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WASHINGTON – Donors and stakeholders from Somalia and the region must craft a plan for who will govern southern Somalia if and when Kenya's intervention to oust the jihadi group al-Shabaab succeeds in order to create stability in the highly contested region, according to a new Enough Project paper by Ken Menkhaus.
Menkhaus, a professor of political science at Davidson College and a specialist on Somalia, argues that the three-month military intervention in the Jubbaland region of Somalia could have unintended negative consequences unless a strategy is put in place.
“Intervention strategies that plan the war but not the peace will fail,” Menkhaus said. “Kenya risks this fate in southern Somalia. Unless a plan is crafted, Kenya is not likely to get what it wants – a more stable and secure border area. Instead, its offensive could destabilize the region.”
The paper explains the roots of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia and the challenges the military intervention faces including getting bogged down in heavy rains, the potential for terrorist reprisals in Kenya, and the possibility of prolonged urban warfare in the Somali port city of Kismayo.
According to the report, a plan should be in place for the long-term political dispensation for the Jubbaland region in order to foster stability if and when Shabaab is ousted. To accomplish this, the focus should be on creating a buffer zone along the Kenyan-Somali border, establishing a representative, non-administrative regional government, and putting in place a temporary international customs authority to manage the revenues from the lucrative port to benefit local inhabitants while preventing corruption and clan competition.
“There is an urgent need to initiate Somali dialogue toward a ‘Kismayo solution’ before the city changes hands,” Menkhaus said. “A successful Somali dialogue on rights and claims on Kismayo could serve as a model for other contested Somali urban areas. Kismayo needs to be a setting where Somalis agree explicitly to create a 'cosmopolitan city' – one in which all Somalis have full rights to live, work, own property, and operate businesses.” He emphasizes that Kenya would not be able to accomplish this without the support of the international community.
Menkhaus sees both potential pitfalls and benefits of the intervention. “Though there are good reasons to second-guess the Kenyan military intervention, it could produce an unexpected and rare window of opportunity in Kismayo," he said. "That opportunity will be missed unless diplomatic initiatives are initiated immediately.”
Read the full report: “After the Kenyan Intervention in Somalia.”
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.