Under the chairmanship of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the main role of EASF is seen as fighting the conflict in Somalia, and is expected to have the full support of its various governments.
The truth is, the formation of an Eastern African Standby Force in response to the threat of the Al-Shabaab group is neither novel concept nor unexpected.
The Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM) group, an Islamic extremist group that seeks to set up an Islamic state in Somalia, was formed as the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which at the time controlled much of central and southern Somalia.
Since the ICU lost power, Al-Shabaab has waged a relentless war against the then Somali Transitional Government, its successive established regimes and its Ethiopian supporters, with fighting escalating from May 2009.
In 2007, the formation of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) under the auspices of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council , as documented in Security Council Resolution 1744 (2007) meant that the troubled Somali Transitional Government now had the support of an AU-led peace keeping force.
CROSS BORDER ATTACKS
Al-Shabaab claimed its first terror attack outside Somali borders in June 2010 in Uganda during the World Cup finals, in which 70 people were killed and several injured. At the time Al-Shabaab threatened additional attacks if Uganda and other AU Countries did not withdraw AMISOM peace keeping troops.
At the time, the AMISOM mission was meant to last only 6 months, a temporary measure intended to support what it was hoped would be a quickly stabilized government. The 6-month deadline came and passed without this being accomplished.
By October 2011, it was clear that the Al-Shabaab group was a bigger threat to neighbouring Kenya after consistent cross border attacks left several people dead. In response, Kenya launched “Operation Linda Nchi” a military incursion by the Kenya Defense Forces into Somalia.
It is this particular act that seems to have refocused Al-Shabaab’s onslaught to Kenya. Since 2011, attacks within Kenyan borders have increased in frequency and intensity, with people being killed in attacks on ‘soft’ targets such as churches, shopping malls, markets and public vehicles. After the recent killings in Lamu the terrorist group warned the government of further attacks.
The decision by Mr Lenku to label the attacks on Mpeketoni as politically instigated and targeted at a particular ethnic community was strange, and also indicative of the distracted manner in which the entire ministry has approached the war on Al-Shabaab.
Make no mistake, Kenya is at war, and the use of the Eastern African Standby Force is an indication that this war is greater than the Kenya government cares to admit. The EASF is likely to provide a succinct “punch” against the forces of Al-Shabaab.
However, much like AMISOM and “Operation Linda Nchi”, without a complimentary “block” in the internal structures of the concerned nations, terror groups may be able to hit back.
We can visibly see the effects of years of corruption in the police service especially. It is certainly necessarily to thoroughly examine the management of the police service and to extract the elements that hinder its success.