Source: The East African
The war in Somalia has led to closeR intelligence collaboration between Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda that is thought to have thwarted plans by the Al Shabaab militia to launch terror attacks in the region over Christmas and New Year holidays.
The first public indication of this increasingly tight-knit intelligence networking from countries with troops in Somalia came during the November 2011 extraordinary session of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), held to discuss the Somalia crisis. It has emerged that there was a technical meeting on the sidelines to try hammer out a framework for joint operations.
Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Internal Security, Joshua Orwa Ojode, noted that there was a close collaboration among all the neighbouring states in monitoring Al Shabaab activities.
“Even though each state has its separate intelligence gathering network, we call each other often and exchange information on the activities of Al Shabaab. However, there is no joint regional intelligence entity to deal with the group,” he said.
With Kenya’s entry into the war, followed by Ethiopia’s return a month later, sources tell The EastAfrican that Nairobi has become a “beehive of intelligence co-ordination” for the war effort in Somalia.
Kenya and Uganda, for instance, had warned citizens of major reprisal attacks over Christmas and New Year celebrations, but the holidays passed without incident, barring a grenade attack at a Garissa nightclub on December 31.
Analysts said the fact that the attacks did not happen deeper into Kenya indicated that it a faction of Al Shabaab without a regional network was involved — possibly non-Somali fighters from Afghanistan and the Middle East who have joined the militia in recent years.
An Amisom source agreed. “If they were Somali, they would not be concentrating their attacks in parts of Kenya populated almost exclusively by Kenyan Somalis,” he said.
The inability of the Shabaab to attack over the holiday season, apart from the fact that they are probably quite weakened, could also be because the ethnic Somali populations in the other East African countries “have not bought into the terrorist project,” he argued.
But for the security agencies in the region, it is not yet time to celebrate.
Last week, the Kenyan police warned that Al Qaeda operatives had joined Al Shabaab to plot attacks on key installations in the country and beyond.
Nevertheless, the co-operation among countries in the region recently enabled Kenya to publish the names of 15 suspects with Al Shabaab connections who are believed to have entered the country from Kismayu. The group comprises nine Kenyans, two “Asians” and four Somalis aged between 24 and 32.
On January 4, defence ministers and senior military officers of six East African countries met in Addis Ababa to work out a strategy to deal with Al Shabaab.
They endorsed a plan to increase the authorised strength of the Amisom force from 12,000 to 17,700 troops.
This came amid ongoing discussions in Addis Ababa between the African Union Mission in Somalia, (Amisom), the Kenyans and Ethiopians on the conduct of joint operations in 2012.
The discussions centred on how to assign each country joining Amisom specific regions of engagement to avoid confrontation between the military operations and misunderstanding between the various forces.
By Fred Oluoch