Operation Linda Nchi – Kenya’s invasion of Somalia

Best wishes to all for a Happy and Prosperous 2012.
Kenya Department of Defence press brief Saturday, Dec, 31st, 2011.
Meeting began nearly an hour late @ 11 am.
Colonel Cyrus Oguna (a dead ringer for Eddie Murphy) from Kenya’s Dept of Defence delivered in dead pan fashion a speech that included description and # of successes (many) and # of KDF casualties (few) on the frontlines of “Operation LindaNchi” in Kenya’s war against Somalia.
When I first heard the name of the military operation – Linda’Nchi – I wondered…who is Linda? And Nchi sounds suspiciously Chinese. Hmmm. A Kenyan politician’s Chinese mistress. Figures.
I am proud of my handle on Swahili, but this Linda business stumped me.
I know “wananchi” means Kenyan citizens. “Wa” is the Swa prefix for People. “Na” roughly means “of”. So, Wana is people of the….
A Maasai Askari who protects me where I live in Kenya informed me that “Linda” is Swahili for “to protect”.
In the west Linda is associated with a woman’s name, but, of course, it’s a Spanish word meaning “beautiful”.
I didn’t know that “Nchi” meant country. LindaNchi then means to protect the country.
Since we are not referring to the other Swahili-speaking country, Tanzania, the phrase then means Operation Protect Kenya, the territory, that is, and, in this case, from Somalia.
Linda Nchi is an apt Swahili name that might easily define “sovereignty” and reminds me of the mantra that the US state Department invariably uses when, let’s say, Israel repeatedly attacks Palestine, “that every state has a right to decide for itself how best to defend itself”.
As with Palestine, the international community has yet to recognise Somalia as a sovereign state. A convenient truth?
Not recognising a country as a sovereign state is a handy way of rendering it illegal for any non-sovereign state to attack a sovereign state. In essence, Somalia has no right to defend itself.
The event that supposedly precipitated Kenya’s invasion into Somalia was the perception that Somalia had invaded Kenya by killing and snatching European tourists (David Tebbutt was shot dead, wife, Judith Tebbutt, and Marie Dedieu were kidnapped) while holidaying on Kenya’s north coast.
The group of thieves/bandits/Shabab/pirates had vanished with the two women (on two separate occasions) into Somalia as if into a bottomless long drop, never return until after paying a hefty ransom.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s largest revenue earners.
Reason alone, I suppose, for Kenya to invade Somalia.
Bottom line is that Kenya invaded Somalia to stop Somalia from further invading Kenya. Other incidents of this kind of perceived “invasion” began in the 70’s.
The upshot of last Saturday’s press briefing was to inform press of the existence of a list of insurgents thought to have already entered Kenya with knowledge of Al Shabab-related activities. Police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, said these individuals may be able to provide police w critical information in hunting down Shabab insurgent bases “wherever they may be”.
Al Shabab is an insurgent group based mainly in Somalia with loyalties to its parent group, Al Qaeda.
The question remains, what evidence is there to suggest that Shabab had anything to do with the tourist kidnappings?
Photos:
[Kenya police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, with two among fifteen alleged insurgents; photos by Margot Kiser, copyright, Dec, 2011]

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Categories: Conflict In Context - Field NotesTags: , , , ,

Margot Kiser | Conflict in Context

I am a Kenya-based American correspondent, focusing on conflict in East Africa. I have contributed to Newsweek, Al Jazeera, The Daily Beast, among others.

Follow me on Twitter: @margotkiser1

Best long read ByLiner 2011 for my Newsweek feature, 'Pirates in Paradise' http://byliner.com/margot-kiser/stories
http://www.newsweek.com/authors/margot-kiser

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