Friday, 21 October 2011

 NO: Do you get any DUMBER – Alex Perry?

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara said: ‘If you tremble with indignation at every injustice – you are a comrade of mine’. Today I quaver with vexation, at a downright injustice that can only be met with contempt the measure of which the demeanour of the injustice for sure deserves. An injustice that I am sure must disturb any right thinking person and incentivise them to counter. Am talking about the careless outburst of one Alex Perry, who now I know happens to be TIME’s Africa bureau chief in charge of covering Sub Sahara Africa.

At 6:12 am on Wednesday 19th October 2011,
Alex Perry posted an article on the prevailing onslaught of the Kenyan armed forces on the Somali terror group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen on his blog – ‘Global Spin’. At this point therefore, I advise that you proceed and read ‘Kenya Invades Somalia. Does it get any Dumber?’ so that you make sense of this post; so that you appreciate the gravity of this injustice that I could not let slide just like that.

If you don’t find time to read the post, here is a succinct synopsis. In a nutshell, Perry alluded in this post that the Kenya Government has invaded Somalia, foolishly started an unnecessary war a kin to the infamous conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, faulted the capacity of the Kenyan army and the possibility of success in the military campaign and accused the Kenyan government of staging a well-orchestrated PR exercise, a war to bolster the country’s reputation as a safe and secure place.

Dear Mr Perry, Be informed that the people of Kenya won’t tolerate your inept journalism and I join the many who have demanded an apology from you. First and foremost, even if I didn’t read this article, the title alone is insolent and provocative. Your article is poorly researched, full of unacceptable generalisations and biasedly argued to say the least.   

With all due respect, Mr Perry what makes a military operation sanctioned by the Somali Transitional Federal Government to effect a bold, resolute move to send a firm message to Al Shabab and its sympathizers that they cannot continue to wreak havoc, sustain mayhem and endanger the lives of millions of people living in the horn of Africa an invasion?  What options are there for a country that shares a 675km long boarder with Somalia susceptible to proliferation of illegal arms and terrorist elements, a government that has tolerated over half a million refugees, spent colossal state resources at a time of economic difficulties on humanitarian aid accommodating Somali refugess, accepted loads of Somalis naturalised as Kenyans living within the county’s capital and at the peril of its people at a time when the high and mighty that you mention have obviously abandoned the Somali people, absconded their duty to humanity and avoided the Somali problem like a plague. What options exist for a country that has frankly borne the greatest brunt of Al Shabab facilitated terrorist activities of the Al-Qaeda cell in Somalia? The 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, the Kikambala Mombasa bombing in 2002, the focus on Kenya as the conduit for the terrorist attacks in Kampala, 2010; the piracy in the Indian ocean and its effect on the Kenyan coast. What options exist for a government whose citizens demand security, and indeed that has substantially invested on the military (about 9% of national budget, 2% of GDP in 2009)?

A National Lifeline
I expect you to understand this better (as a bureau chief in charge of Sub Sahara Africa), but in any case you don’t, Kenya has no oil, no diamonds and the flowers, tea and coffee certainly are meagre. We depend largely on Tourism, which is the largest foreign exchange earner, a significant source of national revenue and much needed jobs. Tourism is the lifeline of this country’s economy and anything that hampers the influx of tourists is as good as threatening the livelihoods of the Kenyan people. No doubt the Kenyan tourism industry has taken beating after beating in the hands of Al Shabab murders, abductions and piracy in the Kenyan coast and the perception of insecurity created and exaggerated by travel advisories by the United States, United Kingdom and other European governments that have done nothing serious to address the crisis in Somalia. Moreover, for a growing third world economy like Kenya, foreign investment is obviously crucial for economic development. What capitalist will commit their money in a country perceived as insecure and risky? If this doesn’t not help you understand the gravity of the impact of the turmoil and chaos in Somalia on the Kenyan people and the justification for this military campaign then you certainly have no business sitting in that office.

Ineptitude of the Kenya Army
Mr. Perry, to insinuate that the Kenya army is inept to the level of being ‘chewed up’ by 2, 500 ill trained guerrilla militia is absurd and utter nonsense. It is laughable how you choose to glorify the Al shabab, how you prop it as some indispensable army of immortals who no one alive can take on. How you choose not to acknowledge the fact that the Kenyan army is one of the most robust, well equipped and most disciplined military agencies in the region. May be that sounds fallacious to you; OK then take a look at the UN, African Union peace keeping missions in Africa for instance and see what proportion of it cradle from this ‘inept Kenyan brigade’. You mention the ‘defeat of US, Ethiopian troops in Somalia’ to galvanise your lopsided argument and unjust condemnation of Kenya’s military campaign. Tell the truth; US troops could obviously not have been overwhelmed by Al shabab, they contained a few casualties and chose to withdraw (the causation definitely attributable to a lot more other political economic reasons I believe you should understand), the Ethiopian army retreated of course after saving the Somali government and with all due respect the AU AMISOM forces have seen Al shabab retreat from Mogadishu, lose significant influence in Somalia (resort to war propaganda, like they lined bodies in Burundian uniforms on 20/10/2011 claiming they killed AMISOM soldiers in a bid to amplify the flimsy clout they have remaining) and allowed the Somali Transitional Federal Government significant scope to organise some formal control of the war-torn country.  Clearly Mr. Perry any sane person recognises the crimes inflicted on innocent Somali men, women and children, condemned to starve to their death by Al shabab hell bent to create impossibilities to deliver humanitarian aid. How absurd it is to unfairly fault such a courageous attempt to address an endemic global disaster without offering any serious alternatives.

I thought a right thinking journalist aware of the eminent complexities in dealing African problems like this one could spare some space on his blog to highlight the possibilities of success, champion for supplementary support and condemn the atrocities committed by this group instead of peddling fear, mongering falsehoods and posing as an Al Shabab apologetic. I thought a journalist in his right minds would find space on his blog to highlight the contempt of the US government; spending millions of dollars destabilising a peaceful country, offering uncalled for military support to counter the Lords Resistance Army, a guerrilla group that is no longer a problem in Uganda yet saying NOTHING about supporting a campaign to pacify an evidently troubled region, at the epicentre of global humanitarian aid appeals. 

Yes indeed ‘history is littered with warnings’ against military campaigns like this one; yes indeed the onslaught might be costly especially to the myopic who elect not to weigh it against the proceeds of a safer, more peaceful and stable horn of Africa; yes indeed the Kenyan government/army could do with better intelligence and martial support. But this certainly doesn’t warrant a resignation and a cowardly folding of the tail to succumb to the battering by outlawed militia as though Kenya is some stateless society without definite boundaries recognised by international law and acknowledged by the UN like you prescribe. If anything, like one of my comrades already aptly put it – the Kenyan government is damned if it doesn’t act and damned as well for whatever armed action it pursues’.  

I hate to admit this but I almost succumbed to the line of criticism that some African scribes I know have adopted in response to such poorly researched and executed pieces. You make me want to agree with them that this is yet another case of the ‘typical article about Africa, written by a white journalist largely ignorant of the realities in Africa’. Kenya Invades Somalia. Does it get any Dumber? NO: do you get any dumber, ALEX PERRY. I too demand an apology.

1 comment:

  1. I have read a dozen articles about this war, there is one conspicuous and common denominator; very few expected KDF to be that efficient and lethal and most countries, including those who had made an attempt previously, would rather explode than give accolades to KDF. No wonder the quick push for integration in to AMISOM. Whatever they say and think, 'we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees' - Dedan Kimathi.