Happy National Day and Thanks for the Troops (Burundi)

2016_06_28-Burundi_Rotation-2

AMISOM flickr photo- Burundian troops rotate home
The State Department issued this statement today, as Burundi’s long crisis drags:

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, congratulations to the people of Burundi on the 55th anniversary of your independence.

We applaud Burundi’s ongoing commitment to international peacekeeping operations and recognize the positive impact its troops have had in Somalia.

The United States stands with all Burundians committed to peace and prosperity. As you reflect on your history and address the challenges of today, we send best wishes for a bright future.

In the meantime, the Burundian government has accused the West and “international organizations” of conspiring with the Rwandan government to seek regime change and to steal Burundi’s resources.

US State Dept clears another possible $250M+ sale of light attack aircraft for Kenya; Human Development Index shows Kenya at 146 of 188 countries with “region’s worst jobs crisis”

Update: see Daily Nation: “Analysts skeptical of impact in Somalia of Kenya arms purchases“.

From the Defense Security Cooperation Agency release:

. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.

Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .

The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.

Kenya had the largest military spending in the East African region in 2016 at $908M as reported by SIPRI.  Finalization of these two sales of attack aircraft this year would account for dollars equivalent to roughly 60% of last year’s spending.

Here is the headline story from Business Daily: UN report shows Kenya’s jobs crisis worst in region“.  The full UN Human Development Index report and related material can be downloaded here.

It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa.  I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware.  Perhaps I misunderstand.

Election Violence threat in Kenya — my thoughts on NDI’s new warning 


1. NDI is right to warn of a risk of violence, highlighting the unprecedented level of division and tension in Kenya related to the competition for power in this election scheduled for August.

2.  Given that the Kenyan Government is led by politicians widely understood to have been major players in the killing and mayhem following the failure of the 2007 election — elevated to office on the basis of their status as tribal champions indicted by the ICC — #1 can hardly be any surprise.

3.  Further, the “reform agenda” intended to address the catastrophe of 2007-08 has long been diverted and shelved.  Zero accountability across the board for the previous election violence.  The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report was interfered with by the Executive, then shelved with so many other accumulated Kenyan commission reports gathering dust.  No accountability for the bribery of Election Commission members and officers in 2007 (in fact, a cover up), followed by impunity in the buyout of the IEBC last year after Chickengate and the failures of 2013.

4.  The main reform was the passage of the new Constitution of 2010, but in the hands of anti-reform politicians under no serious further international pressure, the main change is more offices to potentially fight over.  There has been some strengthening of some institutions and backsliding in others.  I think everyone agrees there is still widespread extrajudicial killing by police (the biggest cause of death in the PEV) and extensive corruption (which facilitated the collapse of the ECK).

5.  Certainly the performance of the KDF as well from Westgate to Somalia suggests a less disciplined force than most of us perceived in the 2007 and 2013 elections.

6.  Arguably the incumbent Kenyan Administration has more leverage over the US and UK governments now than Kibaki did in 2007.  Although in 2007 Kenya was a key security cooperator with the US on Al Shabaab, at this point the KDF is in Somalia on an indefinite basis, in part as a component of AMISOM in which the US and the UK are heavily invested, with the US now stepping up direct action against Al Shabaab.  In the meantime, South Sudan — the other “nation-building” project with its back office in Nairobi —  is really failing.  Conflict threatens in the DR Congo with Uganda and Rwanda pulling away from democratization progess as the potential threats and temptations may be increasing in the neighborhood.  Obviously it would be hard for the US or the UK, as well as for others, to “cry foul” over a situation like 2007 where the incumbent was not willing to be found to have lost re-election.

7.  It’s too early to know what the dynamics of the campaign will be and I am not closely in touch at all with the hidden backstories this time (like most outsiders, especially those not even living in Kenya this year).  It seems foolish for any of us to gamble much on prognostications or predictions, but the macro risk is surely great enough to warrant some soul searching and some planning.  Part of this is sobriety in recognizing that there is no time left for extensive reconciliation efforts or deeper institutional work that has eluded us over the years.

8.  Boris Johnson will have Kenya on his radar, for better or worse, but it’s hard to guess who outside of AFRICOM will really be engaged on Kenya at a senior level in the US Government before any election crisis, even though the risk is so much more widely recognized this time.  Pre-election funding is much greater than in 2007 but extra resources for a political crisis may be harder to rally.

9.  I remain of the belief that Kenya was not really “on the brink of civil war” in 2008 because such a large part of the violence was instrumental for political gain and none of the politicians would have benefited from a civil war.  In 2013, I agree that some level of optimism about institutions, mostly the Supreme Court, that we don’t necessarily see now had a lot to do with reducing violence, but a big factor was the mass security mobilization – it was understood that protestors would face police and military bullets and not many were willing to take an initiative in that direction.  The benefit of 2013 and the other problems with the institutions pre-election this year is that expectations are low — an openly stolen election would be far less of a shock than in 2007 and as in 2013 the State’s willingness to kill cannot be doubted.  On the other hand, if violence did break out inspite of these initial barriers it might be harder to temper and eventually end than in 2008.

Update: 13 April — See Muthoni Wanyeki’s latest column in The East African, Polls: the heat is rising, mayhem escalating,” for a look at the current temperature official behavior around the country.

 

Having apologized for having gotten our shoes in the way of the vomit, donors to Kenya’s government are now finally alarmed again about the (ongoing) corruption

Here is the latest from Kenya’s Journalists for Justice on the corrupt involvement of personnel in the Kenya Defense Forces in the charcoal and sugar smuggling trade.

It’s not so much that I’m jaded, it’s just that I have watched this movie before–and even been an “extra” of sorts in one of the previous remakes.

Yes, corruption is obviously getting even worse within this Kenyan administration than within the last.  But that was also true when I lived in Kenya during the end of the first Kibaki administration and into the beginning of the second.

There are several readily apparent reasons.  For instance, when I lived in Kenya I made the acquaintance of a Western expat whose spouse was in the tourism business. Prior to the 2007 vote count corruption and violence, the tourism business was booming.  But corruption was up as a cost of doing business as it was explained to me because to operate you had to pay off a second generation, too–the kids of the senior politicians.  Presumably this generational expansion has continued.  Why wouldn’t it?

The year before I moved to Kenya the UK and US envoys had been outspokenly opposed to the corruption, in the context of the Anglo Leasing revelations by John Githongo of massive corruption involving national security procurements, touching our own security interests aside from our sensibilities about criminal behavior, along with the outrageous shenanigans involving the Artur Brothers, and the Standard media raid, among others.  The British envoy even offered the memorably colorful “vomit on our (the donors’) shoes” metaphor about the extent of the gluttonous “eating”.

But by the time I arrived in mid-2007 things were different.  New personnel led the diplomatic missions.  On the US side we apparently helped Moi and Kibaki get back together, and hosted Interior Minister John Michuki, of “rattling the snake” fame, who had taken credit for the Standard raid, on a security tour of the U.S.  Michuki represented Kibaki at our Embassy’s Fourth of July party, where Moi unofficially planted himself to catch the receiving line.

And then we looked the other way at the corruption of the Electoral Commission of Kenya.  Ambassador Ranneberger made sure to get his predecessor Ambassador Bellamy removed from our IRI Election Observation Mission on the basis that he was “perceived as anti-government”.  Bellamy had spoken out on the corruption, in particular the Standard raid.  The week before the vote, Ranneberger noted for the Kenyan public that Kenya was “on track” in fighting the vice of corruption, that  we had had Enron in the U.S., that prosecutions for Anglo Leasing and Goldenburg could take time, and that the World Bank had given the Kibaki administration an award for procurement reform (of all things) and that he expected a “free and fair” election.  And then we tried at first to sell the ECK’s election “count” even though we knew full well that it was bogus.  When that didn’t fly, we supported “power sharing” so long as there was no new election before Kibaki’s full second term was up.  According to a news report from Nairobi years later from stolen cables from “Wikileaks” we issued a couple of “travel bans” based on alleged evidence of bribery against two of the ECK commissioners, but we never disclosed this action or the evidence, why we singled out these two or anything else about the matter.

During the post election violence a diplomat explained to me that the reason many of the younger pols in Kibaki’s PNU coalition were against a power sharing settlement was that they didn’t want to share the secondary ministry appointments.  Ultimately by adding opposition politicians into the second Kibaki administration through “power sharing” with extra ministries you further expanded the multigenerational set of stomachs to let eat.  One way to look at the settlement naturally has been that Kibaki and Raila were willing to stop the fighting (so long as Kibaki retained with further ambiguity the full second term Presidency which the ECK had delivered to him) and the rest were bribed to acquiesce.

So you cannot tell me with a straight face that the diplomatic position of the United States in 2007-08 was to “oppose” corruption as a high rather than a subordinated priority.

After being stung by criticism from the election debacle, Ranneberger was reborn as an outspoken “reform agenda” campaigner for his extended tour on through the passage of a new constitution.  He compiled dossiers on money laundering and drug smuggling through politico/business interests and encouraged action, albeit to no avail. His successors quietly moved on, however, and we helped sell a new badly handled election in 2013 by a new, but probably more pervasively corrupted electoral authority.  We helped pay for expensive technology that was doomed by procurement fraud but kept quiet.  The British Serious Fraud Office successfully prosecuted one of their companies and its owners for bribes on other election procurements, but the Kenyan administration has taken no action to follow up and we have kept our silence.

With time, we have come again to affectionately embrace our usual suspect “partners”, with new programs headquartered in our favorite African city of Nairobi.  A photo op in the Oval Office with POTUS and FLOTUS for the Kenyan President and First Lady last year, followed this summer by a glowing official Presidential visit to Nairobi with a telegenic dance party at State House.   Never mind what we said before; please can we give you more?  Some eloquent speech about the cost of corruption, safely abstract from the burgeoning accumulation of years of specific cases on the impunity docket.  Yes we can dance with this new set of shoes without even looking down at the vomit.

Surely then it can be no surprise that things have gotten that much worse.  With a new report by Kenyan journalists on the longstanding implication of Kenyan Defense Forces which we help underwrite in Jubaland in the sugar and charcoal smuggling rackets, and fresh levels of embarrassment from the international press from the National Youth Service, irregular handling of bond proceeds amid rising debt levels, more land grabbing and another looted bank, all with a new election cycle approaching, the season has turned again and it is the time for furrowed brows.  Time for the U.S. to lead a donor group to call on the current version of the anti-corruption authority.  To talk again of “visa bans” and offers again to assist in “asset recovery”.

Instead of another remake, could this be a sequel offering a surprise ending, with say, even a few villains in jail, or at least less rich, as a cautionary tale for some and a bit of hope and inspiration for others? Or is this just another iteration of “the formula” in which the sheriff rides into town, frowns at the drunken brawl, then passes along to enjoy the cinematic scenery on the way home?

Only time will tell.  I do think we genuinely would prefer to be against the corruption rather than aligned with it.  We just lose our nerve and get distracted by other priorities that seem more immediate.  Making a dent in Kenya’s entrenched culture of impunity would take a long hard slog, in the face of bitter opposition formal and informal.  It would be messy and likely involve putting up with a bit of embarrassment–it could involve some risk and actual cost.  In any event  it would take a good while for us to convince the players that we had become serious.

Now to that next step: evaluating the Kenya Defense Forces role in Somalia and Kenya’s security needs

Andrew J. Franklin’s “Terrorism and the rising cost of Kenya’s war in Somalia,” in The Standard gives a perspective on cost and “mission creep” since the original Operation Linda Nichi incursion of October 2011.  Take time to read his assessment that over the course of what is best understood as a war rather than participation in a “peacekeeping mission” Kenya has come to face an insurgency in the border counties that now poses an existential threat to the county such that the priority for Kenyan security needs to be a focus by the KDF on a comprehensive border security initiative and finally implementing the critical domestic security reforms set out in the law since 2010.

Do not forget my post of last July highlighting the reporting of Amb. George Ward at the Institute for Defense Analyses: “Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports.”  And from October 2013: “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors.”

Kenyan political leaders had unsuccessfully sought U.S. support for an operation to secure a “Jubaland” buffer region long before the October 2011 action.  There were probably a variety of motives to proceed when Linda Nichi went forward, some of which related to security and some of which related to various opportunities and schemes of a more “commercial” nature.

Without a coalition government in place as there was in 2011, President Kenyatta has the power and the accountable responsibility as Commander in Chief to articulate the mission of the KDF and the strategy to be employed, now.  Kenyans are clearly less safe than they were three-and-a-half years ago, so continuing to pursue a muddled mission without an obvious strategy seems quite dangerous.

Kenyans going for water

Kenyans going for water

Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports

The Institute for Defense AnalysesAfrica Watch publication (PDF below) has a discussion by Amb. George Ward of the recent report for the UNEP and Interpol on the banned charcoal trade from Somalia (“The Somali Charcoal Industry–Strange Bedfellows”). Rather than shut down the trade that has been the primary revenue source for Al Shabaab, the Kenyan Defense Forces have continued the trade out of Kismayo, which they captured nearly two years ago, along with their present day allies in the Ras Kamboni militia. Further, the KDF is apparently participating in the same overall network of deforestation, charcoal production and brokered export trade that includes continued unmolested shipping by Al Shabaab itself from Baraawe. The traders include businessmen established in Nairobi and Garissa, so Kenya profits on that end too.

Fortunately for the Kenyan taxpayers, the EU and the United States primarily fund the AMISOM mission which has covered the Kenyan forces since mid-2012. Something tells me the charcoal proceeds generated through the KDF are not going to the Kenyan treasury.

africawatch-july-10-2014-vol5.pdf

Of course, other reports of KDF dealing in the charcoal trade have been out there for a long time.  See my post “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors”.

Somaliland rejects local UNSOM presence; Kenya reading

Khat Shop Hargiesa

Khat Shop Hargiesa

The Somaliland Sun reports that the Government of Somaliland has informed the visiting head of the new United Nations Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) that Somaliland will not host a UNSOM office. Somaliland wishes to continue hosting and receiving aid through various individual UN agencies and organizations but considers the overall UNSOM mission in support of the Federal Government of Somalia incompatible with Somaliland’s independent status.

In the meantime, the questions of governance for Kismayo and the “Jubaland” region remain an immediate challenge as does the unsettled Somaliland-Puntland border. Somaliland has indicated a desire to strengthen relations with Kenya, which shares a common interest in some degree of regional autonomy for Jubaland on the Kenyan border.

Of note on Kenya:

Wachira Maina–“ICC: Kenya’s is a lose-lose strategy even if African Union has its way” in The East African.

Dr. Stephanie Burchard, “How Fraud Might (Indirectly) Promote Democracy in Africa” in the Institute for Defense Analyses’ Africa Watchdiscussing the judicial review of Ghana’s presidential election in contrast to the procedure in Kenya.

David Anderson on the Mau Mau case, “Atoning for the Sins of Empire” in the New York Times.

Wycliffe Muga on “A Brief History of Election Rigging” in The Star.

Jaindi Kisero on “There is more to the Kenya Pipeline Company saga than nepotism; is it someone’s turn to eat?” in the Daily Nation.

Paul Wafula on “Hidden pain in financing Jubilee’s bag of goodies” in The Standard.

George Kegoro, “There’s need for an independent team to probe conduct of election” in the Daily Nation.

Uganda: New links for ongoing themes . . .

Uganda will review its commitment of forces to the AMISOM mission in Somalia due to being “stabbed in the back” by accusation of arming rebels in DRC.

Today, Uganda’s Media Council ordered suspension of a play entitled “State of the Nation” about corruption and poor governance, pending a “review”.

The Ugandan Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadega, is attracting popular support for standing up to pressure on a recent trip to Canada on the longstanding “anti-homosexuality” bill, and rejects the notion that she should block debate on the bill to appease aid donors or avoid visa suspensions.

In the meantime, two patients from a road accident reportedly died after the ICU in Uganda’s largest hospital closed recently due to lack of equipment:

According to a research paper published by the Bio Med Central Journal, Uganda has only one ICU bed for every one million Ugandans. The paper reveals that critical care remains neglected with many patients with potentially treatable conditions unable to access services.

Ideally, with Mulago’s 1,500 bed capacity, at least 150 of them should be in a high dependency ward for people who need more intensive observation and treatment.

Other departments that have ICU beds in the hospital are the pediatric ward (4) which are not working, the Heart Institute (4) and the Cancer Institute (3) while the general ward has 12 beds with no equipment. Other public hospitals that have functioning ICUs in the country are Mbarara, Lacor, Gulu and Jinja.

h/t Rosebell’s Blog on Twitter

VOA reports that Britain has joined Ireland in an aid suspension over corruption in the Prime Minister’s office (although apparently the Irish suspension is general, whereas the UK is apparently only suspending aid to that one office):

The money was meant to have been spent on helping the needy, and to help pay for a ‘peace recovery and development program’ in northern Uganda after decades of conflict and devastation.

The Ugandan government has pledged prosecutions. Two senior officials have been charged, while 17 others have been suspended as the investigation continues.

“This report does not surprise anybody,” said Dr. Fred Golooba Mutebi, a political analyst and a visiting fellow at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The only shock, he added, “is the amounts of money stolen are quite colossal.”

"Freedom of expression is your right"

“FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS YOUR RIGHT”

Consolidating lasting benefits from “liberation” of Kismayu . . .

Ken Menkhaus addresses governance in liberated Kismayo in “Somalia’s Sarajevo” in Foreign Policy:

Since the onset of state collapse and civil war in 1991, Kismayo has been Somalia’s Sarajevo — a chronically contested city, at times half-emptied by armed conflict, at other times bloated with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. It has changed hands many times over the past two decades but has always been in the control of warlords or jihadists and has never enjoyed a day of good governance. Rival Somali clans in Jubbaland — the region of southern Somalia where Kismayo is located — have never been able to agree on how to share the city and have repeatedly fought over it. Even al-Shabab suffered an internal armed battle over control of the seaport in 2008. Thanks to years of political violence, Kismayo has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult and dangerous place for aid agencies to operate in all of Somalia.

This history of violence and instability is tragic, as the city has the potential to be one of the most commercially vibrant, cosmopolitan urban centers in Somalia. The city’s main value is as the site of an international airport and an all-weather seaport near the Kenyan border. Proximity to the large Kenyan market makes trade through Kismayo’s port very attractive; the seaport alone generates lucrative customs revenue for whoever controls it.

. . . .

Kenya, IGAD, Mohamud, and the local political players tapped to administer Kismayo should meet in Mogadishu and quickly negotiate the terms of a provisional administration over the city. This negotiation should acknowledge the sovereignty of the new government, recognize that the new government currently lacks the means to directly administer newly liberated space, and set clear timetables and limits on the authority of a city administration that will be explicitly provisional in nature. At a minimum, this will buy some time until the new Somali national government can form a complete cabinet and address the urgent question of how local or regional administrations are to be formed in newly liberated zones.

President Hassan addressed these issues while traveling within Somalia to visit the site of flooding in Beledweyne, as reported by Garowe Online:

Answering a question about the southern port of Kismayo, President Hassan said: “I share my congratulations with Somali National Forces, local forces and AMISOM forces who jointly took control of Kismayo. It is very important that Kismayo gets a civilian administration soon and we are working on this.”

Diplomatic sources in Nairobi told Garowe Online that President Hassan sent a letter to the Kenyan Government last month, urging Nairobi to steer clear of efforts to establish an administration for the Jubba regions of southern Somalia, where Kismayo is located.

One source added: “President Hassan is pushing the sovereignty card and telling Kenya to allow his government the lead in establishing a local administration. However, there is a difference between the type of administration, with President Hassan wanting to appoint a provincial administration similar to Bay and Hiran regions, while there is a consultative process underway in Kenya over the past year to establish a ‘Jubaland’ state administration, in line with Somalia’s federal constitution.”

Assistant Secretary of State Carson set out U.S. priorities and intentions on Somalia more generally in a Monday foreign press briefing:

Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself. Over the past 12 months we have seen the completion of the transitional roadmap ending the TFG and creating a new Somali Government. For the first time in nearly two decades, Somalia has a new provisional constitution. It has a newly selected parliament which is half the size of the former parliament and comprises some 18 percent women and whose membership is comprised of some 60 percent university graduates. There’s been a new speaker selected and a new president elected. Great progress has been achieved in Somalia, and this is in large measure because of the combined efforts of IGAD, the African Union, the UN and the international community, and especially the United States.

At this meeting, we heard from Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and it was broadly agreed that the international community would support the new emphasis in priorities of the government.

For our part in Washington, we are determined to do three things. One is to help the new government put in place the infrastructure so that it can run effectively. This means helping to create effective government ministries, have those ministries staffed with effective civil servants and advisors so that they can carry out their government functions.

The second is to help to create a new Somali national army, an army that is subservient to civilian and constitutional control, an army that is able to work alongside of AMISOM and take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do. But creating a new strong Somali army, to eventually replace AMISOM is a second priority. And third priority is to provide assistance to the government so that it can deliver services to the people so that it can rebuild and refurbish and re-staff schools, hospitals, and medical clinics, provide assistance so that it can begin to deal with some of its smaller infrastructure issues, providing clean water to populations, helping to restore electrical power and also opening up markets. We also want to help in developing small enterprise and microcredit operations to help the government as well.

So we will be working there. As I said, Secretary Clinton was there. We think Somalia has made enormous progress. We also believe there has been significant military progress against al-Shabaab. AMISOM deserves an enormous amount of credit in driving al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and its environs and also moving against the city of Kismayo. Much credit for the operations in Kismayo go to the Kenyan forces who were a part of AMISOM, but we must praise the leadership of the Ugandan commanders who have led the AMISOM mission over the last four years. But Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya all deserve credit, and they will soon be joined by forces arriving literally today and tomorrow from Sierra Leone to help strengthen AMISOM. But the international community has been in unison with IGAD and the AU, and the U.S. has been a significant and major contributor to this effort.

Kibaki gets ahead of news on Kismayu, as Kenyan forces conduct assault from beach [updated Sat. Sept. 29]

[Update Sept. 29–Reuters reports that al-Shabab announced they had pulled most of their fighters out of Kismayu overnight Friday, continuing the pattern of avoiding heavy direct fighting.]

Friday afternoon, Sept. 28: BBC News–Somali militants hold Kismayo under Kenyan force attack:

Kenyan and Somali forces launched a beach assault on al-Shabab’s last major stronghold, but by late afternoon were still some miles from the city centre.

Clashes were reported just north of the city and residents report Kenyan shelling of al-Shabab positions.

Kenyan troops are part of a force trying to wrest control of the country for the new UN-backed president.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Nairobi says it is probably a matter of when, not if Kismayo falls. . . .

Simultaneously in the Daily Nation, published hours earlier: “Kibaki commends Kenyan forces over Kismayu victory”:

President Kibaki has commended the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for capturing Kismayu terming it a defining moment for Somalia and the region.

The seizure of the port city in southern Somalia is a “game changer”, the President who is also the Commander in-Chief of Kenya Defence Forces said Friday.

“This is a game changer for the people of Somalia, it is a defining moment.

Here is The Standard story: “How KDF took Kismayu”.

It is interesting to note in the context of an amphibious assault that as I understand it, the Kenyan Navy, unlike the ground forces, is not directly integrated into the AMISOM forces.

Update: From Jeffrey Gettleman’s New York Times report, also from Nairobi:

On Friday evening, one Kismayu resident said that the environment inside the town was “very tense” and that “we don’t know where to hide.” The resident, who did not want to be identified, said the Kenyan army was rapidly approaching but that the Shabab were still in control of the city center.

Some analysts predicted that once nightfall came, the Shabab would sneak away under the cover of darkness. Other analysts said that, if cornered, the Shabab fighters who remained in the town might stand and fight.

Kenya’s invasion of Somalia is the most aggressive step it has ever taken against another country. Kenyan officials said they needed to go into Somalia to protect their borders after a wave of kidnappings, and the first troops rolled in last year. But they have also acknowledged that Somalia’s relentless chaos was hindering Kenya’s fast-growing economy and that the invasion was a long-planned objective to secure the coastline and allow Kenya to move ahead with an ambitious, new, multibillion dollar port on the Indian Ocean, not far from the Somali border.

It is not clear what may happen next. Setting up an inclusive, widely accepted local administration for Kismayu will be crucial for any pacification efforts. But Kismayu has always been a tricky place to rule .  .  .  .