Why Somalia cannot unite with Kenya


I was intrigued by the title of an article written by a certain Karanja Kabage, a Kenyan, who is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. The article was probably written in a Kenyan Newspaper and reproduced in Hiiraan Online, an internet media and information provider on Somalia and Somalis, on September 8, 2018. The title read “It’s time Kenya and Somalia became one unit. The article started with a true statement, which read Sometimes the unthinkable can become reality if we applied our minds to possibilities and fortunes beyond our ordinary imaginations”. While the statement is true, I doubt the proposal offered by Karanja is a workable solution. It is more, a wishful thinking and a dream, than a realizable proposition.

This article is to respond to Karanja’s proposal and expose some of the fallacies that negate such a proposition.  Kenya’s armed forces walked into parts of Somalia without the consent of neither the Somali government of the time nor the United Nations. Actually, it was a breach of the UN Charter, which prohibits nations invading others. Article 2 of the UN Charter states All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” In 2011, when Kenyan forces invaded Somalia, they neither had the approval of the United Nations nor the approval of AU or even IGAD to which both countries of Somalia and Kenya belong, let alone the Somali government of the time. They spent a substantial amount of money, time and energy correcting that action for years until they finally got the approval of some nations, who accepted the fait accompli of the Kenyan armed forces. But for Somalis, that intervention still remains illegal, which the Kenyan government has not corrected yet. How could a victim join an invader? The Somalis have not yet developed the Stockholm syndrome and I doubt they would ever.

It is true that Somalia is improving but not because of Kenya’s forces. The areas where the Kenyans entered Somalia is still invested with the Shabab, which was supposedly the reason they walked in without invitation into Somalia, in the first place. In fact, Somalis ask themselves “What are the Kenyans doing in Somalia?” and the answer is not as complicated as one might think. They are in Somalia for many reasons, the Somalis say, but the most obvious they normally quote in their discussions, are the following:

Ø  To use the port of Kismayo as an entry point for Kenya’s contraband goods, of which the Kenyan Army is the biggest beneficiary.

Ø  To support the Shabab although they cry wolf about them. The fact that the Shabab is expanding into Kenya today after seven years of the Kenyan Army presence in Somalia, is an indication of the assistance extended by the Kenyan Army to the Shabab.

Ø  To support irresponsible Somalis to ensure that the Somali Government never stands on its own feet.

There was no supreme sacrifice or any sacrifice for that matter by the Kenyan Army for Somalia. The losses they have incurred is generally said to be that “they have been sacrificed by their government for the personal enrichment of Kenya’s Armed Forces commanders and some of Kenya’s politicians”. Karanja should know this, if he doesn’t already know. This is propagated by Kenya’s newspapers almost daily.  In an article published by the Standard Digital on January 14th, 2018, the paper noted that Kenya spends some K.Sh. 7,000 per soldier per day and this covers their food, transport, communications, water and medical care. This amounts to some 2.52 million Kenyan Shillings per year which roughly converts to some US$25,000, an amount which is too high for an economy such as Kenya’s, although most of the funds are paid by non-Kenyan governments such as the EU. But the loss of life and other financial costs are certainly high and for what – to contain the Shabab, which they have not done even after seven years! There must be some other motive, an agenda, which they are trying to hide but Somalis are old nation and they know. It would be better for Kenya to remove its forces back to Kenya and defend their country from within the pseudo border they claim.

Somalia, like all the other countries of the world needs the support of other nations but Somalia does not need those who thrive on its demise and, for certain, Somalia and Somalis are aware that Kenya is one of the nations that have benefitted from the demise of Somalia. Somalia does not need the help of Kenya. We invite them to close their airspace and their seaports and any links they have with Somalia and we will see who the loser is of the two. Certainly, it will be Kenya. Somalia instead of joining a country like Kenya should claim the Somali North and North East of the country which belongs to Somalis. He forgot about Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa and Marsabit.

Karanja Kabage also forgot that the Horn of Africa is in fact a Somali Peninsula, which is currently home to over 49 Million Somalis as follows:

  • Somali Republic                                 28 Million
  • Somali State, Ethiopia                        12 Million
  • Djibouti                                               1 Million
  • NFD, Kenya                                        8 Million
  • Total                                                    49 Million

Karanja may not believe in these numbers, but this is how the Somali population looks like and we are still growing in numbers across the globe.

Indeed, the Somali nation is a unique nation, which occupies the extreme East of the African Continent, the strategic Horn of Africa, and which straddles one of the major sea lanes of the world. It is a homogenous nation, which enjoys a unique socio-economic profile and it belongs to one religion, one sect of the religion and one subsect of the religion and one language and a long, long history. It is the nation which sent Africa’s first Ambassador to China back in the 14th century, Ambassador Sa’id of Mogadishu. He represented The Somali kingdom of Mogadishu at the time in the Yuan Dynasty of China. Why would a homogenous nation such as Somalia is, seek to disturb that homogenity and bring others into the fold.

Somalis are not held together by one leader as Karanja asserts that it was held together by General Mohamed Siad Barre, but by history, ethnicity, blood and socio-economic relationships that date back to thousands of years. Somalia and Somalis are not new as Karanja may make us to believe. Somalis founded Ancient Egypt as Ancient Egyptians referred to Somalia as Land of Punt or land of the Gods as they knew it then, as a source of cultural and religious influence and a land, which the Egyptians viewed as their place of origin and blessed by the gods. Many ancient Egyptian language words are still part of Somalis living language such as “Webi” for river, “Rageedii” for perfect men, “Geyi”for land, “Huuno” for young man or young girl, “Aar” for lion “Bisad” for cat, Orah” for sun, “RAC” for Sun God from which come  words such as “Garac” as son of God, “Gawrac” as Sacrifice for God, etc.

We agree on the geography of the two countries as described by Karanja. However, we do not see how that explains the need for joining the two countries. In the first place, Kenya occupies a Somali territory, the North East or the NFD as it is more commonly known, which in 1963 constituted the counties of Marsabit, Mandera, Isiolo, Garissa and Wajir. In 1963, the ex-colonial power did hold a referendum in the NFD to choose between joining Somalia or Kenya and population of the NFD overwhelmingly (86%) chose to join Somalia. Yet it remains part of Kenya. If the two countries must have to join each other, let Kenya free the NFD first and let it join the rest of Somalia. This would create a goodwill among the peoples of Kenya and the Somali people, when such a proposal of Karanja could sensibly be investigated by Somalis.

One more item for karanja’s information is the unnecessary maritime dispute created by Kenya, when it took advantage to pressure some of our pseudo politicians to enter into an MOU, basically putting into a dispute the maritime boundary between the two countries.  As International Court of Justice ruled that case has to go into a full hearing, which Kenya is trying to avoid as it knows, it would lose. How could Somalia join a country that is pursuing to take another portion of Somalia’s territory in addition to the NFD.

But worst than these claims, is the deliberate ignorance of the Garissa Massacre of 1980 when 3000 Somali men were killed by Kenya’s forces, the Wagalla Massacre  of 1984 when kenya’s security forces again massacred 5,000 Somali men and the continuing harassment of Somali refugees in the Somali territory of the NFD – the Dadaab Refugee camp. These remain uncovered wounds that have not healed yet. The Kenya government has not apologized for these massacres and it has not compensated the victims of these horrible actions of the Kenya security services.

The proposal, it would appear to us, has been made through complete ignorance of the historical relationship between the two countries. I am sure he would cry-wolf that Somalia remains an expansionist nation. This is far from the truth. We can always discuss a federation or a united country with a name to be invented, when we first set the table right and setting the table right starts with freeing the people of the NFD of 1963 and letting them join the Somali Republic and giving up on the claim on Somalia’s maritime territory.

Somalis, as Karanja asserts, are enterprising people and they have been like that throughout history and this is not something new. As we pointed out they sent the first African Ambassador to China in the 14th century. Their ancestors created the Ancient Egyptian empire, the empire that built one of the wonders of the ancient world, the pyramids. If he does not know, some of those ancient taallos (pyramids) are still in Somalia. And the Somalis are spread over most of the nations of the world. They are citizens of 73% of the world’s countries of today – a big asset, isn’t it? And it is also true that they occupy very senior positions of the Kenyan Government. It would not be far-fetched to think of, when a Somali would be the Head of State of Kenya. May be then, we can talk about joining the two countries. But not certainly in the present juncture of history.

For Somalis to make their mark on the world, they do not need to choose between the Arabian Peninsula and Kenya. Somalis like and enjoy their independence and would prefer first to have all Somali territories reconstituted, which would make it a formidable force, and which probably scares Kenya and other neighboring countries and hence their constant interference in Somali affairs including this ill-thought of proposal of Karanja. Even with a weak government as it is, it is almost impossible for any of the neighboring countries to venture into Somalia and enjoy a peaceful stay. The lessons learned by them are so obvious. The losses of the Kenya Army in Somalia during the past seven years should have put some sense into Karanja. But it seems he did not learn anything from this vast and terrible experience of his army in Somalia nor did he learn from the adventure of the late Meles Zenawi in 2007 when he had to pull his army out of Somalia with their tails between their legs. They have only come back at the request of the Somali government and they will be going back soon and so would the Kenyans, because there is really nothing to gain from the hardy Somalis, other than hardships and many losses of limb and life.

We would consider the proposition when the total Somali territories, an area of about 1,068,000 sq.km and sea coast of some 3,800 Km from Obokh of Djibouti to the estuary of River Tana, the Southernmost boundary of the Somali territory is reunited with the mother country instead of newborn countries such as Kenya. We do not see what 230 km of a Kenya coast would add to our maritime resources. Coming to the market size, Kenya is already a segment and only a segment of the expanding markets of the enterprising Somali businessmen, who are setting up their businesses across the continent and beyond the continent. We do not see how limiting ourselves to joining Kenya would be useful to the Somali entrepreneurs.

And now the constitutional construct! I am surprised at the proposal. When you want to entice someone to join you, normal people would make juicy and sweetening offerings. Here comes Karanja and he offers a structure where his fellow Kenyans lead, and Somalis follow at the tail end. Are you kidding? Think again, man! Africans never give up power and he wants us to believe that Uhuru and his folk would simply give up power to give it to the Somali and especially, when it come to his claim that Kenyans would make up 71% of the united country he proposes. If Kenya helps secure the reconstitution of the Somali territories in the Horn of Africa and actively plays a significant role in that reconstitution, then the populations of the two countries would be more balanced, and one can, then, consider thinking of the impossible.

We now must conclude our response to the proposal and its general module. It would seem to us that the way forward for Somalia and Somalis run parallel to the proposal and do not cross paths with it in any way.  Based on the needs of the Somali state at present or in the near future, we do not find Kenya a good match for the Somali state’s program. Culturally, the two countries are very different. Linguistically, we are also very different. Economically, we are not connected. Ethiopia would be a more suitable proposition for Somalia if it has to join any other country because of the cultural affinity and historical affinity and even for the economic affinity of the two countries. But Somalia is not ready to consider any partnership with any country that involves a union with any other country in the present time. If Kenya must join another country, we suggest it should look to other neighboring countries with whom it has more cultural relatedness than looking into Somalia as a future partner. Joining other countries such as Tanzania and Uganda and even South Sudan would serve Kenya better, if they would ever accept such a proposition. We suggest that Karanja look into and explore such possibilities.

By Dr Suleiman Walhad



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