Kenyan airstrikes killed women and children in Gedo, Somalia

The harrowing sounds of fighter jets echoing over the sky continues to instil fear amongst the innocent residents of Gedo. The reminiscence of falling bombs, explosion and destruction which has claimed so many innocent lives in the region continues to reek havoc and frighten many.

While the recent Kenyan airstrikes which rocked Gedo came as a surprise for many as a result of the aerial restrictions between the countries, imposed by Kenya.

However, for the people of Gedo, the unaccounted international and humanitarian crimes committed by the KDF have been a daily occurrences for a decade.

For people of the region, the suffering is enough. The mismanaged and indiscriminate KDF airstrikes that have cost so many livelihoods in Gedo must end.

This new round of victims and deaths has only shed light on the continued violations of international law by the Kenyan Defence Forces in Southern Somalia.

Unaccounted crimes that date back to 2011.

El-Adde and El-Wak airstrikes kill children

The Kenyan regime decided to bomb regions within Gedo on June 3rd, 2021 without any consultation of the Federal Government of Somalia- an obligation under international law.

The Kenyan Defence Forces conducted a total of 35 airstrikes within Gedo, according to the Gedo Regional Government (GRG) spokesman, Ali Juba. He further confirmed the deaths of two different women and their respective children within El-Adde, with six other children injured, all under the age of 12. Similarly, a woman and her son were also killed in the border town of El-Wak.

The GRG spokesperson also confirmed the destruction of 1,500 animal livestock as well as the burning of 38 homes within the region. There was also an attack on telecommunication systems in the region including another attack on Hormuud and Somtel cellular base towers.

“We cannot accept for our people to be bombed indiscriminately and killed. We will fight”, stated Spokesman Jubba. “Kenya has been continuously bombing us for a long time. We have effectively become the Gaza of East Africa!”, he passionately elucidated.

In a released press statement, the GRG accused Kenya of “deliberate provocations of war” and “deliberate killing of civilians”. The regional authority has called on international and national organisations to “conduct an investigation of KDF actions” in Somalia.

Additionally, the Gedo authority has threatened to “retaliate and frustrate peace inside Kenya”, if the FGS and international partners do not take action immediately.

Federal Government Response

With already a series of rifts existing between the two nations, this incident continues to add fuel to a fire instigated by what Mogadishu refers to as continuous Kenyan meddling in Somali affairs. The KDF bombing of Gedo without the consultation of the Somali government demonstrates just that.

The FGS has strongly condemned the bombing of the Gedo region in what it described as as continued “killing and maiming of civilians” which it conveyed as the “unpleasant hallmark of KDF Airforce’s standard operating procedure”.

Somalia further accused the Kenyan administration of conducting in manner which is “bereft” of its obligations under the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) OP17, which underlines the importance of full compliance with international law including the protection civilians, specifically of children and women.

It is to be noted, that the FGS initially severed ties with the Kenyan regime due to its continued blatant disregard of Somali sovereignty and civilian life in Somalia amounting to continued violation of international law under the pretext of “Status of Mission Agreement” to engage in illegal unilateral operations.

As a result of the factors aforementioned, the Somali government has decided to send a direct complaint to the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and will also begin the establishment of a Standing Claims Commission with the AU as outlined in Article XXV, paragraph 59 of the Status of Mission Agreement to hold perpetrators of this crime to account.

Additionally, Information Minister Osman Dubbe has outlined that from this point onwards, any planned KDF strike in Somalia must be in consultation and conjunction with the FGS and only the FGS permission.

Injured Children Flown to Mogadishu for Treatment

The wounded children victims of Kenyan airstrikes in El-Adde town of Gedo were airlifted to Mogadishu for further treatment on June 6th by the FGS. Amongst the victims are six seriously injured children, all of them under the age of twelve. All children were admitted at the Erdogan Hospital.

The Federal government has pledged to pay for all services and treatment of the wounded children, including their families, that suffered injuries as a result of the Kenyan airstrikes.

Jubaland remains sceptical

Jubaland’s Security Minister spoke to BBC Somali a few days ago in which he addressed the situation in Gedo. The Minister highlighted that the regional government currently has “no information on who conducted the airstrikes” but can only confirm that the airstrikes took place in “Al-Shabaab territory” which was denied by the Gedo authority. This comes despite the Regional Gedo government and the Federal government of Somalia both pointing at Kenya as the culprit.

The Minister also suggested that it is the responsibility of the FGS to condemn the bombings if it amounts to a crime and not the regional government of Jubaland despite the bombing taking place within Jubaland.

When asked what action the regional administration would take if Kenya is proven to be responsible, the spokesperson elucidated that they “cannot take actions against Kenya” and denied “any direct relations” with Nairobi.

Nevertheless, he has confirmed that Jubaland has “spoken to heads of AMISOM in the Jubba region” to discuss how to conduct more accurate airstrikes with concrete sources.

AMISOM promises an open investigation

Indeed, AMISOM is obliged to investigate the incident and complaint lodged by the FGS immediately under all applicable legal instruments upheld by international law. The organisation has said that it is “committed” to fulfilling these obligations.

Consequently, AMISOM has clarified that it is currently engaging “in gathering information on the reported incident” while working closely with the FGS and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find answers and to hold accountability.

However, AMISOM has not provided a time frame for the investigation or how it will conduct the investigation in a manner which all parties involved will accept.

What to think?

With a recent agreement reached between the FGS and FMSs in Mogadishu two weeks ago, the current attempted disruption in Gedo seems to be only a ploy to derail the agreement reached between Federal states and Federal government, more specifically between Jubaland and the Federal government. Unsurprisingly, the Jubaland leader Madobe is currently reported to be in Nairobi.

Spectators of Somali politics have witnessed the Kenyan regime exhaust each and every effort to strongarm the Somali Federal government into submission. Since the ICJ case began, Kenya has stepped up all methods to pressure the Somali government to withdraw and seek a settlement outside of the court to no avail. The Farmaajo administration has been adamant that this dispute will only be settled through international law.

The Kenyan regime has used a myriad of means to derail and destabilise the fragile Somali state in an attempt to weaken its case at the ICJ. From covert missions such as funding, arming and training Madobe’s Jubaland militia which attacked the FGS in January 2021 to overt violations of Somali sovereignty with the criminal acts in Gedo which has cost hundreds of Somali lives over the past decade.

It is more evident today that Kenya consistently engages in actions that violate international law. In actuality, it is these very continued violations by the KDF which remain a major issue and is the very reason of an existing rift between Mogadishu and Nairobi resulting in the severing diplomatic relations.

Kenya is yet to even acknowledge its own actions of killing Somali civilians in Gedo despite condemnation by the Federal government of Somalia and an investigation by AMISOM.

The sad reality is that if this was an American or Ugandan life, there would be immediate investigations and procedures to seek redemption and prosecution for the criminals and its victims.

Conversely, a Somali life is considered inferior. We are yet to hear any sort of condemnation by the UN mission in Somalia which oversees the role of AMISOM. We are yet to hear from the UNSC which has provides the very legal mandate that Kenyan and AMISOM mission in Somalia. We are yet to hear from international human rights groups including Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch whom are quick to respond.

The very opposition leaders in Somalia that have consistently condemned and opposed Somali troops on the Kenyan border in Gedo are yet to even acknowledge that there was any kind of bombing in Gedo. When Presidential candidate Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud was asked about the events in Gedo on Twitter Spaces, he referred to it as “bad politics” by the Farmaajo administration rather than condemning the KDF for its heinous actions.

The infamous press conferences and press statements are no where to be found. Similarly, Jubaland’s vocal opposition to Somali forces in Gedo has been replaced with deaf ears and blind eyes.

We hear nothing but silence from the very previously vocal opposition. However, that silence speaks nothing but volumes.

Conclusion

What is clear is that Kenya is currently engaged in a covert war with the Somali government. From military and financial to a diplomatic front through a range of channels and avenues including the UK and UAE.

The reality is that Kenya has essentially suffered diplomatic failure in achieving any of its goals:

  • It reversed the planned three month ban on Somali flights within a month without achieving the lifting of the ban on Kenyan Miraa by the FGS.
  • It has failed to cause a war in Jubaland with Janan surrendering and Madobe signing an agreement with the FGS on Gedo.
  • It has failed to derail the ICJ case, eventually withdrawing only to return and be rejected by the Court judges.
  • It has failed in its diplomatic efforts to pressure Somalia to withdraw from the ICJ case

Ultimately, the continued violations in Gedo cannot and will not continue any longer. The Standing Claims Commission with the AU will enable some sort of reparations for victims and the government if Kenya is found guilty.

Additionally, the Somali Federal forces now control all but one region of Gedo which is in the hands of Jubaland Dervish forces. With the Somali Transitional Plan in full motion, the days of AMISOM and foreign troops in Somalia is numbered with a bright future ahead for a sovereign and independent Somalia. A sight we’ve relished to see for three decades.

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