Somali–Kenyan conflict

The Somali–Kenyan conflict has been an issue within Kenya since the colonial period. Problems have ranged from skirmishes between the two communities and have led to terrorist attacks, police harassment, extortion, home invasions, physical violence, and massacres perpetrated against Somalis and Kenyans.

Somali–Kenyan conflict
Kenya Somalia Locator.png
Kenya (Green) and Somalia (Orange)
Date1963 – present
Status Ongoing
 Kenya  Somalia
Commanders and leaders
William Ruto Hassan Sheikh Mohamud


Throughout much of the 20th century, the Northern Frontier District (NFD) was a part of the Jubaland region in present-day southern Somalia.[1] On 26 June 1960, after granting British Somaliland independence, the British government declared that all Somali-inhabited areas of East Africa should be unified in one administrative region. However, after the dissolution of the former British colonies in the region, Britain granted administration of the Northern Frontier District to Kenyan nationalists despite an informal plebiscite demonstrating the overwhelming desire of the region's population to join the newly formed Somali Republic.[2] On the eve of Kenyan independence in August 1963, British officials belatedly realized that the new Kenyan administration was not willing to give up the Somali-inhabited areas it had just been granted administration of. Led by the Northern Province People's Progressive Party (NPPPP), Somalis in the NFD vigorously sought union with their kin in the Somali Republic to the north.[3] In response, the Kenyan government enacted a number of repressive measures designed to frustrate their efforts in what came to be known as the Shifta War.[4] Although the conflict ended in a cease-fire, Somalis in the region still identify and maintain close ties with their kin in Somalia.[5] They have traditionally married within their own community and formed a cohesive ethnic network.[6]

Petty skirmishesEdit

Between 2010 and 2012, Somali herders in the Kitui District in the Eastern Province clashed with the Kenyan Kamba community along the Kitui and Tana River boundary. The conflict was related to pastureland for livestock.[7]

Historical massacresEdit

Garissa massacreEdit

The Garissa Massacre was a 1980 massacre of ethnic Somali residents by the Kenyan government in the Garissa District of the North Eastern Province. The incident occurred when government forces, acting on the premise of flushing out a local hoodlum known as Abdi Madobe, set fire to a residential estate called Bulla Kartasi, killing people and raping women. They then forcefully interned the populace in a primary school for three days without food or water, resulting in over 3000 deaths.[8]

Wagalla MassacreEdit

The Wagalla massacre was a massacre of ethnic Somalis by Kenyan security forces on 10 February 1984 in Wajir District, North Eastern Province.

The massacre took place on 10 February 1984 at the Wagalla Airstrip. The facility is situated approximately 15 km (9 mi) west of the district capital of Wajir in the North Eastern Province, a region primarily inhabited by ethnic Somalis. Kenyan troops had descended on the area to reportedly help diffuse clan-related conflict. However, according to eyewitness testimony, about 5,000 Somali men were then taken to an airstrip and prevented from accessing water and food for five days before being executed by Kenyan soldiers.[9]

According to the chairman of The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya, a government oversight body that had been formed in response to the 2008 Kenyan post-election violence, the Wagalla massacre represents the worst human rights violation in Kenya's history.[9]

Garissa University College MassacreEdit

On 2 April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, killing 147 students, and injuring 79 or more. The militant group Al-Shabaab from southern Somalia, which the gunmen claimed to be from, took responsibility for the attack. The gunmen took over 700 students hostage, freeing Muslims and killing those who identified as Christians. The siege ended the same day, when all four of the attackers were killed. Five men were later arrested in connection with the attack, and a bounty was placed for the arrest of a suspected organizer.

The attack was the deadliest in Kenya since the 1998 United States embassy bombings, and is the second deadliest overall, with more casualties than the 2002 Mombasa attacks, the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack, the 2014 Nairobi bus bombings, the 2014 Gikomba bombings, the 2014 Mpeketoni attacks and the 2014 Lamu attacks.

2012–2013 conflictEdit

In October 2011, the coordinated Operation Linda Nchi between the Somali military and the Kenyan military began against Al-Shabaab.[10][11] The mission was officially led by the Somali Armed Forces, with the Kenyan forces providing a support role.[11]

Since the Operation Linda Nchi began, Al-Shabaab vowed retaliation against the Kenyan authorities. At the militant group's urging,[12] a significant and increasing number of terrorist attacks in Kenya have since been carried out by local Kenyans, many of whom are recent converts to Islam.[13] Estimates in 2012 placed the figure of Kenyan fighters at around 10% of Al-Shabaab's total forces.[14] Referred to as the "Kenyan Mujahideen" by Al-Shabaab's core members,[13] the converts are typically young and overzealous, poverty making them easier targets for the group's recruitment activities. Because the Kenyan insurgents have a different profile from the Somali and Arab militants that allows them to blend in with the general population of Kenya, they are also often harder to track. Reports suggest that Al-Shabaab is attempting to build an even more multi-ethnic generation of fighters in the larger region.[14] One such recent convert who helped carry out the Kampala bombings but now cooperates with the Kenyan police believes that in doing so, the group is essentially trying to use local Kenyans to do its "dirty work" for it while its core members escape unscathed.[13] According to diplomats, Muslim areas in coastal Kenya and Tanzania, such as Mombasa and Zanzibar, are also especially vulnerable for recruitment.[14]

On 18 November 2012, 10 people were killed and 25 seriously injured when an explosion ripped apart a route 28 mass transit mini-bus (matatu) in Eastleigh. The blast was believed to have been an improvised explosive device or bomb of some sort.[15] Looting and destruction of Somali-owned homes and shops by angry mobs of young Kenyans ensued.[16] Somalis defended their property, and interpreted the bus explosion as a pretext for non-Somalis to steal from their community.[17]

On 20 November 2012, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) swooped on Garissa in a military operation. KDF soldiers subsequently burned down the local market and shot at a crowd of protesters,[18] killing a woman and injuring 10 people. Another 35 residents were also receiving treatment at the provincial hospital after being assaulted by the soldiers, including a chief and two pupils. A group of MPs led by Farah Maalim accused Kenyan officers of inciting violence, raping women and shooting at students, and threatened to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if the perpetrators were not brought to justice.[19][20] Maalim also suggested that the deployment of the soldiers was unconstitutional and had not received the requisite parliamentary approval,[19] and that the ensuing rampage cost Garissa entrepreneurs over Sh1.5 billion to Sh2 billion in missed revenue.[20] Additionally, Sheikhs with the CPK threatened to sue the military commanders for crimes against humanity committed during the operation.[19] However, general harassment of the Somali community by Kenyan policemen continued, with some officers going as far as invading the homes of Somali businesspeople to steal precious jewelry, foreign currencies and electronic devices, including expensive phones, laptops, and other personal accessories.[21]

By January 2013, a mass exodus of Somali residents was reported. Hundreds of Somali entrepreneurs withdrew between Sh10 to Sh40 billion from their bank accounts in Kenya, with the intention of reinvesting most of that money back home in Somalia. The collective departures most affected Eastleigh's real estate sector, as landlords struggled to find Kenyans able to afford the high rates of the apartments and shops vacated by the Somalis.[21]

The maritime border dispute is a problem that Kenya claims over Somali waters and the solution was held by the ICJ.

Coastal Oil Field DisputeEdit

In February 2019, Kenyan officials have alleged that Somalia is engaged in an inappropriate auctioning of drilling rights along the African coast of the Ocean. The International Court of Arbitration has scheduled procedures for September 2019 concerning maritime territorial waters, which Somali sources indicate is being pre-empted by the Kenyan officials. Kenya demanded Somalia to abandon its ICJ case for bilateral discussion. Somalia sees this as delaying tactics as discussion did not produce results between 2009 and 2014. Kenya gave mining rights to France and Italian companies in 2009, however, accused Somalia of doing the same. Somalia denied the accusation. This seems to create confusion. The only hope is for ICJ to make a binding decision.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Osman, Mohamed Amin AH (1993). Somalia, proposals for the future. SPM. pp. 1–10.
  2. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience, (University Of Chicago Press: 1977), p.75
  3. ^ Bruce Baker, Escape from Domination in Africa: Political Disengagement & Its Consequences, (Africa World Press: 2003), p.83
  4. ^ Rhoda E. Howard, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: 1986), p.95
  5. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Kenya: identity of a nation, (Godfrey Mwakikagile: 2007), p.79.
  6. ^ Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Research Production and Extension Division (2006). Proceedings of 2005 JKUAT Scientific, Technological, and Industrialisation Conference: "leveraging indigenous products and technologies through research for industrialisation and development" : 27th–28th October, 2005. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Research Production and Extension Division. p. 27. ISBN 9966923284.
  7. ^ "The Kambas and Somalis Conflict" (PDF). Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  8. ^ "Ahmed Issac. Legal Impediments to Development in Northern Kenya". Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2015. p.10 Legal Impediments to Development in Northern Kenya, Ahmed Issack
  9. ^ a b Wagalla massacre: Raila Odinga orders Kenya probe
  10. ^ "Somalia government supports Kenyan forces' mission". Archived from the original on 14 March 2012.
  11. ^ a b Joint Communique – Operation Linda Nchi
  12. ^ "huge-blasts" Al-Shabaab to retaliate in Kenya with "huge blasts"[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ a b c Kenya: A new breed of terrorist is born[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ a b c "Special Report: In Africa, a militant group's growing appeal". Reuters. 30 May 2012.
  15. ^ November 19 2012, Monday (24 December 2020). "Another black Sunday after explosion inside city matatu claims seven lives". Business Daily. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  16. ^ Gogoneni, Rupo (21 November 2012). "Kenyans, Somalis clash in Nairobi". RFI. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  17. ^ Vincenot, Aymeric (21 November 2012). "Pitched battles between 'Kenyans' and Somalis in Nairobi". AFP. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  18. ^ Aynte, Abdi (21 November 2012). "How Shabaab is losing the battle, but maybe winning the war". African Arguments. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  19. ^ a b c "Woman killed, 10 injured in Garissa swoop". The Star. 21 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  20. ^ a b Wafula, Caroline (20 November 2012). "MPs accuse State of using undue force". Daily Nation. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  21. ^ a b Mohammed, Guled (9 January 2013). "Kenya: The Cost of Harassing Somalis Over Terror". The Star. Retrieved 13 January 2013.