Somalia a disaster waiting to happen
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s seven-nation trip to Africa was partly meant to send a message that the continent still ranks high in American foreign policy agenda.
It follows President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Ghana.
Ours is a country reeling from the post-election violence whose instigators and perpetrators remain at large.
Barely a month ago, Kenya was ranked East Africa’s most corrupt nation by Transparency International.
Almost seven years after former President Moi left office, Kenyans remain angry at the political class, and they frown at the direction the country is taking, with new corruption, nepotism and tribal hatred becoming worse.
Even so, what was hot on Secretary Clinton’s agenda is the deteriorating security at the Horn (of Africa).
This week, the BBC carried reports about Australian police foiling a suicide attack that would have been debilitating.
Among those arrested were young Australian citizens of Lebanese and Somali descent with links to the Islamist radicals, Al-Shabaab.
This confirms our fears of a growing role of the hard line Islamists, who in barely a year, have expanded the ground they control in Somalia by marketing themselves as a viable alternative to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), attracting fighters from Europe, South Asia and, according to recent reports, some states in US itself.
The TFG holds on to tenuous power only due to the 4,300-strong AU peacekeeping mission, and unless something is done, it is only a matter of time before Al-Shabaab overthrows it and starts running the show in Somalia.
Instability at the Horn goes back a long way – from when Italians and Britons divided the country.
Even during dictator Siad Barre’s reign, he was considered to be a mere ‘‘mayor’’ of Mogadishu; he could not control the whole of Somalia.
Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti still have territorial disputes and continue to sponsor conflicts against one another. These regional forces have continued to export their proxy conflicts to Somalia.
Closer home, North-Eastern Province tried to secede in the 1960s and join Somalia and the Shifta war that followed saw monstrous human rights violations against ethnic Somalis by our army.
Since then, successive governments have neglected the region in matters of development, which has made the area volatile with militias moving freely between Kenya and Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia.
Thus, refugees have been fleeing the conflict and hunger in Somalia. In the refugee camp of Dadaab, almost a quarter of a million souls live in crowded and desperate conditions, without water, medicare and sanitation.
Every month, even with Kenya closing the border, 6,000 refugees arrive from Somalia. Because young people among the refugees live in such desperate conditions, they become easy prey to terrorists, who have been known to lure them to serve as fighters.
But what worries us more is the weakness of our security apparatus to confront territorial abuses by Al-Shabaab. An insecure Somalia is a danger to everyone, and we must all act in concert to help the country get a stable government.
Mr Nyawachi is a Fellow at the Institute of African Progress.