Somalia-Kenya: Conflict over port and buffer state
The Africa Report
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Beaming with confidence after a string of international conferences pledged to back his government, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has to grapple with a new set of security and diplomatic problems.
The most serious is the growing tension between his government and Kenya's.
Simmering for many months, disagreements between Mogadishu and Nairobi over the control of Kismayo broke into the open when rival clans started a war for the spoils of the port city in June.
For now, Kenya's proxy and leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, Ahmed Mohamed Islam 'Madobe,' has defeated his rivals militarily and politically.
A seasoned operator, Madobe emerged as 'elected' president of Jubaland after a specially convened conference at Kismayo in May.
Madobe and his backers in the Kenya defence forces want to see Jubaland as a semi-autonomous province of Somalia, along the same lines as Puntland.
That way, Madobe gets a fiefdom – collecting port dues can make a warlord very rich – and Kenya gets a buffer state.
One problem is that President Hassan and the Somalia National Army (SNA) are not in the equation.
Somalia has a federal constitution, and Hassan insists that all regions accept the authority of his government and the presence of SNA troops.
Madobe does neither and shows no signs of relenting.
Jubaland is also important economically.
This too inflames tensions between Kenya and Somalia.
A confidential report by United Nations (UN) monitors, which surfaced in mid-July, accuses Kenyan troops of collaborating with smugglers in Kismayo.
Kenya and its allies in the african Union have unsuccessfully petitioned the UN Security council to lift the ban on charcoal exports from Kismayo.
Despite this, illegal charcoal exports under Madobe's control have increased: an estimated $15m worth leaves Kismayo each month.