By Odhiambo Franklyn
Humanitarian interventionÂ hasÂ beenÂ definedÂ asÂ aÂ state’sÂ useÂ ofÂ “militaryÂ forceÂ againstÂ anotherÂ stateÂ whenÂ theÂ chiefÂ publiclyÂ declaredÂ aimÂ ofÂ thatÂ militaryÂ actionÂ is endingÂ humanÂ rightsÂ violationsÂ beingÂ perpetratedÂ byÂ theÂ stateÂ againstÂ whichÂ itÂ isÂ directed.â€“ Wikipedia
Any individual with a sufficient amount of interest or knowledge in diplomacy and internationalÂ relations should be able to immediately conclude that the above description is not only limited inÂ scope; but wholly ignorant to other subtle practices of intervention; including but not limited toÂ such acts as humanitarian aid and international sanctions and embargoes.
This definition too isÂ not exhaustive of other “special” cases of intervention particularly the type discussed here.
This definition though serves sufficiently in my dissection of Kenya’s intervention into SomaliaÂ which is cloaked in the name of “Operation Linda Nchi”; the progress of which has since beenÂ carefully concealed from the public domain. One more thing about the above definition though;Â notice that it is limited to one state intervening on another state; an issue of sovereignty andÂ not in another state, an issue of mutual consent or diplomatic pressure; therein lies the special
twist to the diplomatic tango between Kenya and Somalia. The real motivation for Kenya’sÂ intervention in Somalia though seems to have been a dogma of diplomacy held widely in theÂ west that has now affected even African nations in their dealings with one another; one that if notÂ checked threatens to soil the diplomatic fabric in Africa.
The dogma I speak about is nothing new; it is the widely applied label of “Failed State.” TheÂ first question by an intervening nation is whether there is moral justification of the intendedÂ intervention into another country. Kenya seems to have found the answer in the assumption thatÂ Somalia is such a “failed state”, and that the continued conflicts between the Al-Shabaab and theÂ internationally recognized TFG would spill into Kenya and destabilize the East African regionÂ as a whole, and thus destabilize the region.
This “failed state” ideology in regards to SomaliaÂ is not native to Kenyan leadership; in fact it is one of those policy stereotypes that are yet to beÂ satisfactorily answered in international diplomatic circles.
Let me state here that state failureÂ is a debate with not just ideological challenges, but also empirical, normative and practicalÂ shortcomings of considerable magnitude.
The Knowledge of Non-Being
The debate on state failure seems to center on what these so called “Failed states” are not andÂ not on what they are. This is the knowledge of non-being, a fault adopted by many respectedÂ news and opinion leaders globally. Consider these two; “That Somalia is a failed state is beyondÂ dispute,” claimed Fareed Zakaria in a column about terrorism and Somalia, in connectionÂ with the bombings in Uganda’s capital Kampala in 2010. Fareed is Editor-in-Chief for TIMEÂ and anchor at CNN hosting the show GPS.Â Also claimed The Economist in 2011:Â “not aÂ single [African state has] peacefully ousted a government or president at the ballot box.”
TheÂ knowledge of non-being is wonderful at making generalizations and audacious assumptions. ThisÂ theory assumed, in the case of Somalia, that the legitimacy of TFG was an established fact, thatÂ democracy was the best rule in Somalia, and most fatally that Kenya had to act the big brotherÂ role to save Somalia from itself.
The theorists and strategists at state house and DOD made twoÂ fundamental assumptions; first was that there was no possibility of supporting the TFG to protectÂ its side of the border from Somalia and contain the insurgents from the south of Somalia.
TheÂ second assumption was that at the end of the intervention, Kenya would be able to spearheadÂ the division of Somalia into eight autonomous regions, including Somaliland, and Puntland, inÂ addition to Galmudung (also known as Hiran), Jubaland (also known as Azania), Bay Bakool,Â Shabelle, Gedo and Mogadishu (also known as Banadir) (ReportedÂ byÂ FredÂ Oluoch;Â theÂ EastÂ AfricanÂ ofÂ DecemberÂ 12thÂ it as buffer between Kenya and Somalia (DailyÂ Nation;Â SundayÂ DecemberÂ 5,Â 2010) accordingÂ to a leaked US diplomatic cable (What was known as the Jubaland Initiative), causing someÂ discomfort between Nairobi and Addis Ababa (DailyÂ Nation;Â SundayÂ AprilÂ 3,Â 2011).
Kenya wasÂ proposing something akin to the Rhineland between Germany and France at the conference ofÂ Versailles in 1919 at the end of WWI. This theory that TFG had utterly failed was then bolsteredÂ by the promised support from the international community. KDF was confident of a triumphantÂ entry into Somalia.
The “Failed state” was considered by Nairobi to be in no position to decideÂ whether it should remain united, or if the people preferred to remain united and work out theirÂ differences in more amicable ways.
With the cost of $233,000 a month for keeping its troops onÂ the ground in Somalia, it is no surprise DOD at Nairobi preferred to resort to the good old divideÂ and rule tactic in the Linda Nchi intervention.
What then is state failure?Â In his AÂ DefinitionÂ ofÂ aÂ StateÂ Chandran Kukathas of the London School of Economics makesÂ this observation (Try Substituting a standard definition of “failure” in this definition);Â 2011).
In fact Nairobi proposed Jubaland’s independence so as to useÂ “To define the state is…no easy matter for a number of reasons. First, the state is a formÂ of association with a history, so the entity that is to be described is one that has evolvedÂ or developed and, cannot readily be captured in a snapshot…not all the entities that claimÂ to be…states are the same kinds of entity, since they vary in size, longevity, power,Â political organization and legitimacy..”
Finally regarding the “Failed State” label in Africa, consider these; why would another AfricanÂ country want to label another “Failed” when the challenges we face are fundamentally theÂ same? Was Kenya a poster child for western diplomatic arm-twisting?
If it is so easy to label aÂ neighbor a failure, how long till Kenya appoints herself East Africa’s big brother in diplomacyÂ and regional security?
Something tells me our policy makers in Nairobi know zilch about historyÂ and the curse of fighting another man’s battle. They should ask the Serbians of Sarajevo.
The fullÂ effect of Operation Linda Nchi still remains to be seen, but mark my words, we haven’t heard theÂ last from Mogadishu.
The writer is a student at African Leadership Academy, South Africa.