There has been little independent reporting on the invasion, with coverage mostly from journalists taken on “guided” tours by the Kenya Defence Forces or with public relations videos paid for by the KDF, and now, most recently, a book.1 Moreover, censorship has played a role: editors described to JFJ being summoned to meetings with top military brass and told that critical stories would be considered as undermining national security.
And the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, mandated to report on violations of international law and sanctions on Somalia – including the financing of al-Shabaab and the targeting of civilians – has so far avoided looking too closely at the activities of the Kenyan military inside Somalia.
With the death toll from al-Shabaab attacks inside Kenya rising to over 400, Journalists for Justice felt that the task of examining whether Operation Linda Nchi is actually delivering was overdue. This study looks at the conduct of KDF forces in two areas: 1) sugar smuggling and financial enabling of al-Shabaab and, 2) human rights violations.
This report presents the findings of several months of research in Somalia in Kismayo and Dhobley and inside Kenya in Liboi, Dadaab, Garissa and Nairobi. A desktop review, encompassing UN monitoring reports, academic studies, African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) communication and media reports was followed by one-on-one interviews with over 50 people with intimate knowledge of KDF activities, including serving senior KDF officers, UN officials, western intelligence officials, members of parliament, victims of KDF human rights violations inside Somalia, journalists, doctors, porters at the charcoal stockpiles, drivers on the sugar routes and middlemen in the Dadaab camp.
Following the Garissa University College massacre in April 2015, the Kenya Government once again talked tough about tackling al-Shabaab. It launched air strikes inside Somalia, threatened to close the Dadaab refugee camp and froze the assets of 86 people and organisations allegedly connected to al-Shabaab, among them traders involved in sugar smuggling.
The findings of this research however contradict this impression of seriousness on the part of the Kenya Government. Human rights abuses inside Somalia appear widespread and are carried out with impunity. Air strikes are targeting livestock and wells rather than militant training camps. And the Kenya Defence Forces, rather than taking the fight to al-Shabaab, are actually in garrison mode, sitting in bases while senior commanders are engaged in corrupt business practices with the Jubaland administration and al-Shabaab.
The illicit trade in sugar and charcoal is, according to one diplomat, “shocking” and, “inimical to national security”.
Read the report in PDF here