Mohamed Said Barre ascended to the Presidency of Somalia in 1969 through a coup nine years after Somalia gained Independence from her colonial powers [1]. The current state of insecurity was occasioned by his inability to develop a national philosophy that was to anchor the unity of a nation over and above clanism, nepotism, corruption, and despotic dictatorship. These issues led to the formation of the Islamic Union in 1983 [2], which is considered the progeny of Islamic fundamentalism in Somalia. In the 1990s Farah Aideed and other clan warlords managed to oust him and force him into exile. Unfortunately for Aideed, clanism was too entrenched that neither he nor other warlords could unite the Somali people under one national banner after the demise of Barre’s presidency.

Brief History of Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab is an off-shoot of two groups whose ideologies have either undergone a metamorphosis or have been adapted from international Jihadist organizations. From the onset at around 1983 the formation of the Islamic Union was composed of young men who had been studying or working in the Middle East. The Islamic Union at this point of time was supported by funding from Saudi-based NGOs that influenced the group’s perception that political Islam was the tool that could be used to dislodge the country from corrupt governance. The group had two main objectives, to remove Said Barre from power and unify Somalis by enjoining Ethiopia’s Ogaden region and Kenya’s North Eastern Province with Somalia[3]. This is the basis of the Shifta sentiments in North Eastern Kenya during the 1980s-90s.

The subject of political Islam was not highly regarded as good by a majority of Somalis who remained suspicious of it and resorted to clans as a source of protection. This explains why clanism in Somali is deeply entrenched. However, the Islamic Union consolidated the town of Luuq and administered strict Sharia their making the region have higher security standards than other areas in Somali. The proximity of Luuq to Ethiopia and Kenya, considering the IU vision of annexing NEP in Kenya and Ogaden region in Ethiopia only fuelled Ethiopia’s anxiety of the IU. This led to Ethiopia’s invasion and terminated IU from the town but did not culminate to a total defeat of the IU, which underwent a transformation and re-emerged as the Islamic Court Union that sought to apply strict Sharia in the restoration of Somalia.

By 2006, the ideology of the group had changed as they sought to align ICU with global Jihadism and affiliate itself with Al-Qaeda [4]. It is at this point that Somalia was opened to a wave of foreign jihadists from all over the world, some of them battle hardened from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iraq and other Middle East countries joined ICU to bolster its fighting capacity. They improved their guerrilla warfare and fighting techniques [5]. ICU attempted to overrun Baidoa the then stronghold of the Federal Transition Government in late 2006. Ethiopia responded with immense military force supported by the US army.  The Ethiopian response restored Baidoa to the Federal Transition Government, but in the aftermath an insurgency against the FTG and the Ethiopian invasion led to the rise of Mujahedeen Youth Movement from the ashes of the ICU.

The Long-Term Vision of the Al-Shabaab

The Al-Shabaab has equated the AMISON mission as a Christian attack on the Muslims of Somalia. This provides two reasons for justifying their Jihadist wars and terrorist acts against Kenya. First, the Al-Shabaab are using the propaganda that Kenya is headed by a Christian president and the KDF incursion into Somalia and later inclusion into AMISOM as an attempt by Christians to subdue Somalis and water down the quality of Islamic way of life which they regard as pure and prescribed by God. Secondly, as a progeny of the Islamic Union which sought to build a Greater Somali through the unification of the Ogaden region in Ethiopia and Kenya’s North Eastern Province, they validate their nationalism by arguing that the Ethiopian and Kenyan invasion of Somali needs to be repulsed, and later these two regions forcibly annexed to Somalia.

By mixing the two elements, the Al-Shabaab seeks to justify the terrorist acts they perpetuate against Kenya as Jihad. It should be noted that top leadership in Al-Shabaab has sought allegiance and support from Al-Qaeda and have got an endorsement from the late Osama bin Laden himself.  Al-Shabaab seeks to expand the theme of Greater Somalia by subjecting itself to the global Jihadist goal of establishing an Islamic Khilaafah (Caliphate) in all parts of the world. It is here that the Ethiopian and Kenyan efforts to bolster the AMISOM must not come to a cessation.

Sheikh Ali Muhammad Hussein one of the Al-Shabaab leaders has been quoted as having stated the continuation of jihad beyond Somalia is a religious obligation in defence of Islam. In 2009 he advocated the idea that despite the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu, the mujahideen had a sacred duty to pursue the enemy to where he still remains. He justifies this by stating that that will be an act in compliance with the command of God and more traps will be laid for the enemy. Suffice is to say, he did not foresee the end of Jihad with the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops because insofar as Islam was concerned, Jihad will continue until doomsday [6].

The top Al-Shabaab leadership has openly subscribed to pursue global Jihadist agenda through direct overtures to Al-Qaeda. Before his demise Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan formally reached to the top echelons of AL-Qaeda to which Al-Qaeda pledged to support Al-Shabaab. One of Al-Qaeda’s top leaders in 2009 Ayman al-Zawahiri appealed to all Muslims in the Muslim world to rise up to aid their Muslim brothers in Somalia

Reasons Why KDF cannot be withdrawn from Somalia

I get appalled by Raila Amolo Odinga when he claims that security in Kenya will improve with the withdrawal of KDF from Somalia. If this is part of his political mechanization of surviving with the nine lives of a cat, then so be it. However, his persuasion that by withdrawing from Somali we shall not lose our face as a nation is logical stupidity. One, as nation, insecurity is the shame that we have on our collective face as a nation. With the brief I have given earlier, it remains to be seen that withdrawal from Somali will open a new frontier for the Al-Shabaab militia who have made manifest their intention to ‘liberate’ Somali from ‘foreign invasion’ led by Kenya and initially orchestrated by the Ethiopians.

So, while Raila is busy asking for a pullout of KDF from Somali, he must be reminded that Al-Shabaab recognized Osama bin Laden as their spiritual leader. Bin Laden never approved the Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed becoming the president of the TFG of Somalia, because he (Sharif) “agreed to partner infidel positive law with Islamic Shari’a to set up a government of national Unity” and in that process apostatized from Islam. This is the doctrine of the Al-Shabaab, if AMISOM withdraws from Somali, this perception will definitely make it impossible to have regional stability in Eastern Africa.

This is because the Al-Shabaab leadership does not in any way seem to be able to reconcile their doctrines of non-cooperation with non Muslim leaders and furthermore, those whom they deem violating that principle. It doesn’t matter that their target is the USA, whom they perceive as the oppressors of Islam. Since they have no way of hitting the USA terribly with terrorist attacks to their desired ultimate satisfaction that will pacify their anger, they have turned the chapter by misplaced aggression, attacking Christians as a replacement.

I therefore seek again to fault Raila, at no point in history has the American nation engaged a faceless enemy within their own borders and who have infested a neighbouring country, say, Canada. Ethiopia and Kenya share common international boundaries with the lawless Somali. USA does not. In the political power struggles within Somali political supremacy has left the country fragmented and exposed to easy infiltrations by international Jihadists who have used Somali as a safe haven for their operation. Thus, to say that withdrawal will save us the shame of defeat is to cover the defecation with icing sugar. Withdrawal is not only futile, but a motivation for the radicalized Al-Shabaab to perpetuate more terror on Kenya until doomsday, based on Osama’s instructions to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Jihadists.

Raila justifies the American withdrawal from Somali two decades ago and tries to use the same logic for Kenya to withdraw, he intentionally overlooks the nature of the engagements for the two countries. The American attempted to restore order in Somalia, when they failed; they had nothing to lose by withdrawing. Kenya has everything to lose. Security. Raila cited Vietnam, but again that was a fallacy in my view. In Afghanistan and Iraq the withdrawal of the US army did not provide much impetus at re-unifying these failed States. Instead, more radical groups emerged, and the worst being the ISIS, even not as a direct involvement of USA due to the Arab Revolts that begun in Tunisia. Their vision to build an Islamic caliphate from the ruins of Iraq and Syria has left many more people prone to greater insecurity than ever before. The Americans should have paid their price by ensuring they have developed effective governance systems before they evacuated their soldiers. That would have taken quite a number of years. If I may make an approximation, let me say 25 years on the minimum.

The reason why the withdrawal of KDF and AMISOM will be disastrous is based on the pronunciations earlier made by Osama bin Laden about apostatizing Islam in the way he alluded of Sheikh Ahmed Sharif, former president of the TFG of Somali. Look at this threat where every Somali leader who tries to seek cordial relationship with neighbouring countries will be branded a traitor to the Muslim faith by the Al-Shabaab, there will be no room for peaceful negotiations. The ingredient for peace, cooperation will be an extinct commodity. In already stating that any cooperation with non-Islamic nations and cooperation with non-Muslims is a matter of apostatizing Islam, then Kenya with her religious diversity must not seek to withdraw from Somali until Somali is stabilized.

But history has other lessons, when engaging in pacifying ideologies through military warfare; you must do it to completion. Take a look at North Korea and South Korea, failure for either State to reconcile their ideologies with the other has meant that they are doomed to be in conflict for a very long time in the foreseeable future. The ideologies of Al-Shabaab are not reconcilable in any way to the ideologies of Kenya as a nation that seeks to have people enjoy their liberties without any hindrance, insofar as they do not do so in contradiction to the Constitution. Al-Shabaab seeks to propagate the global Jihadist terrorism ideology, which is in contradiction to the Constitution of Kenya and the collective will of the people of Kenya as a nation. It should be noted that even the same terrorist groups that seek to preserve Islam have been questioned by Muslim faithful over the atrocities they commit in the name of religion. ISIS for example, has committed terrible acts of human rights violations to fellow Muslims even killing some of its own members who seek to question their methods of operations.

This are the kind of people Raila wants to dialogue with, pacifying their egos by withdrawing from Somali. These are religious fanatics who lost sense of humanity. They are real bandits whom Raila advocates that we provide them an inch to move closer and terrorize more Kenyans. Raila, on this one you are wrong, the kind of reasoning which shows you are simply being populist in the pursuit of State House in 2017. Let me beg to differ with you on this. If elected as C-in-C, will you be afraid to send soldiers to the battlefield because the a few of them will die and save the nation or will you keep them safe within the barracks while the country is overrun by foreign terrorists?

Stop wasting time thinking you will engage with Al-Shabaab and reach an agreement they stop harassing, maiming and killing innocent Kenyans. Do not even purport that by withdrawing from Somali they will reciprocate by leaving Kenyans alone. By the way, Garrissa University massacre will be a pale shadow if we withdraw KDF from Somali in future.

[1] Michael Walls, “State Formation in Somaliland: Building Peace from Civil War” (2008 International Peace Research Conference, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2008), 10.

[2] Ken Menkhaus, Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism (London & New York: Routledge, 2004).

[3] A.M Abdullahi, “Perspectives on the State Collapse in Somalia,” in Abdullahi A. Osman & Issaka K. Souaré (eds) Somalia at the Crossroads: Challenges and Perspectives on Reconstituting a Failed State (London: Adonis and Abbey Publishers, Ltd, 2007).

[4] Peter Dörrie, “Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa’s Deadliest Radicals,” August 19, 2014,

[5] B Schiemsky, Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1676 (New York: U.N. Security Council Committee, 2008).

[6] “Somalia: Al-Shabaab Official Equates AU Peacekeepers with Ethiopian Troops” (, January 17, 2009).


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