Operation Linda Nchi (“Protect the Country”) is an ongoing coordinated military operation between the Kenyan military and the Somalian military that began on 16 October, 2011, when troops from Kenya crossed the border into the conflict zones of southern Somalia. The soldiers were in pursuit of al-Shabaab militants alleged to have kidnapped several foreign tourists and aid workers inside Kenya. According to the Ethiopian foreign minister, the operation represented one of the final stages in the Islamist insurgency of the Somali Civil War. This is the official reason why the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are in Somalia, but is there another agenda?

I was speaking to one of my contacts here in Mogadishu, and he believes that there is a different agenda behind why the Kenya Defence Forces are present in the country. It should come as no great shock to learn it’s really about natural resources. Sounds familiar, right? There is a dispute between the Kenyan government and Somalian government about a piece of ocean territory that stretches for more than 100,000 sq. km. Tests have shown potential reserves of gas in the area. The dispute has been going on for the last six years, keeping investors away because of a lack of legal clarity regarding who owns the potential off-shore oil and gas reserves.

oil map som

If we look at where the KDF are operating in Somalia, their main forces are in Kismayo, the second largest port town located near the disputed area. They do not operate farther inland, as this would raise questions about what they are really doing there. The Kenya Defence Forces first arrived in Somalia in 2011, not as part of AMISOM, but on their own with their own objectives. Only later on did they become a part of AMISOM, and many here believe it’s because they could not afford to fund their campaign in Somalia otherwise. By joining AMISOM, they receive funding to continue doing what they came here for.

A local source in Kismayo informed me of a deal between the KDF and the Jubaland government pertaining to the charcoal business. Apparently, high-ranking officials inside the Kenya Defence Forces have deals with local businessmen in the charcoal industry, and are selling this product and making millions. This would shed some light on why Kenya gets attacked by al-Shabaab; al-Shabaab used to run the charcoal industry down here, but lost control of it to the KDF. As if to rub salt in their wounds, the Kenyans are selling it and making good money from it. The KDF also provide security to the local port, which gives them room to handle their shady business without interruption.

What makes this problem worse is that the KDF were put in this location to stop the illegal trade in the area. On top of this, the Jubaland government and the government of Somalia have a fragile relationship, so putting a stop to this will be even more difficult. The Jubaland government will inevitably side with the KDF, as they are making more than a little money from this arrangement.

Going back to the initial invasion of Kismayo, the Kenya Defence Forces used a local Islamic group called Ras Kamboni to help them take the town. This group used to be aligned with al-Shabaab. Their clan leader, Ahemd Madobe, was a former Islamic Courts Union member also believed to have ties to al-Shabaab. He was wounded in a U.S. airstrike only to later get captured by Ethiopian forces. Then, he pops back on the scene as the leader of Ras Kamboni, eager to assist the KDF in taking the town of Kismayo. Now, first of all, why did the Ethiopians let him go, and then why did the KDF ally with this man given his background and ties? Fast forward to present day: He is now the president of Jubaland. Sounds like funny business to me.

amed dodbe
Ahemd Madobe

Also according to my source, Madobe took this position by force. I wonder if he did this to get into bed with the Kenya Defence Forces. I also wonder if the KDF placed him in this position so they could carry out their operation. From where I am sitting, it all seems kind of suspicious. At this moment, I am unable to get a response from the KDF about this.