By Juma Kwayera
An imminent administrative vacuum in southern Somalia forced the Kenyan Defence Force to slow down on its mission to capture Kismayu, the ultimate prize in the war against Islamist militants desperate to keep it under their control.
As a consequence, representatives of major clans in the region have been meeting in Karen, Nairobi, to agree on a power sharing deal once the Al Shaabab militants are driven out of the port city.
The talks sponsored by Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (Igad), have been kept under wraps – not even the Somalia Embassy in Nairobi has been willing to divulge information about the progress meeting. Kenyan authorities have too maintained a tight leash on their plans to capture Kismayu.
Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, confirmed to The Standard On Sunday that a series of meetings have been taking place in Karen.
The meetings are intended to come up with an administrative structure that accommodates all clan interests in Sector Two, which is under the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in the war against Al Shaabab.
The contest for the control of Kismayu, involves three major clans in southern Somalia, also referred to as Jubbaland. These are the Marhan, Ogden and Harti. Initially, KDF had been expected to seize Kismayu from Al Shaabab mid this month.
However, fears that the fall of Kismayu would trigger a fresh conflict among militia groups allied to Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni militia and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) led by Prof Mohammed Abdi Mohammed ‘Gandhi’, necessitated the cautious approach.
Fear of fresh conflict
Whereas Ras Kamboni is fighting alongside KDF, ASWJ is allied to Ethiopia and coalesces around Prof Mohammed Abdi Gandhi.
Both have been pushing for semi-autonomy similar to Somaliland and Puntland’s. The stability of the region rests on the delicate balancing of the interests of the Marhan and the Ogden, which in the past has taken turns to control the economy of the seaport.
While KDF has been operating in Jubbaland with the Ogden, Ethiopia on the other hand is allied to Marhan.
Security experts familiar with clan rivalries in Somalia say moving into Kismayu without a clear plan of power sharing would have precipitated another crisis. Dr Mohammed Ali, conflict and security expert on eastern Africa says the delay in attacking Kismayu is informed by the Ethiopian experience in Mogadishu in 2006.
“When Ethiopian tanks rolled into Mogadishu expecting a fight, they found that Islamic Courts Union (from which Al Shaabab sprung) had surrendered and left the town.
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