Men who brought Kenya into the brink war.

Posted: April 18, 2015 in General
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Did you know that ‘The Garissa Massacre’ we witnessed was one the first one to be, in fact it was nothing compared to the one in the 1980’s.
We currently know of disputed lands like Migingo Island, Ilemi Triangle, but have there been attempts between governments in the region to fight Kenya in view of sanctioning secession of its territories? We dig deeper.

Mohammed Said Barre and the Northern Frontier District

Barre advocated the concept of a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn), which refers to those regions in the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis reside and have historically represented the predominant population. Greater Somalia thus encompasses Somalia, the republic of Djibouti, the Ogaden (in modern day Ethiopia) and the North Eastern Province (in Kenya) i.e. the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa. In July 1977, the Ogaden War broke out after the government sought to incorporate the various Somali-inhabited territories of the region into a Greater Somalia. The Somali national army invaded the Ogaden and was successful at first, capturing most of the territory. The invasion reached an abrupt end with the Soviet Union’s shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with the latter. The Soviets halted their previous supplies to Barre’s regime and increased the distribution of aid, weapons, and training to the Ethiopian government, and also brought in around 15,000Cuban troops to assist the Ethiopian regime. In 1978, the Somali troops were ultimately pushed out of the Ogaden.

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Just a year before independence, Jomo Kenyatta insisted that the fate of Northern Frontier District (NFD) was a ‘domestic affair of Kenya’. His argument was made up of several threads. He did not, for instance, think the threat posed by a nascent irredentist movement of ethnic Somalis to be great. “Pack up your camels and go to Somalia” he told them. There was, he thought at first no need for a future independent government to seek external assistance to defeat the ragtag army irredentists. Kenyatta was also sure that the Somali government had no right to interfere in political debates about the future of NFD after Kenya’s independence.

The Somali government wanted to claim North Eastern as part of its territory. Recently declassified files reveal Somalia even funded the Shifta war. The first sign that Somalia was eyeing Northern Frontier District (NFD) was in February 1962 when a delegation, led by then Minister of Education Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, went to London. While there, they kept a close eye on developments at Kenya’s constitutional Conference, especially how it affected the NFD. Together with the Somalia ambassador in London, the delegation also took time to explain to Members of the British Parliament and The Press Somali Government’s wish to reunite ‘Somali territories’.

The province entered a period of running skirmishes between the Kenyan Army and Somali-backed Northern Frontier District Liberation Movement (NFDLM) insurgents. One immediate consequence was the signing in 1964 of a Mutual Defense Treaty between Jomo Kenyatta’s administration and the government of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

At the outset of the war, the government declared a State of Emergency. This consisted of allowing security forces to detain people up to 56 days without trial, confiscating the property of communities allegedly in retaliation for acts of violence, and restricting the right to assembly and movement. A ‘prohibited zone’ was created along the Somali border, and the death penalty was made mandatory for unauthorised possession of firearms. “Special courts” without guarantee of due process were also created. The northeast—declared a “special district” – was subject to nearly unfettered government control, including the authority to detain, arrest or forcibly move individuals or groups, as well as confiscate possessions and land. However, as part of its effort to reassure the public, the Voice of Kenya was warned not to refer to the conflict as a “border dispute”, while a special government committee decided to refer to the rebels as “shiftas” to minimize the political nature of the war.

Over the course of the war, the new Kenyan government became increasingly concerned by the growing strength of the Somali military. At independence, Somalia had a weak army of 5,000 troops that was incapable of exerting itself beyond its borders. However, in 1963, the Somali government appealed for assistance from the Soviet Union, which responded by lending it about $32 million. By 1969, 800 Somali officers had received Soviet training, while the army had expanded to over 23,000 well-equipped troops. The Kenyan fear that the insurgency might escalate into an all-out war with phalanxes of well-equipped Somali troops was coupled with a concern about the new insurgent tactic of planting land mines.

Kenyan government massacred ethnic Somali residents in the Garissa District of the North Eastern Province, Kenya. The incident occurred when Kenyan government forces, acting on the premise of flushing out a local gangster known as Abdi Madobe, set fire to a residential village called Bulla Kartasi, killing people and raping women. They then forcefully interned the populace at Garissa Primary School football pitch for three days without water or food, resulting in over 300 deaths. Residents apart from Somalis were given permission to leave the school pitch unharmed.

The Somalia’s expansion idea was also openly declared by the 1969 coup leader & Somalia President Siad Barre who ‘dreamt of a greater Somalia’ prompting the then Kenyan Defence Minister GG Kariuki to denounce him as a ‘mad man’. Siad Barre, intervened by threatening that if such brutalities did not cease, the Somali military would overthrow the Nairobi regime and occupy the country. Consequently, the Kenyan government lifted the curfew and released the detained individuals

Idd Amin Dada attempts to annex Western Kenya
In 1976, President Al-Haji Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada attempted to redraw the boundaries of the two countries. Amin wanted back all Kenyan districts that were part of Uganda before the colonial re-demarcation of the territorial boundaries. These included Turkana, part of Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana), West Pokot, Tranz-Nzioa, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Central Nyanza, South Nyanza, Narok, Kisii, Kericho, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo, Marakwet, Nyandarua, Nandi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Tambach, Maji Moto, Maji Mazuri, Gilgil, Nakuru, Lake Baringo and Naivasha.

Jomo Kenyatta & Idd Amin

Jomo Kenyatta & Idd Amin

He claimed that these areas were very fertile and produced nearly all the wealth in Kenya. He backed down only when President Jomo Kenyatta threatened to block Uganda’s imports through the port of Mombasa.

In his book titled, The Shaping of Modern Uganda And Administrative Divisions, published in 1976, Amin said Uganda’s borders were beyond Juba and Torit in the Sudan and all areas of western Kenya, up to about 30 km from Nairobi.


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