Israel and Kenya and the incurson

I want to write about this morning’s article by Macharia Gaitho. We are warned about giving into the seduction of Israeli involvement into the military incursion even the practical involvement of Israeli anti-terror squads as some of the justification of the war (protecting our interior by fighting outside it) would suggest.  Kenya has had a long standing relationship with Israel, and the kind of Zionism that can be found in the US, can also be found, in less apparent degrees, within Kenyans who have read too much Bible and not enough world news.

The power relations that surround the incursion, those exacerbated by Israel’s offer for help are described in the first paragraphs of the article:

From further afield, expressions of support from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and various countries and regional blocs, must go beyond tepid words and “put their money where their mouths are”.

To be meaningful, support must translate into actual resources. The campaign needs money, bullets and soldiers on the battlefront.

Money will not be coming to Kenya in this war, I think a huge flaw in Gaitho’s thinking above is that it fails to address the possibility that there are readings to this incursion that other countries within the ‘international community” or the power paradigms where US is lord. We are “the man” in getting in there and doing the necessary work. Not every other country is down with this. I am even surprised that Gaitho added the US to that list of participants in an international community especially after the initial comments by the US Ambassador to Kenya in the early days of the incursion.

A friend of mine was very excited about the war because the US and Ethiopia and others had failed and the death toll of the first attack (75 people dead) promised that the Kenyan military’s prospects there would be more fruitful. This is why money is being asked for here: we need cash to buy bullets but foreign soldiers, not so much. And I think people should get to know about the intricacy of the stability pursuit in Somalia by the US (and possibly others, haven’t read much on that). In the classic US intelligence-thrown-money-at clusterfuck, one finishes Jeremy Scahill’s “Blowback in Somalia” with the feeling that, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars later, no one knows if what was done was right or worth it.

And it only turns out that Israel cannot join in the fun because they have their own issues with Palestine and Lebanon and that this could turn out to be a major PR disaster. Gaitho, in an articulation that is rare for a pro-war paper like DN gesticulates:

In any case, the ambassador was totally wrong in seeing similarities between the Kenyan operation in Somalia and Israeli experiences against hostile neighbours.

Kenya’s campaign is not one of occupation. It is not an invasion of Somalia and nor is it a land-grab.

The really huge problem I’m having is why Gaitho is so resistant to Israel helping in this war. Granted, we now share a thirst for blood, one which is not as well articulated or justifiable in Kenya as it is in the right leaning sections of the Israeli population. The article, for me, reveals the masculinist side of this war, the need to prove to the rest of East Africa and the world that this is a war in which the only privity to participate is support for the aspirations of the Kenyan state and nations. That is why, for instance, there is a lot of excitement when poorer nations (poorer than the US or France) declare their support for the war or when Museveni supports the war or when AMISOM troops start collaborating with the Kenyan military in fighting al-Shabaab. The ideological bases for the war are still very much policed, one gets a feeling of this when reading the article: we must keep watch, we must make sure this war is as sexy as possible. And from the comments as well, the latest one when I was typing this out: “Mr. Macharia, we also need patriotism in media reporting. Let media houses stop reporting for the sake of reporting. Is it possible to give black out to some aspects of international politics”.


  1. Gaitho is such a war monger—the brand of war drumming that reeks of the empty posturing of patriarchal masculinity. His non-thinking on DN Op/Eds often has me shaking my head. As you write here, he is using this war to further a kind of Kenyan exceptionalism.

    1. I failed to mention on the blog post that Gaitho’s article shows the tough policing around the ideological justifications for the war. I mean, these guys don’t have lots of stuff that they can support the war on, the whole incursion has become something that we must do and will not give reasons for doing because the reasons are not there. You can see this from the comments on the article: lots of people chastising Raila for visiting Kenya’s great ally and having a hard time seeing what Kibaki is doing in the Middle East. Guys on the anti-war side are very fatigued, blogging, emailing, having to go through thirty minutes of news where we have “embedded” journalists speaking about a war in Somalia while they are within Kenyan territory. I think there is a kind of sureness that comes with shit written by the Daily Nation, look at the stuff they write about women. I was even shocked to find to find an article, supposedly about feminism and dress, traipsing along the same lines of patriarchy and anti-women that others do on a daily basis.

  2. Bottom line is that Kenya now needs Israeli security technology and knowledge more than ever! We are losing innocent civilians and simply put, no other nation can identify with our trauma as Israel does! People can berate and criticize all they want, but Israel has walked in these shoes of feeling terror, living it and doing something about such terrorizing insecurity! Indeed we are faced with a terror through Somali infiltration via porous Kenyan borders, homegrown terror as a result to infiltration by fanatics who recruit naive, ignorant and uneducated and unemployed Kenyans, a corrupt and hoodwinked police force, a lazy eyed government which fails to foresee the country’s security concerns and interests, which leads to such terrorist atrocities As Kenya now witnesses with alshabaab hooligans. Who knows, perhaps Alqaeeda has already established several strongholds in Kenya owing to the country’s inert security reforms! Food for thought KENYANS!

    1. I don’t really understand the alarmism is comment. If anything, the incursion into Somalia has lead to more attacks on Kenyan citizens. This would mean and end to the incursion which strengthens the resolve of the terrorist network and the prosecution in a court of law of all suspected members of the Al-Shabab. It would also mean that Kenya deal with the problem of Al-Shabab in ways that do not involve unlawful use of force against a specific group of people (in this case, Muslims). I don’t think Israel identifies with any trauma Kenya has felt: if it did it would not be colonising Palestinian Territories or unlawfully imprisoning Palestinians or displacing them from their land or restricting their movement or killing them with impunity or carrying out apartheid in what they have come to refer to as “Israel” or disregarding international law. Kenya was once colonised by the British and the same things we see the state of Israel were carried out against Kenyans half a century ago, it is farcical to again start claiming that we need to collaborate with a coloniser in trying to solve this country’s problems. Bottom line is, there are much better ways of dealing with the problem of Al-Shabab than an indefinite war (police investigations, courts, speculation as to what leads to young people ). Israel’s help would make the war more morally reprehensible than it already is.

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