, one of Somalia's most-famous - yet ineffectual -
piratesbribed himself out of jailin
Berbera along with a friend,while piratesclashed over controlof
the Danish and US hostages working for the Danish Demining Group.
Our special reports this week saw our publisher Robert Young
Pelton have a look at thefinances of the shipping and insurance
industry,while roving correspondent Muhyadin Ahmed Roble
showed just how easy it is tobuy a gun in Hargeisa, the
capital of the semi-autonomous Somaliland.
That's it from us this week. Have a great weekend, and we'll catch
you next time.