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December 16, 2008

Kenya gets tough on Somalia

Somal10
A Somali woman in a refugee camp in Afgoye, outside Mogadishu, in November 2007.

Let's hope Kenya is starting to flex some muscle on Somalia.

Today the Kenyan government slapped sanctions on Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, accusing him of being an obstacle to peace. They imposed a travel ban on him and his family and froze his assets in Kenya - a potentially significant rap because Yusuf, like many Somali politicians, is believed to have extensive property and business investments in Kenya.

Kenyan officials and Western diplomats have grudgingly supported Yusuf's interim government as perhaps Somalia's best chance at a normal government, but it's become difficult to argue that the elderly president isn't an impediment to peace. While Islamist militias gobble up territory and pirates wreak havoc offshore, Yusuf spent this week trying to fire his rival, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein - a blatantly illegal move under Somalia's charter - and appointing a new one over the objections of the rest of the country.

Kenya's foreign minister, Moses Wetangula
, told reporters that Kenya still recognized Hussein as the premier: "The region and international community should act in unison to collectively condemn all spoilers to the Somali peace process," he said of Yusuf.

We've heard talk like this before, but it's rare that Kenya - the undisputed political and economic heavyweight in the region - follows through on promises of tough action, especially against the head of a neighboring state, however dysfunctional. I wonder what the last straw was. Pirates have pushed Somalia back onto the news pages, and maybe Kenya sees a chance to look helpful.

Kenya is starting to show encouraging leadership on Somalia. Last week it agreed to prosecute pirates captured by British military forces, eliminating a legal hurdle that made foreign navies in the region reluctant to take pirates aboard their ships. Yesterday the Kenyan military said it would step up air and naval patrols along its coastline to deter pirates.

Many Kenyans have long looked at the catastrophe next door wished their own government would do more to stop it. These moves could be a start.

UPDATE: So it looks like the wires overshot this one. Kenyan media reports today that Wetangula only "threatened" to impose sanctions, so we're basically back where we started yesterday, which is pretty much nowhere.

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Comments

woz

i wonder.

perhaps Somalia's destiny is to become a Islamist state and it should be allowed to become one

in the longer run, Kenya might be better off being wary of becoming a launchpad for US foreign policy objectives (Kenya will have to continue living with the consequences)

and perhaps Kenya should keep its involvement in Somali affairs to the minimum possible - the US can run away (as it will); Kenya cannot

the more unfathomable question in all of this is the loyalty of the Kenyan leadership toward Kenyan interests and the country's future

jaldo

the whole of africa is corupt and has been for centuries if this is not so tell me why was slavery toleratedby all these so called kings and chiefs.AMERICA stay out of it let them kill one another to the last man and let the lions rule once more they have more compassion.

jaldo

if you place a bag of beans to feed their famalies in front of them and a gun and bullets these sorry men would take the gun and bullets and their family starve while they play soldier in the bushes and cant really fight a professional soldier just killing their neghbour is the only thing they are good at a sorry bunch,awaste of humanity a disgrace to AFRICA.

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shashank

Somewhere in Africa was written by McClatchy correspondent Shashank Bengali, who covered sub-Saharan Africa from 2005 to 2009. He's now based in Washington, D.C., as a national correspondent.

Read Shashank's stories at news.mcclatchy.com or send him a story idea.



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