Operation Linda Nchi – Kenya’s War against Somalia

Conflict In Context - Field Notes

Best wishes to all for a happy and prosperous 2012.
Kenya Department of Defence press briefing 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 announced in dead pan fashion description and # of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) military successes (too many to describe) and # of casualties (8)  sixty-two days after Kenya first invaded Somalia in a campaign that’s now called “Operation Linda Nchi”.
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 usually proud of my handle on Swahili, but this operation Linda business initially stumped me.
I knew “wananchi” meant Kenyan citizenry. “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 “kulinda” or “to protect”.
What threw me was Linda, a fairly common name for western women. But, of course, Linda is a Spanish Latin-based word meaning “beautiful”.
I didn’t know that “Nchi” meant country. So, Linda Nchi 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 pass for the definition of  “sovereignty”. Not surprising that it also reminds me of the mantra that the US State Department invariably uses when, let’s say, Israel attacks Palestine, “that every state has a right to decide for itself how best to defend itself”.
Interesting though that, as with Palestine, the international community does not recognise Somalia as a sovereign state.
Not recognising a country as a sovereign state is a handy way of making it illegal for any non-sovereign state to attack a sovereign state. In essence, Somalia has no legal right to defend itself, and the west seems to define any non-sovereign state that tries to defend itself as a rogue or terrorist state. (Please correct me if I am wrong here).
More sadly, 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 rolls and rolls of 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. Kenya’s police spokesman said these individuals may be able to provide them w critical information in their pursuit to hunt down Shabab insurgents “wherever they may be”.
Al Shabab is an insurgent group based mainly in Somalia with loyalties to its parent group, Al Qaeda.
Saddest of all. The question remains, what evidence is there to suggest that Shabab had anything to do with the tourist kidnappings in the first place?

[photos by Margot Kiser, copyright, Dec 2011)

Alleged insurgents from Somalia
Kenya police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, with photos of alleged insurgents from Somalia

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