IT’S been a difficult few weeks for Kenyan security forces in their battle with al-Shabaab militants.
Last week Wednesday, seven police officers and a civilian were killed when a roadside IED destroyed their armoured vehicle in southeastern Lamu. On May 24, at least five officers were killed in an IED blast that targeted Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba’s motorcade in northeastern Mandera.
On the same day, three policemen were killed and two injured in an IED attack in Garissa, north of Lamu. All told, at least 19 officers have died in the past three weeks in al-Shabaab attacks on Kenyan counties neighbouring Somalia.
Last week, the jihadists claimed another propaganda victory when they released footage that seemed to show they had overrun a Kenyan army base at Kulbiyow, in Somalia’s Lower Juba, in January.
The government has always denied the base fell – although it has admitted the battle was vicious, with defences breached by three vehicle-borne IEDs. Al-Shabaab claimed they killed 67 soldiers. The footage shows them in the camp, with Kenyan soldiers in retreat.
Al-Shabaab’s upped activities are likely partly linked to upcoming August elections in Kenya. The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to continue the fight against the militants.
President Donald Trump also announced a more aggressive US military approach in Somalia, departing from his predecessor Barack Obama more measured approach.
Ethiopia has already withdrawn some of its troops in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, known as AMISOM, in the face of shrinking aid for the mission. In the past both Uganda and Kenya had indicated they too would walk away from the AMISOM if international backing for it didn’t improve.
A funding deal was eventually reached with the European Union that kept the peacekeeping shop open, but there is still no clarity about long-term financial support.
By refusing to die, as it were, Al-Shabaab is, at a minimum, likely looking to make accommodating it an inevitable settlement in ending the over-25-year-long Somalia conflict.
-Additional reporting IRIN.