“We have been aware of what Kenya is doing,” said the spokesman for Uganda People’s Defense Forces, Felix Kulayigye, quoted by the Nairobi newspaper, the East African. Uganda, which provides some 6,000 troops for the 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been pushing its fellow African Union members for some time to contribute troops, arguing that Uganda and Burundi should not bear the burden alone.
Taking on Al Shabab, Mr. Kulayigye added, “is a regional issue, an African issue.”
If Kenya is beginning to coordinate its military actions with those of its regional partners – including Uganda and perhaps Ethiopia, which invaded Somalia briefly in 2006 – then it is doing so without explaining its larger goals to the Kenyan people themselves.
With two Kenyan battalions, serving under a mission called Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation) and slowly descending on Kismayo, Kenyan authorities have largely gone quiet on the public information front.
Neither President Mwai Kibaki nor Prime Minister Raila Odinga has taken to the television screens or radio waves to explain the overall goals of the mission, and to prepare the public for the likely sacrifices that will come from this, Kenya’s first major military war on foreign soil.
All of which leaves many Kenyans to wonder just how Kenya will define victory, against a ragtag militia force that can easily blend into the population, and when Kenyan troops can come home.
“The Somali president is saying that Kenya is not welcome, and nothing makes Somalis unite like a foreign invader,” says John Githongo, a prominent Kenyan anticorruption fighter in Nairobi. He argues that Kenya’s military and security sector may be illegal, since “Kenya’s parliament did not declare war on Somalia. Apparently that was not an obstacle.”