Somalia’s decades of lawlessness have had major ramifications for its neighbors. This week, two stories highlight the spillover effects of Somalia’s violence across the border in Kenya. Both reports highlight the worrisome increasing trend of extremist groups recruiting over the border, namely in northern Kenya and in Nairobi’s Somali quarter.
Reporting for the Christian Science Monitor, Heba Aly narrates life in Nairobi’s Somali neighborhood, Eastleigh, where one finds strong support for al-Shabaab, the Islamist rebel movement currently fighting inside Somalia. Aly describes just how easily funds flow across the border, noting that an estimated 3 million dollars a year flows from Eastleigh into Somalia through small transfers.
A piece from Reuters paints a similar picture but zooms in on northern Kenya, near the border with Somalia. The article notes that Shabab has targeted young men in northeast Kenya, proselytizing and enticing them with monetary support.
Kenyan officials are rightly worried about possible effects of Somalia’s crisis. There has even been talk of some kind of Kenyan intervention possibly a la Ethiopia’s U.S.-supported abysmal failure of an operation in 2006. The symptoms of Somalia’s current situation must be dealt with. However, addressing violence and lawlessness in border areas as well as piracy along the East African coast will not be effective without a political process in Somalia. A fundamental shift in the status quo is necessary to stop the violence, allow the estimated 1.4 millions displaced Somalis return home, and pull the country out of its current anarchic state. Until that happens, the international community will have to deal with the symptoms of the Somalia’s chaos – with its neighbors serving as first responders – but must tread lightly to avoid being seen as meddling too much in Somalia’s internal affairs and thus doing more harm than good.