Somalia: The Kismayu Puzzle: An Old Wine in a New Bottle

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Dec 10th, 2012

By Abdulkadir Suleiman
The high focus of creating an autonomous administration in the southernmost regions of Somalia solely by Kenya and its interlocutors has cultivated a new looming future across the country. Populations living in that part of the country could have experienced a relatively calm situation once the threat of Al-shabab was dismantled. However, contrary to that aspiration, it became obvious that the liberators of Kismayu had no faith in consultation with the popularly elected national leaders of Somalia that are also craving for the ultimate and sincere support from both Kenya and those with its Somali cronies lobbying with the creation of a regime exclusively envisioned outside Somalia. This newly created political suspicion is firmly rooted in two existing political cultures in Somalia: clan supremacy and land expropriation!
Since the Italian colonization to the post-independent regimes as well as during the period of anarchy, these two perspectives have been utilized by the dominant politicians in the successive governments of Somalia that each administration sought by any means to expel the former tenants in Juba regions as to install a new favorable one with the reliance on an external power as is indicated in the current scenario. Every administration has actually implemented these two narratives through coercive and violent methods by outlawing the noble concepts of seeking mutually beneficial approaches for the political power and economic distribution of the Middle and Lower Juba regions.

For the Italian part, Governor Carletti in the Lower Juba seized 10,000 hectors of plantation by forcing its owners to flee with the help of superior firearms. I.M Lewis said in his book of Modern History of Somalia that this land was previously been cultivated by Tuni clan. As a consequence, it is obvious that a section of those indigenous subjugated people have fled their homes reaching out to the corners of Central Africa. Likewise, the military regime cleaned the remaining resilient indigenous populations by adopting far more serious policies that badly affected the sedentary people in the regions of Lower and Middle Jubas and Lower Shabele as well. The regime misappropriated the land of interreverine and riverine areas by transplanting it with over 100,000 displaced people from northern nomads in 1973 -74 on the grounds that the land belongs to no one.

In the meantime the government didn’t adopt conceding policies and all the historical inhabitants were gradually misplaced from their swath. In this way the traditional owners of Kismayu and across those regions were expropriated and minimized to the level of pariah. The remnants that resisted and tried to protect their land were threatened and imprisoned. The Department of Land Use and Irrigation was instrumental in the expropriation of the land. Today, it goes without saying that clans like Bajuni and Tuni cannot even dare putting their agenda in the two Jubas let alone deciding its fate.

By the same token, the warlords in the civil war kept track by forming alliances under different banners and invaded the city several times just to control its economic resource. In the game of zero-sum competition, no faction ever succeeded to rule the region and all of them ended futile in terms of human and capital-in addition to the environmental desertification they inflicted. Even al-shabab being the most powerful group, eventually lost to these current occupiers. What matters in this brawl is not just how much superior armor one has and the number of human resource as opposed to the indigenous; but actually who is not seeking to snatch people’s land and not illegally expelling them. Abdi Aynte said in his article of ‘Kismayu Conundrum(s)’ that Kismayu is the graveyard of many Somali powers, and expectedly Kenya along with Ras Kiamboni militia might likely meet the same consequence if they won’t review their current position.

It is safe to assume that Ras Kiamboni politicians along with their cronies in Nairobi are struggling again to sweep the least remaining populations in those areas, and by their turn to project themselves that they are proper tenants of the city while in fact they hold marginal constituency in the districts of Lower Juba and Middle Juba. As the region is prized for its rich agricultural lands, relative mild weather, an airport and port facilities; it attracted non-native factional groups that continued to champion the top leadership of the politics and tried to conquer the land tenure against their will. So, today it is ill-fated that Ras Kiamboni with the help of Kenya revived this trajectory of clan hatred and land expropriation in Kismayu.

To sum up, Kenya’s anxiety to a future possibility of border insecurity could be minimized only through establishing effective diplomatic collaboration with the Somali Federal Government and not through its effort of erecting a buffer zone in the region by passing over the central government; and the Somali associates should not dig out a new misfortune in the country.

The author is a Political Analyst and Researcher and can be reached at

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