Famed photojournalist Mo Dhillon responds to AU on the ICC trials: “African Unity leading Africa towards disaster”

Sir Mohinder Dhillon, renowned Kenyan photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker shared this new essay which he also submitted to the ICC judges:

“GADDAFI AND MUSEVENI”
Gaddafi and Museveni

African Unity leading Africa towards disaster.

I’d like to challenge the AU to tell me which tribunal or judiciary in Africa will ever convict a sitting Head of State. This attempt to renege on a commitment to the ICC is nothing more than a sinister plot by Africa’s dictators to save themselves from any kind of accountability. It was initiated by the late Colonel Gaddafi, who bailed the AU out of a financial crisis, thereby buying the loyalty of other African leaders whose necks were also on the line. To save himself from international justice, he wanted Africa out of the reach of the ICC. Shame on such leaders! Contrary to any suggestion of restoring national sovereignty, the aim of these people is for Africa to be out of the Rome Treaty so that they can continue with their evil intentions where money and power counts for everything and the ordinary African can rot.

Our memories in Africa are very short, particularly in the case of perpetrators of genocide, rape and murder. Those who support the AU line that accused Kenyans should be tried locally should remember that not so long ago Parliament and other local bodies preferred to hand over cases to ICC. Remember the slogan that was on the lips of all Kenyans:  “Don’t be Vague, Ask for Hague”. Kenya was given 12 months to put their act together and they did not move an inch. Kenyan authorities were going to investigate several thousand of other perpetrators but none was investigated due to lack political will despite some of perpetrators were recognizable carrying out crimes against humanity. AU is becoming laughing stock in promoting impunity.

The early history of Kenya’s ICC cases seems already to have been forgotten. After the post-election violence in 2008, the Peace Accord appointed the Waki Commission which produced 529 pages report on 16 July 2009 along with 6 boxes of documents and supporting material. A sealed envelope containing names of those considered most responsible for the violence was given to Kofi Annan as mediator.   Kenyan Government tried for one year to establish a local tribunal but parliament blocked this, leading to the involvement of the International Criminal Court.  The ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo opened the envelope, inspected its contents and re-sealed it, before proceeding at Kenya Government request to carry out investigations and develop the resulting cases for ICC.

Kenya must smell the rat behind the intentions of our neighbours in Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, who are guilty of gross human rights violations in their own countries. Most recently, these include muzzling the media and arresting journalists and civil rights workers, but there is a long track record of crimes against humanity in each country. The AU has failed miserably to bring the perpetrators to book, as have the local judicial systems.

Until fifteen years ago, I filmed all the OAU meetings since its inception in 1963. For most of that time, the fight against apartheid in South Africa was the only factor that held this organisation together – otherwise I’m sure it would have disintegrated. It is a matter of record that crimes against humanity on the rest of the continent have far outweighed the evils of apartheid both in terms of scale and sheer lack of accountability. Why the double standard?

It is abundantly clear that most of Africa’s leaders are more concerned with protecting themselves than they are with securing justice for ordinary people. Although we in Kenya have made enormous strides in securing personal freedoms over the last twenty years, I am deeply concerned about the negative influence of our dictatorial neighbours in Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, where media houses are being closed down for flimsy reasons, where opposition is not tolerated and large numbers journalists and activists languish in dungeons without being charged. Kenyan genocide victims need closure just like the victims of Charles Taylor in Liberia, where the ICC was applauded for a job well done. There can never be adequate compensation for loss of life, limbs or dignity but at least some measure of justice was served.

Members of Kenya’s Government are shouting empty slogans about protecting their sovereign rights, in complete contradiction of their earlier position. I trust that the Kenyan people can see for themselves the total insincerity of those who are driven by nothing more than fear for themselves, and total disregard for the victims of violence. . . .

Here is the whole document: African Unity leading Africa towards disaster (5)

 

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Before noting the choice of speakers for the Uhuruto inauguration, the idea that governance in Kenya might be in the process of falling in line with its East African neighbors has been much on my mind since the IEBC’s decision on the election on March 9.

Museveni as the featured speaker–and what he had to say–certainly fits this theme.  Museveni can readily castigate the ICC and “the West” for meddlesome advocacy of international standards, knowing that he has a mutual “security” relationship at a deeper level with the United States.  He gets criticized by the U.S. for changing the constitution to stay in power, and for taking and keeping control of the Ugandan electoral commission–but without discernible “consequences”.

Uhuru himself in his speech said nothing about corruption–a major theme in the KANU to NARC transition and the original Kibaki inauguration, and well understood to be the Achilles Heel for Kenya’s economy.  And as I have noted before, the Jubilee platform’s only “plank” relating to governance is a proposal for active state intervention in the civil society arena.

Museveni and his NRM have been associated with the KANU of Moi and of Uhuru and Ruto over the years and at some level Kenya post-Moi has been an outlier in the East African Community of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.  As well as Museveni, one naturally thinks of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and the recently departed Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia as authoritarian heads of state who could count on strong support in Washington at a variety of levels–both in terms of underlying security relationships and friendships with American politicians who could be counted on for advocacy in the face of international controversy.

Uhuru himself, quite the contrary to his short-lived campaign rhetoric this year as an ICC indictee, has been a favorite Kenyan politician of many in the American establishment.  He talks the talk well.  He was educated in the U.S. and has been a frequent visitor.  A “family friend” of former Assistant Secretary of State Frazer by reputation.  Rich even by American standards, and a business owner whose inherited fortune was generationally cleansed from openly kleptocratic political origins.  Before the confirmation of the ICC charges but after the 2008 post-election violence when the issues with the alleged funding of the Mungiki attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru were well known, he was a primary lobbyist for the Kenyan government in the U.S. seeking things like a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact.  Before the 2007 election, he entertained official American visitors including Senator Obama as the “Official Leader of the Opposition”.  He was singled out for positive recognition in a report by CIPE, the Center for International Private Enterprise (the National Endowment for Democracy’s core institute under the United States Chamber of Commerce) and was spoken of in government as a Kenyan who “says the right things”.

A U.S. foreign policy establishment view on how the United States should deal with a Kenyatta administration was offered in a Foreign Affairs piece by Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council just before the election:

. . . In all likelihood, the first round of voting will lead to a runoff election on April 10 between Raila Odinga, the current prime minister of Kenya’s hastily-constructed unity government, and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s deputy Prime Minster and the son of Kenya’s first president. The tightness of the race bodes ill; it is unlikely that either side will be able to score a quick victory, and it will not take much vote rigging to influence the election’s outcome. The losing party is virtually certain, therefore, to contest the results. Some violence, in other words, seems all but assured. The question is how long it will last, whether it will spread nationwide, and how many people will be displaced, injured, or killed

Most of the piece is behind the firewall so I won’t copy it here, but she goes on to argue that U.S. interests counsel what I would characterize as essentially a business as usual approach to Uhuru (and by implication of course Ruto) unless and until they end up eventually convicted by the ICC.  I shared this with a friend in Washington with the comment that this could be read as a Washington argument not to get too exercised if Uhuru helped himself to some extra votes to win–the risk of instability was very high and the downside to having Uhuru in office wasn’t that great.

The Carter Center has released another round of reporting on the election, “slamming” the IEBC, but concluding with a factually unsupported pronouncement that in spite of the electoral commission’s many failures their announced result happened to “reflect the will of the Kenyan people”.  This was language being tossed around in certain circles before the election with reference to Moi’s races back in the ’90s.  How to say an election is bad but the incumbent or other beneficiary of the state misconduct would have won anyway? The big difference in 2013, of course, should have been that the Kenyan voters had approved–with much U.S. support–a new constitution that was supposed to end the “first past the post” system that so benefited Moi and require a “runoff to majority”.  When you read the Carter Center report it is clear that there is no way they can offer any substantive assurance at all for the IEBC’s award of just enough to Uhuru to avoid that runoff.

But, there are interests at stake besides justice–there is also “stability”, and “peacekeeping” troops in Somalia, etc., etc.

So we shall see.  I hope for the best for Kenya, but the Uhuruto ascendancy looks to me like a big win for tribal chauvinism and a real step back in terms of democratic ideals.  Kenya is very different from either Rwanda or Ethiopia, and from Uganda, too.  Whatever excuses one makes for Kagame and Museveni in their own postwar environments, to me, ought not to apply to Kenyatta or Uhuru in Kenya.

Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee “manifesto”

The Jubilee (UhuRuto) Coalition manifesto contains a section entitled “Good Governance” which strikingly in a country with so many governance challenges, contains only one section, on “the challenge” of “managing our relationship” with civil society:

THE CHALLENGE

The influence of Civil Society has expanded over the years to the point where the various Civil Society groups play an important role in the country’s political and economic development. In the years following the signing of the National Accord, the sector has grown in stature, influencing government decisions, political culture, and key appointments. We must identify new and innovative ways of working with the sector so that the country can fully benefit from its expertise and experience.

THE OPPORTUNITY

We believe that NGOs have a valuable role to play in monitoring government and helping to strengthen the social infrastructure in our country. We shall manage our relationship with the NGO sector in accordance with internationally recognized best practices.

SOLUTIONS

The Coalition government will:

  • Introduce a Charities Act to regulate political campaigning by NGOs, to ensure that they only campaign on issues that promote their core remit and do not engage in party politics. This will also establish full transparency in funding both for NGOs and individual projects.
  • Establish a Charities Agency to provide an annual budgetary allocation to the NGO sector.
  • Promote accountability and coordination between the NGO sector and national and county governments.
  • Develop strong partnership with the NGO sector that enhances the country’s development agenda and promotes the interests of the people of Kenya.

So what does this mean?  Clearly, what is proposed is substantial “regulation” and government involvement in the workings of civil society.  This was understood by many in civil society before the election to refer to “Ethiopian” style control–you could also look at Rwanda and Uganda for other regimes in the EAC.

Since the election, we have seen some nasty, conspiratorialist, attacks on civil society for not getting in line with the IEBC’s announced result. See “Kenyans fundamental rights under attack” from Mugambi Kiai in the Nation, responding.

 

How is IGAD’s “diplomatic observation” regarding Kenya’s election process helpful?

Africa Review reports on the statement of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from this week’s visit to Nairobi by executive secretary Mahboub Maalim (himself a Kenyan) and others from the Addis headquarters under the headline “IGAD confident of peaceful Kenya election”:

In his statement, Mr Maalim said: “Igad has come to the conclusion that Kenya’s election is not an event. It is a process and that March 4th is not the end; it is the beginning of a process that could last till June 2013. Kenyans must therefore brace themselves for the long haul.”

Mr Maalim said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the judiciary are crucial for the success of the polls.

“The efficiency of the IEBC during the voter registration process must be lauded. We expect that the same efficiency will apply to the March 4 poll. This is critical if Kenya is to avoid petitions arising from IEBC system failure. The efficiency and believability of the Supreme Court in dealing with the presidential election petitions is also critical. This will determine whether or not the transition is successful,” the Igad executive secretary said.

He said IEBC should be encouraged to conduct a systems dry-run with peer reviewers to seal any loopholes that would affect its efficiency.

Dr Kimani said the recent party nominations in Kenya were inclusive, open and transparent and that it was what the rest of the region had expected.

Igad brings together six countries in the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – for development and drought control in their region

“Party nominations were inclusive, open and transparent”. Wow, that is certainly a unique perspective that contradicts the reporting in the Kenyan and international press, the reporting of Kenyan civil society umbrella KPTJ, and, for example, the reporting of the Center for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya which is a well established and leading presence in Nairobi on these matters. So who is right here? Might it be relevant that IGAD is an organization of governments that are all far more “challenged” in terms of democratic practices in general, and elections specifically, than even Kenya in the wake of power-sharing and the debacle of 2007, along with the Government of Kenya itself?

I am all for whomever exhorting peace, although I am substantially skeptical that official pronouncements of this type have actual impact on ultimate behavior. Likewise, I am all for encouragement, hope and reasoned, well-grounded optimism in the context of pushing for the best election possible from where things really stand today. But this type of statement about the primaries is a “diplomatic” position rather than an observation or representation of fact. It undermines the credibility of whatever else is said in the same statement as being connected to the facts. At best it is unhelpful–it might be dangerous.

Ethiopian President Meles has died [Updated]

[Update] “Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi’s death sparks fear of turmoil”, The Guardian.  Here is Jeffrey Gettleman’s take from the New York Times. And Ken Opalo’s Blog.

Ambassador Theatre--"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” Addis

Here is an assessment from NED’s Democracy Digest, “Ethiopia: Zenawi’s ‘tainted’ authoritarian legacy.”

Kenya’s government has lost a key regional ally.  From the Obituaries in the Washington Post:

Ethio­pian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was once hailed as a major U.S. ally against terrorism but whose 21-year rule was tarnished by the killing and jailing of political protesters and a grisly border war with former ally Eritrea, died late Monday while being treated abroad for an undisclosed illness. He was 57.

The death was announced by Ethio­pian state television, which said only that Mr. Meles died shortly before midnight after contracting an infection. The government did not specify where he died, and the circumstances of his death were laced with intrigue. . . .

With Ethiopian troops in Somalia just as the process of selecting new Somali leadership is underway, and heightened tension in Ethiopia itself, the region will be anxious as the stability and sustainability of new leadership post-Meles.  Meles got along with other rulers and governments in the region, and with the U.S. and China and international institutions, while maintaining a repressive role at home.

 

“Inciting” lyrics “flagged” in Kenyan campaign

This is where the action really is in Kenyan politics at the moment–ethnic mobilization. Kenyan bloggers and civil society published and circulated very disturbing related song lyrics from three musicians aimed at rallying the Kikuyu around Uhuru against Raila and the ICC and petitioned the National Cohesion and Integration Commission borne out of the post-election violence in 2008. Capital FM reports that the NCIC has “flagged” the matter for scrutiny (let’s check back and see if there is any follow-up):

Popular Kikuyu musicians John DeMathew, Muigai wa Njoroge and Kamande wa Kioi are likely to be investigated after songs sung by each of them were flagged for being ‘inciting’.

The Mugithi singers, who are popular live musicians, are accused of singing songs that border on ‘hate speech’ against Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is one of the contenders for the top seat in 2013.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) flagged the songs, Mwaka wa Hiti’ by DeMathew, Muigai wa Njoroge’s ‘Hague bound’ and ‘Uhuru ni Witu’ by Kamande wa Kioi.

NCIC boss Mzalendo Kibunjia says they were following up with the media council to find out whether the controversial songs had played on any radio stations so that action could be taken against the media houses as well.

In Western Province, this West FM coverage of a campaign rally for Deputy Prime Minister Mudavadi, elected through ODM but now running for president with the new UDF party, gives a flavor for the public side of the campaigns:

He challenged the leaders who want to liberate Kenyans to concentrate on eradicating poverty among Kenyans and reduction of the cost of living pounding them because there is no visible opponent of Kenyans like the colonial whites whom he said were long gone after attaining of independence.

The Sabatia MP insisted that he should be given chance to open the door for a Luhya presidency after he was the first one to become a Luhya vice president that saw the late VP Michael Kijana Wamalwa and Uncle Moody Awori follow suit.

At the same time Khalwale and Kituyi affirmed that Mudavadi is the most experienced politician of the day among the Luhya leaders and thus is the prospective person to seek presidency as compared to others such as Eugene and Jirongo.

Mukhisa said that Wamalwa can be a prospective leader at a later period but felt that Mudavadi is ready to go for the seat now. He said the Luhya community has got a vast experience of assisting leaders from other communities to access power and thus can use the same experience to help one of their own accesses the same power.

Khalwale and Mugali cautioned against Luhya divisions which they said will be an advantage to their opponents and hence essence for the community to work as a team in their endeavors.

“This is now the time for the voters from the Bukusu nation to hold hands with voters from Maragoli nation and vote together and work together because we want the Luhya nation to speak and speak in one voice,” Khalwale said.

Concerns on effectiveness of education aid in East Africa

The Guardian‘s Claire Provost reports on a new
Independent Commission on Aid Impact evaluation of UK education aid
for Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which finds too much attention paid to increased enrollments and not enough to actual educational performance:

“The quality of education being provided to most children in these countries is so low that it seriously detracts from the development impact of DfiD’s educational assistance,” said the report, which failed to find evidence that DfiD was considering “basic preconditions for learning” such as whether students and teachers actually attend class after the first day.

“To achieve near-universal primary enrolment but with a large majority of pupils failing to attain basic levels of literacy or numeracy is not, in our view, a successful development result. It represents poor value for money both for the UK’s assistance and for national budgets,” said the report giving the programmes an “amber-red” rating signifying that they need significant improvements.

DfiD funding for education in the three countries is expected to top £1bn over the 2005-2015 period. The majority of this has been delivered through “budget support” – money given directly to recipient country governments. While this has helped DfiD to concentrate on promoting policy reforms, said ICAI, the department should now consider a more “hands-on approach”.

 

This seems to be consistent with what both the UK and the US have seen in Kenya, with the “education scandal” over a course of years under the “free primary education” initiative following the 2002 elections and on into the current Government of National Unity.  Direct budget support has serious risks and limitations.  For one thing, foreign funding does not necessarily change the priorities that may be reflected in the lack of local funding in the first place.  A separate ICAI report found that budget support can be effective in the right conditions, but in practice varied widely by country–India, for instance, showed better results.

Encouragingly, the current UK international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, expressed willingness to apply the learning from the independent evaluation, and acknowledged a previous over-emphasis on increased enrollment in and of itself.

Here is the link to the ICAI reports.

 

Catching up on Somalia and Somaliland

Kenya’s military objectives in Somalia remain unclear, with the idea now floated that Kenya is satisfied with whatever has been done to date and has no need to seek to capture Kismayu after all.  As far as Kenya itself is concerned, Somalia just isn’t legitimately the most important priority, and I agree with the perspective offered by Wycliffe Muga in Nairobi’s Star in his column a month ago:  “Kismayu is the Least of our Problems”.

Here is a new article by Nairobi-based Muhyadin Amed Roble from the Jamestown Foundation’s “Terrorism Monitor”: “Will the Return of Ethiopia’s Military to Somalia Destroy al-Shabaab or Revive It?”

Just 40 days after Kenya’s military intervention against the militant al-Shabaab group began in Somalia there are indications that the Kenyan effort may become part of a joint operation with African Union and Ethiopian military forces to eradicate terrorist elements in the Horn of Africa. The African Union has backed the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia and has also invited the Ethiopian army to join the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), currently consisting of military contingents from Uganda and Burundi.

.  .  .  .

Knowing the results of Ethiopia’s bloody invasion of Somalia in 2006, the AU’s invitation to dispatch Ethiopia troops to Somalia will be another counterproductive and undiplomatic move according to Abdihakim Aynte, a Somali political analyst in Nairobi. “The African Union seems to ignore the last experience of Ethiopian’s business with Somalia,” Aynte told the Jamestown Foundation. [1] The U.S.  State Department also seems wary of the outcome of another Ethiopian invasion. Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top Africa policymaker, said: “Ethiopia went into Somalia some four and a half years ago and stayed for approximately two and a half to three years. That effort was not universally successful and led in fact to the rise of Shabaab after they pulled out” (McClatchy Newspapers, November 22; The Standard [Nairobi], November 22).

Ethiopia’s military intervention in Somalia will not please the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) president Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad, a former leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), ousted by the Ethiopians in 2006.  Abdihakim Aynte says President Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad and the TFG do not have a choice in the matter. Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse welcomed the entrance of Ethiopian forces to eradicate al-Shabaab but warned Ethiopia against having any other objectives that damage the reputation of the country: “We welcome Ethiopian troops…and any other country that contributes forces to fight against the Shabaab militants, as long as they do not violate our sovereignty” (AFP, November 21).

.  .  .  .

With troops from four African nations now operating on Somali soil backed by the military power of the United States, al-Shabaab is certain to try to capitalize on traditional Somali xenophobia and nationalism to preserve and even expand the radical Islamist movement.

In the meantime, it is reported that up to 6,000 Somalis have recrossed the Red Sea into Somaliland  since the beginning of October, leaving Yemen due to conditions there. Somaliland’s exports of livestock to Yeman have dropped dramatically.  In Somaliland, IRIN reports that the newly formed National Development Program has determined that “the weighted average national employment rate is 52.6 percent” and unemployment is higher among youth, encouraging risky attempts to migrate to Europe via Ethiopia and Sudan.  The article also quotes a youth organization leader that there are approximately 104 NGOs and UN agencies working in Somaliland, but complaining of low local versus expat hiring.

Somaliland has certainly become one of best known ” little known” places in the last couple of years.  At this point I do have concern that with movement toward international recognition still seeming to be stalemated by the instability and uncertainty about the nature of government in the rest of Somalia, Somaliland could deteriorate if economic progress is too slow.  We shouldn’t take the status quo for granted.

Congratulations to the International Republican Institute for publishing a first-of-its-kind public opinion survey covering Hargeisa.  On balance the results suggest a generalized optimism about the state of the country in Hargeisa.  An interesting discussion of how to understand the results is here from the blog of Watershed Legal Services.

Chatham House has issued a report by Sally Healy entitled “Hostage to Conflict:  Prospects for Building Regional Economic Cooperation in the Horn of Africa” (h/t to Ambassador David Shinn’s blog).  She sees significant potential for the “close but distrustful neighbors” of the IGAD to cooperate in areas such as “transport corridors to sea ports, the management of shared water resources, common management of pastoral rangelands and improved energy security.”

On Tuesday, December the 6 the Institute for Security Studies will conduct a Pretoria seminar on “Kenya’s Military Incursion into Somalia and its Implications”.

Upcoming: Panel on challenges to independent media in East Africa

For readers in the Washington area, Tuesday morning from 10:00 – 11:30am, the Center for International Media Assistance, the National Endowment for Democracy Africa Program and the Solidarity Center will be hosting a roundtable discussion entitled “Independent Media in East Africa: Democratic Pillar in Peril?”  Looks like an interesting event with a distinguished panel:

New challenges to independent media are emerging in East Africa. Recently passed anti-terrorism and information laws allow governments to harass and imprison journalists with impunity. Under these new laws, six journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia since June 2011, and Somali journalists are facing tremendous threats covering conflict and famine in their country. How do local media react when their fellow journalists come under attack? How can an independent press play its crucial role as a pillar of democracy and overcome challenges in places such as Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya? The discussion will also examine the development of unions and media associations as well as the international donor community’s role in supporting independent media in East Africa.

Information and registration here.

Are we watching the early stages of a broader conflict in the Greater Horn of Africa?

Now that Kenya has initiated a full-fledged ground war in Southern Somalia, the obvious and necessary question becomes “what are the near term unintended consequences?”. It is hard to be too clear about what is “unintended” because Kenya’s intentions, on either the military or the political side, are not altogether clear in the first place, but here is one possibility that few would desire:

Simon Allison posits in South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “Kenya’s Somali raid threatens to explode into regional conflict”, noting Kenya’s confrontation with Eritrea regarding alleged arms flights to supply Al Shabaab:

. . . This begs the question: what does Eritrea have to gain by funding a Somali Islamic fundamentalist militia?

The answer lies neither in Somalia nor Eritrea, but in the country that looms large between them: Ethiopia. Ethiopia is Eritrea’s nemesis, having occupied Eritrea for decades until Eritrea achieved its modern independence with a hard-fought and vicious civil war. But Eritrea can’t relax, ever, because it has the one thing that land-locked Ethiopia wants more than anything else in this world: a port. And rapprochement is not the style of Eritrea’s slightly mad President Isaias Afwerki, whose militaristic foreign policy has left Eritrea in the international wilderness.

Instead, Afwerki has fomented instability in Somalia, hoping the chaos next door will keep Ethiopia and its military occupied. Ethiopia is deeply involved in the Somali conflict itself, and its troops make frequent cross-border raids to chase rebels who are agitating against the Ethiopian government in the ethnically Somali province of the Ogaden. As International Crisis Group’s Somalia expert Rashid Abdi explains: “Eritrea definitely has been supportive of Al Shabaab for a long time and this support is not ideological. It’s essentially meant to counter Ethiopia’s influence in Somalia.”

So while we don’t know if it really was Eritrea sending planeloads of weapons to Al Shabaab during the current conflict with Kenya, this nonetheless represents the first step in turning what is a domestic conflict into a larger, regional issue. In a way, it doesn’t really matter if Eritrea was involved or not, as long as Kenya thinks they were, they will be implicated.

Kenya has said it will pursue its claims against Eritrea, saying that it has a “series of options” to deal with them. It’s unclear what these options are, but it’s unlikely that any of them will ease tensions in the Horn of Africa. And whenever Eritrea gets involved in something, it’s not long before Ethiopia follows suit – on the opposite side, of course. So what started out as a Somali issue might just turn into something much, much bigger, not forgetting that Uganda and Burundi are already involved as they are the only countries to have contributed troops to the African Union mission in Somalia.

Kenya hoped its Somali incursion would be quick and easy. But its troops are getting bogged down in the mud and are struggling to even find the enemy. And on the diplomatic front, as the incursion starts looking more and more like an invasion, other countries are inevitably getting involved, making it even less likely that Kenya can extricate itself from Somalia quickly or easily.