Kenya and Somaliland’s shared fight against terror: It’s time to solidify alliance

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Kenya must not fall victim to Somalia’s reckless governance and mishandling of Las Anod conflict

In Summary

  • Kenya must be proactive and take the necessary steps to upgrade diplomatic ties with Somaliland, a proven partner for security and stability in the Horn of Africa.
  • Somaliland, a de facto state with a functioning democratic system, stands for regional peace, stability, and economic integration, much like Kenya.

There have been protests against the violence in Somaliland’s Las Anod district
Image: BBC

The Las Anod conflict, a clan rebellion led by Dhulbahante traditional elders, continues to escalate and destabilize an already tense region. Kenya should be concerned.

The uprising, which has displaced nearly 100,000 people, is drawing fighters from across the Horn of Africa, and radical groups such as ISIS and al Shabaab have already infiltrated the area.

The situation threatens not only Somaliland but also its neighbours, including Kenya, which is home to a large ethnic Somali population. Many Somalis in Kenya share kinship ties with the people of Las Anod, making them particularly vulnerable to the influence of these extremist groups, especially young Somalis in Kenya.

With Kenya’s long history of grappling with terrorism emanating from Somalia, the potential spillover effects from Las Anod’s instability should not be taken lightly. Alarmingly, some Kenyan-Somali politicians such as Dadaab MP Farah Maalim, have irresponsibly supported the rebellion and promoted it on social media.

This dangerous rhetoric can brainwash impressionable Kenyan-Somalis and lure them into a fight that could have dire consequences for the region. By presenting the conflict as a “noble cause,” Maalim is senselessly encouraging vulnerable young, misguided Somalis living in Kenya to go and reinvent themselves as heroes in Las Anod.

For instance, on December 30, 2022, Maalim tweeted, “There is no legal sovereign entity under International Law called Somaliland. The conflict in LasAnod is occasioned by the desire of a clan chieftain to dominate the other clans in the enclave. HSM, Ismail Guelle & Musa Bihi celebrated clan alliance in Djibouti. GOD save Somalia”.

With influential Kenyan-Somalis such as Maalim endorsing this rebellion, this vulnerable group of young Somalis in Kenya could very well fall for the trap of becoming comrades with dangerous terrorists – that have blended in with a coalition of armed groups with different ideologies.

The danger lies in the ease with which these individuals can be radicalized in Las Anod, given that dangerous elements are fighting under the guise of a clan rebellion. Somalia wouldn’t be able to identify such threats for Kenya because they have no authority over Somaliland, as the latter functions as an independent country.

Somalia is also supporting the Las Anod rebellion in one last bid to break up Somaliland and destroy 32 years of de-facto statehood. This poses a significant national security threat to Kenya. Regarding Somaliland as part of Somalia can pave the way for these radicalized individuals to potentially return to Kenya and wreak havoc – in the absence of having a reliable diplomatic partnership with the relevant authorities to prevent this.

The solution?

Kenya must be proactive and take the necessary steps to upgrade diplomatic ties with Somaliland, a proven partner for security and stability in the Horn of Africa.

Somaliland, a de facto state with a functioning democratic system, stands for regional peace, stability, and economic integration, much like Kenya. As a fellow democratic East African nation, Somaliland shares common values and goals with Kenya, making it a natural ally.

The recent warming of political and economic ties between Somaliland and Kenya is evident in the opening of a new consulate in Hargeisa and the growing miraa trade – providing Kenya with a viable alternative market to Somalia and reducing its dependence on a volatile neighbour.

Somalia, long plagued by internal strife and a haven for terror groups, cannot be relied upon for genuine cooperation in this situation. Instead, they sympathize with this dangerous rebellion against Somaliland, demonstrating little concern for the national security threats posed to their neighbours in the region, like Kenya. Kenya must not fall victim to Somalia’s reckless governance and mishandling of the situation, as it risks jeopardizing the safety and well-being of Kenyan citizens.

Thankfully, Somaliland and Kenya have maintained positive informal relations for years. Many Kenyans view Somaliland in favourable light, and have found lucrative employment opportunities in the booming capital of Hargeisa. It is time for Kenya to recognize the value of this relationship and strengthen it through formal diplomatic channels. In doing so, Kenya can secure a more reliable partner in its fight against terrorism and regional instability.

By upgrading diplomatic relations with Somaliland, Kenya stands to benefit from a proactive, collaborative approach to the Las Anod crisis, ensuring that terror groups do not take advantage of the situation to threaten the security of the region.

A strong partnership with Somaliland is essential for Kenya to navigate and address the complex challenges posed by the clan rebellion and the infiltration of terrorist organizations.

It is in Kenya’s best interest to pay close attention to the escalating Las Anod conflict and to take decisive action quickly. A stronger partnership will not only help to mitigate the threat of terrorism but also contribute to lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in East Africa.

Robleh Mohamud Raghe is a political analyst, editor-in-chief of The Somaliland Journal, and former communications aide to the fourth President of Somaliland, Ahmed Silanyo

 

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