The Somali Dispute: Kenya Beware CSC 1984 SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues The Somali Dispute: Kenya Beware Submitted to Rudoph V. Wiggins, PhD In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for Written Communications The Marine Corps Command and Staff College Quantico, Virginia Major Tom L. Wanambisi Kenya April 6, 1984 The Somali Dispute: Kenya Beware On June 26, 1960, hardly four days after the British Government granted the former British Somaliland her independence to become the Somalia Republic, the new government declared her desires to unite all the Somali speaking people in the Horn of Africa. As the Somalis see it, writes Mr. John Drysdale: "Their frontier dispute is not essentially about land alone but the people."1 The nomadic Somali speaking people who by colonial boundary "arrange- ments" found themselves dismembered. About two-thirds of them live under the national flag of the Somalia Republic and the remainder are divided between Djibouti (former French Somaliland), Ethiopia and Kenya. This historical error prompted the first Somalis President, Dr. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarky to say this: "No! Our misfortune is that our neighboring countries, with whom we seek to promote constructive and harmonious relations are not our neighbors but our Somali kinsmen whose citizen- ship has been falsified by indiscriminate boundary "arrangements". They have to move across artificial frontiers to their pasture lands. They occupy the same terrain and pursue the same pastoral economy as overselves. We speak the same language. We sare the same God, the same culture and the same traditions. How can we regard our brothers as foreigners?"2 On the other hand, both the Ethopian and the Kenyan Governments consider their Somali population as just one of the minority communities living within our borders and are, therefore, bonafide citizens. The governments regard any external pressure as infringement in internal matters of a sovereign state. They further consider any desire by the Somali people to break away and possibly unite with Somalia as seditious. The support, material or moral given to the Somalis to enable them to fight by the Somalia Government is viewed as infringement of territorial integrity. And, in the words of President Kenyatta: "Kenya will never surrender any inch of her territory to anyone.3 The Portion Under Dispute One, Robert Paul Jordan, an American journalist once wrote: "The Horn of Africa is a most inhospitable place. A harsh land this is. Not a desert, but close. High arid country mostly--a Savannah of acacias, patches of grass, thorny shrubs, tall ant-hills and rocks. When the scanty rains fall, it runs cruel. Then, sheep and goats slowly die. The barrens are strewn with their carcasses."4 This portion of land is, no doubt, desolate but strategically located. The area consists of a large triangular land mass which juts eastwards into the Indian Ocean to the south of the Arabian peninsula. One side of the triangle extends westward from the "Horn" along the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti. The second leg runs in a southerly direction from Djibouti over the Eastern Highlands of the Great Rift Valley (Ogaden Province of Ethiopia) to the mouth of the River Tana on the Kenyan East Coast. See Map. By way of comparison, this vast land is about three times the size of New Mexico. It is virtually isolated from the rest of Africa by the high mountains in the west of the Great Rift Vally. These inland mountains are similar to California's Sierra Nevada range in that they obstruct the prevailing westerly winds. Precipitation occurs as the moisture-ladden air mass rises over the mountains but very little rain falls on the eastern slopes including the Ogaden plains. Consequently, most of the region is nearly as dry as the Great Amerian Desert. The only two rivers, the Shebele and Juba,flow from the high mountains southeastward into the Indian Ocean near the Port of Kismayu. They are perennial rivers. Although part of the River Juba is navigable, Shebele is not. It terminates in marshland near the town of Jowhari before reaching the ocean. The portion between the two rivers is the best farmland in the area producing sugar cane, vegetables, bananas, sorgum and millet. However, sometimes the rains do not come, such was the case--a prolonged drought in 1980 in which both the rivers ran dry for the first time in memory.5 Drought is even more prevalent to the north along the coast. It averages only two inches of rain a year. Although similar dry weather prevails throughout the area resulting in a parched landscape, the few ancient wells and occasional rains do provide some relief. This brings life to the hardy patches of grass which support the herds of sheep, goats, and camels. Before I take the reader to a historical background, let me focus a little on the specific contested portions. As I mentioned earlier, the Somalia Government considers the Ogaden Province of Ethiopia and the North- eastern Province of Kenya as forming part of the "Greater Somalia" domain.6 The idea of "Greater Somalia" was conceived in the mind of Mr. Bevin, then Britain's Foreign Secretary after World War II, who in 1946 proposed to the House of Commons in London to consider lumping together the British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland and adjacent parts of Ethiopia into a trust territory.7 So that, in Mr. Bevin's won words: "The nomads should live their frugal existence with the least possible hinderance. They could have a chance to live a decent economic life."8 Ten days after Mr. Bevin introduced this proposal in the House of Commons, the British administrators in Somaliland organized meetings to inform the people the "good news" about their future.9 As it will be learned later, this pre-emptive move would embarrass the British Government and create a living but volatile problem in the Horn of Africa. An Ancient Heritage The Somalis are a Hamitic people whose ancestors are believed to have immigrated from the Arabian peninsula long age. They came to settle on the biblical land of "Punt", the ancient "Aromatic Kingdom" renowned for its frankincense and myrrh.10 Their traditional geneologies trace the ancestry to Arab forebears who belonged to the Quraysh tribe of the Prophet Mohamed, and ultimately they claim belong to a common ancestor.11 The Somali Prime Minister, Dr. Abdirashid Sharmarky once said: "Our misfortunes do not stem from the unproductiveness of the soil, nor from a lack of mineral wealth. These limitations on our material well-being were accepted and compensated for by our forefathers from whom we inherited, among other things, a spiritual and cultural prosperity of inestimable value. The teaching of Islam on the one hand and lyric poetry on the other..."12 At least 65% of the population live a nomadic life style. Moving from place to place within their homeland in search of water and grazing areas for their livestock is their way of life. Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, Head of the Geography Department of Ehtiopia's Haile Selassie I University, described the Somalis as exhibiting: "External individualism and utter lack of discipline. The acute struggle for existence in this harsh environment often expresses itself in group conflicts over wells or grazing land."13 Although largely illiterate and poor, Somalis regard themselves as superior to adjacent groups. This arrogance stems from the ethnic homogeneity shared by all Muslims in the Horn.14 Although dispersed in the four different countries (the Somalia Democratic Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibout) the Somalis common language, religion, and cultural heritage provide a strong sense of unity which is truly rare and, therefore, gives them an advantage. The Colonial Legacy Prior to the European colonization of the Horn in the second half of the nineteenth century, the region had been ruled by indigenous tribal chiefs. The Sheiks and Sultans whose relatively small, semi-autonomons dominions paid grudging difference to Ethiopian hegemony. For over three centuries, despite periods of neglect and frequent uprisings, Ehthiopia had maintained its independence and authority over most parts of the Horn.15 The Ethiopian influence, however, varied over years as the Somalis resented their domination. This resentment was consequently exploited by several European nations to gain their initial control in the Horn. The initial British interest in the Horn was on the Somalia Coast for strategic and logistical reasons. After the British had annexed Aden in 1840, treaties were signed with local chiefs to guarantee the continuous supply of cattle from inland to feed the garrisons. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 increased the strategic importance of the area and; consequently, the British entered other long term agreements which gave them possession of the port of Berbera and several other offshore inlands. Britain immediately assigned consuls at Berbera, Seylec and Bulhar to protect her interests.16 She gaines automatic control of the area and especially the sea links between India and the Suez. These accomplishments were achieved by exploiting local grievances such as one described in 1892 confidential British diplomatic dispatch to London which read: "Sheikh Sufi states - The Abysinians read, "Ethiopians" are always on one side of us, the English on the other. We (Ogaden tribes) are with the English, and we wish for English rule. We are your children. I say that, as a sheep quivers under the blow of a knife, we, the Ogaden, are quivering under the oppressions of the Abysinians, who have every year, for the last nine years, visited us and levied large numbers of sheep, goats, horse, camels and taken what they liked from us. We have no guns and are not powerful enough to fight and must submit. Last season the Abysinians (drove) off all livestock; 990 men, women and children perished. We are Mullahs and we like to tell the truth."17 The British made use of similar circumstances to gain influence in the area, including the colonization of the region to the south into the present day Kenya and Uganda. This expansion had been sanctioned by the Berlin Conference of 1884/85.18 By the same token, the French and Italians had also established colonies. The French acquired a colonial foothold in the northwest along the coast of Aden in 1885 (present day Djibout) which they initially called French Somaliland. This colony was strategically placed. Its port City of Djibout was the terminus of Ethiopia's only rail link to the sea. Thus, the French could easily cut off this access if the need arose and Ethiopia would be paralyzed. The Italians would have appreciated that kind of leverage in their own dealings with Ethiopians. Italian efforts to subdue Ethiopians were frustrated when Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II dealt a humiliating blow at the Italian Army at Odawa in 1896.19 However, the Italians contented with establishing colonies in Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. It took many years before the European colonial powers finally gave up their influence on the Horn. The French agreed to grant Djibout independence in 1977 (although they still garrison troops there). The former British and Italian Somaliland joined to form the present day Somalia Republic in July 1960. As it stood, the government was not happy. It had inherited colonial boundaries which were not compatible with the ethnic Somali peoples' ideals for "Greater Somalia". That is probably the most important legacy of the colonial era. An era that has created the present day tension and conflict in the Horn. This situation regretably may continue as long as the Somali people seek to unite at the expense of their neighbors. Arms Build Up At her independence, Somalia had a weak Army of 5,000 men. This force was inferior to meet her political objectives. She approached the Soviet Government in 1963 for assistance. The Soviet Government responded by lending her equivalent to the United States dollars 32 million. By 1969 Somalia had trained about 800 officers in the Soviet military schools. She had recruited, trained and equipped 23,000 regular men.20 By 1976 she had acquired the following equipment in her military inventory. Click here to view image With a total force of 23,000 men in the Army, 1,000 in the Air Force (Aeronautical) about 550 in the Navy, 8,000 in the Police and 10,000 Victory Pioneers of popularly known as Peoples' Militia, Somalia declared a silent war against Ethiopia in June 1977.22 Why? To annex "Ogaden" as part of her expansion program. The Ogaden War As the new military government in Ethiopia (after the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie) was sorting out the mess at home, including suppression of Eritreans who wanted to breakaway to the north, the Western Somalia Liberation Front (WSLF) also stepped up its attacks to the south against the overstretched Ethiopian Army outpost in the Ogaden Province. In July 1977 these guerrilla forces were joined by the Soviet equipped and trained Regular Somalia Army. This surprise attack was highly successful in the initial stages. The highly taxed Ethiopian Army had been pushed back to Dire Dawa within three months. It was at this point in time that the desperate Ethiopians requested help from the Soviet Union to counter both the Samalis and Eritrean rebal forces. The Soviets responded quickly by airlifting in a huge amount of supplies and Cuban troops. In March 1978 with the assistance of East Germany, Soviet advisors and Cuban troop, the besieged Ethiopians regained the offensive and drove the Somalia forces all the way back to their border. Somalia losses were significant. It is estimated that Somalia lost about 8,000 troops--at least one-third of the prewar army strength, 75% of its tank force and nearly half of its combat aircrafts.23 Although the Somalia National Army was defeated decisively in the Ogaden War, recent events have indicated a stepped up guerrilla activity by the Western Somalia Liberation Front with the backing of the military government. Thus, the fighting still goes on. What would have happened if Somalia decided to attack Kenya first? The Shifta War in Kenya The British Government on realizing that the would-be Kenya Government would not accept the terms set by some British officials in the 1960's, decided to take a different approach. Series of meetings were organized including one in August 1963 in Rome to resolve the issue. The British Government stand was spelled out by Mr. Peter Thomas as follows: "Since the British Government would be responsible for Kenya only a few more months (before her independence in December 1963), the British Government considers that it would be wrong to take a unilateral decision about the frontiers of Kenya without reference to the wishes of the government of that country; and that agreement should be sought by the African governments concerned working and negotiating within an African framework."24 The Somalia delegation led by then, Prime Minister Dr. Abdirashid Sharmarky were disappointed to learn at their first meeting that the British Government had no intention of making any constructive proposals. He charged: "The British had only convened the meeting to explore the position of the Somalia Republic, which was in any case well known to them."25 In conclusion, the Somalia Government states: "It was evident that the British Government has not only deliberately misled the Somalia Government during the course of the last eighteen months, but has also deceitfully encouraged the people of North Eastern Province to believe that their right to self-determination could be granted by the British Government through peaceful and legal means. The responsibility for the consequences that may follow this suppression of a fundamental human right lies squarely on the British Government."26 Shortly after this, the Somalia Government recalled her Ambassador from Britain and severed diplomatic relations. The Somali people residing in the North Eastern Province boycotted the elections, took arms, and demanded self-automony. For us Kenyans, the Somalis demand that we give up approximately 45,000 square miles of our territory (approximately a fifth of the land mass), not only is it unacceptable but also violates our Constitution and the OAU Charter. The Kenyan view was and continues to be similar to that expressed by the majority of the Organization of African Unit member countries: "Thus, in almost every country in Africa, there are minority groups having racial, religious or tribal affinities with neighboring countries."27 The conference that met in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in 1963 to resolve the boundary issue resloved: "Countries with widely diverse populations would be quickly dismembered if each ethnic group was allowed to go its own way under the banner of self-determination. The resulting partitioning would create a chaotic potpourri of tiny, nonviable"Nations" toally incapable of providing even the barest of government services."28 At the conclusion of the conference, the Somali President Osman had the following to say: "By becoming united, the Somali people feel that not only would their welfare be secured, but that as a single entity they would be able to contribute effectively to the ideals of African unity. The people of the Republic cannot be expected to remain indifferent to the appeal of its brethren. If the Somalis in those areas are given the opportunity to express their will freely, the government pledges itself to accept the verdict."29 The Somalia Government was, to speak the least, "very dissastisfied" with the result of the meeting. The North Eastern Region therefore became the site for small but intensive skirmishes between the Somalia supported guerrillas and the (independent)Kenyan Army. For four years the war continued with neither side being able to gain political advantage. Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting were unsuccessful as the Somalia Government ignored the organization of African Unit (OAU) call to withdraw her support from the guerrillas. This prompted the Kenyatta Government to sign a "Mutual Defense Treaty" (MDT) with the Emperor Haile Selassie's Government in 1964. The treaty still had little impact on the war as the Kenyan Army could not effectiviely control the materiel supply routes from Somalia to the guerrillas. Finally in 1967, the Kenyan Government decided to control the movement of local inhabitants by constructing fourteen "Manyattas"--villages which were guarded by troops. Fortunately, this action had tremendous effect on the guerrilla activities and in October 1967 the Kenyan Government signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with the Somalia Government ending the Shifta War. The ceasefire to me was not totally due to the "Manyatta" scheme but rather to the high costs of the protracted conflict. The new Somalia Government decided to terminate what had become a futile and expensive national burden which they could not afford anymore. Although the fighting had stopped, Somalia did not renounce its territorial claims. Instead a low intensity campagin still continues and the future may well see a resumption of a major conflit. Kenya beware. Even after Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden War, she still retains one of the largest armed forces in the Horn; comprising of about 50,000 men in the National Army, 1,000 in the Air Force (Aeronautical Corps) and 550 in the Navy. She restructured her major commands in 1981 into three regionally defined corps: seven infantry divisions each composed of three armored/mechanized brigades, sixteen infantry brigades, three comando brigades and twenty-three artillery battalions. As Air Force (Aeronautical Corps) of four tactical strike squadrons and one transport squadron. A Navy of twenty vessels including ten fast attack crafts (FAC).30 Although most of the Soviet supplied and serviced equipment is claimed to be in poor serviceable state, Somalia still husbands a formidable force in the Horn capable of being reactivated upon receipt of resources. External Influence Supposing Somalia decided to go offensive once more, who are likely to support her or who are likely to be her allies? Somalia still has a number of wealthy friendly nations who would come to her aid. Egypt has had long historical ties with Somalia dating back into the 18th century. During the Ogaden War and precisely the North Eastern Region skirmishes, Egypt supplied certain combat items to sustain the war. Even after Somalia cut diplomatic relations with Russia, Egypt undertook to supply some spare parts from her own Soviet stockpiles. Somalia joined the Arab League nations in 1974. Being a predominantly Moslem state, she attracts sympthy from wealthy Arab countries. Saudi Arabia has become increasingly interested in the Somalia's affair not only for political reasons but also strategic and economic. Kuwait has invested heavily in power stations in Mogadishu and Iraq has been supplying her with crude oil.31 Somalia also maintains cordial relationship with the Sudan. Although Somalia broke relations with Russia, she still maintains good relations with Rumania for ecomomic aid.32 China has maintained cordial relations with Somalia since 1961. She receives both economic aid and military. For instance in 1978, after severing diplomatic relations with Moscow and suffering defeat in the Ogaden War, Siad Barre desperately visited China to seek emergency military and economic help. China responded with a token shipment of light arms, spare parts and materiel equivalent to American dollars 18 million.33 Accordingly, she supplied her with thirty Chinese F-6 fighter bombers in 1981.34 North Korea has also remainded on good terms with Somalia providing a cement plant, iron foundry, vegetable oil factory and a technical college.35 Although Italy discontinued assisting Somalia, she resumed economic and military aid in 1977. Perhaps, one single but major supplier of the needed economic and military aid now is the United States. With the increased tension in the Persian Gulf area and the Soviet presence in both Alghanistan and Ethiopia, the United States was compelled to reinforce its presence in the Indian Ocean to safeguard her strategic national interests. To do so, she sought access to military facilities at Berbera and adjacent airfields. Agreement was reached in 1980 covering the use of the facilities, refurbishing of the port and in exchange the United States agreed to provide economic aid and military credits over two years for the purchase of twelve M-167 (towed) Vulcan 20mm AD gunds, three TPS-43 long range AD radars and associated communication equipment. These were supplied in 1981.36 For Kenyans, who is likely to come to our aid when we face aggression? Potential for Conflict Although the large scale fighting in the Horn has gone down, guerrilla (can not read word)continue unabated. The underlying cause of conflict remain unsolved and are most likely to provoke further fighting in the future. Recently, the two Heads of State pleaded for mutual cooperation and understanding to enhance development for the good of all the people in the area. But, nothing was said about Somalia's expansion ambitions. Somalia has not renounced her territorial aggression. Who knows the exact answer? It is my opinion that the Somalia officials are buying time. Time to rebuilt their shattered economy, restructure, retrain, rearm their huge armed forces and obtain economic support from whatever source, and as soon as they are ready, they may declare war, this time probably against Kenya. Conclusion In conclusion, I would like to make two fitting quotations from the recent speech of President Ronald Reagan in November 1983 when he visited the Republic of South Korea and addressed members of the United States Army Second Division: "For the United States, the military strength will never be an end in itself; nor will military strength alone give us the means to achieve our ends. The freedom and prosperity we seek for ourselves...cannot be created or imposed by force. If we lack sufficient force to deter or counter the hostile use of force, then we would have no chance of preserving the peace. And without peace we cannot have freedom or prosperity. It is the paradox of peace that to preserve it, we must be prepared to use force and use it successfully. Only if we can convince any potential adversary that the cost of aggression would be far higher than any possible benefit can we be certain that aggression will be deterred and the peace be preserved."37 The Kenya Defense Force Mission is defensive and the government articulates it thus. Accordingly, may I quote President Reagan's address: "Our policy is defensive. United States uses its military force only in response to clear threats to stability and peace. We pursue this policy knowing fully that our defensive posture grants several military advantages to a potential aggressor. He can choose when, where and how to attack. He can formulate a detailed plan for his operations to take maximum advantage of his strengths and exploit our vulnerabilities. He can also mask his pre-attack mobiliza- tion efforts under the guise of training exercise or diplomatic crises so that any advance warning we might get could be cloaked to ambiguity."38 I conclude that the Somalia border dispute requires a deliberate solution and urgently. It cannot in my view be achieved by mere expressions of brotherhood. Rather, it could be achieved by a more genuine and honest approach by both governments without external influence. Kenya beware. Bibliography Regerences Cited/Footnotes Books/Periodicals 1. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. 2. Drysdale, John., The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, Introduction, p. 8. 3. Presidential Address to the Nation on "Kenyatta Day, 20th October, 1965". The Standard Paper. 4. Jordan, Robert Paul. "Somalia's Hour of Need", National Geographic, June 1981, p. 748. 5. Szaz, Z. Michael. "Somalia's Difficulties", The New York Times, September 28, 1981, p. 14 6. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. 7. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. Capter 6, p. 67. 8. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. Capter 6, p. 67. 9. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. Capter 6, p. 68. 10. Lewis, Ian M. The Modern History of Somaliland. New York: Praeger, 1965, Chapter 1. 11. Lewis, Ian M. The Modern History of Somaliland. New York: Praeger, 1965, Chapter 1. 12. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, p. 8. 13. Mariam, Mesfim Wolde. The Background of the Ethio-Somalia Boundary Dispute. Addis Ababa: Berhanena Selam, 1964. 14. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. 15. Norden, Hermann. Africa's Lost Empire. Philadelphia, Macrae-Smith, 1930. 16. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, Chapter 2. 17. Bhasdwaj, Raman G. The Dilema of the Horn of Africa. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1979. 18. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. 19. Tibbs, Thurlow. Strategic Appraisal of Sub-Saharan Africa. Air Command and Staff College, Air University, 1981. 20. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, Chapter 5. 21. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, Tables 20, 21 and 22 (Major Army Weapons, Air Force Weapons and Naval Weapons, 1981). 22. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, Chapter 5. 23. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, Chapter 5. 24. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, Chapter 15. 25. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, p. 155. 26. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, Chapter 15, p. 158. 27. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, Chapter 14, p. 146. 28. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, Chapter 14, p. 147. 29. Drysdale, John. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964, p. 148. 30. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, P. XVIII. 31. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University,p. 219. 32. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, p. 220. 33. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, p. 222. 34. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, p. XVIII. 35. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, p. 223. 36. Harold D. Nelson. Somalia: A Country Study: Foreign Area Studies, The American University, p. 262. 37. Casper W. Weinberger, Secretary of Defense SecDef Annual Report; to U.S. Congress of March, 1984. 38. Casper W. Weinberger, Secretary of Defense SecDef Annual Report; to U.S. Congress of March, 1984.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|