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Leave us alone, Mr Aideed


Sunday, February 3, 2002

Leave us alone, Mr Aideed

Somali leaders are expressing irresponsible views that could potentially undermine even further the safety of Kenyans and put in jeopardy the good work that a lot of hard-working and peace loving people are doing here.

The security of our country does not depend on just the things that we do in here. It also depends on things happening outside our borders. And when we defend our country, we don't just defend it against those amongst us who would put the nation in danger, but we must keep a vigilant eye on our neighbours - and further afield - because we have a duty and a right to defend our vital interests, territorial integrity and national security.

Somalia has for almost 40 years been a cause of quite a few security problems for Kenya. In the 1960s, there was a move to cause the disintegration of the Kenyan nation and an expansion of Somalia. A low-intensity bandit conflict was fought by the so-called shifta. A lot of Kenyans all over this country are happy that the seed of secession was never successfully planted.

In the 1990s after the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somali nation self-destructed and that country has been without a government for a decade. Militia incursions into Kenya, the pouring of refugees across the borders into camps and, more significantly, into cities has contributed a great deal to a burgeoning illicit arms trade, and therefore crime. There is no doubt about these facts.

Now a new danger is emerging. Yesterday, the leader of the Somali National Alliance Mr Huseini Aideed, was reported in the Daily Nation expressing territorial interests vis a vis Kenya and Ethiopia. Mr Aideed was quoted as saying that he "wants" the six million or so Somali-speaking Kenyans and Ethiopians to go back to the "family". Mr Aideed views that Somalis live in Kenya and Ethiopia as being akin to the condition that existed between East and West Germany or North and South Korea.

These are most probably nothing but the idle musings of a young warlord inexperienced in the ways of high diplomacy and the conduct of the affairs of nations. His views are most probably best ignored for they contribute little to constructive dialogue. But we cannot afford to ignore that it is people like Mr Aideed who have completely brought a nation to ruin because of their gunhappy sectionalism and absurd, anarchic personal ambition.

Mr Aideed is co-chairman of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, a high-sounding title for a group of warlords opposed to the Transitional Government. He sees the future of his country only in terms of his "going for" the presidency or the prime ministership, "nothing less", he says, and would not otherwise join a government in which one of these positions was not reserved for him.

Whereas Mr Aideed was quoted saying, with a degree of irony, that he does not wish to see "a return to the old ways of militarism", there is no doubt at all that his ideology is expansionist. Such heady ambitions in the hands of an anarchist are dangerous not only to his own country but to those neighbours whose territory he covets.

Perhaps Mr Aideed requires to recall that he and fellow warlords cannot hold together Somalia as it exists today; their country is breaking up into mini-states in various stages of complete anarchy. The energy of Somali leaders is better spent putting together their house, which has totally fallen, and looking to the welfare and prosperity of the Somali masses who have suffered long and badly in the hands of warlords and dictators, rather than wasting it on expansionist pipe dreams.

But Mr Aideed's outburst should serve to remind Kenyans that even as we work to put our country in order, we must pause in our labours and cast suspicious glances across the borders. For there too lies a hint a of danger to our country.

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