Diplomatic Maneuver and Kenya’s Military Campaign in Somalia

By Mumo Nzau & Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Charles Mwanzia


Amani Africa Journal




From time to time, states resort to armed engagements with others for various reasons. War is mostly considered the last resort in the pursuit of the national interests of states. Throughout the modern nation-state system and more so since the end of the Second World War, states have been slow to resort to war.


More often than not they may opt to interact with their potential adversaries through peaceful means before to armed campaigns. Such adversaries may take the form of state or non-state actors, which may include sub-national groups, belligerent movements or any other formation(s) perceived to be a threat to state survival. It was under such circumstances that Kenya sent its troops to Somalia in pursuit of the Al Qaeda-linked terror organization, Al Shabaab in mid-October 2011.


In practical terms, Kenya did not declare war on Somalia but rather she invoked her right to self-defense against a threat emanating from her important neighbour, Somalia. Invoking Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Kenya proclaimed self-defense as an inherent right and declared that she had to do whatever was necessary to keep her borders secure from terrorism and economic sabotage. These events attracted immense academic and policy debates given that this was Kenya’s first major military offensive in the region since the Shifta War in 1965. Many questions were posed as to the legality of the offensive dubbed Operation Linda Nchi. While Kenya was not at war with her important neighbour Somalia, her troops were inside Somalia pursuing Al Shabaab on the ground, from the air and at sea.


In the first instance, Kenya acted unilaterally but a few weeks later, the armed campaign became a venture involving Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops. It is noteworthy that even as such military campaigns take place, the role of diplomacy never ceases. Diplomacy is a major asset of statecraft. As such the question is, what is the role of diplomacy in Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia? In this direction, this paper explores the diplomatic challenges that Kenya faced before and continues to face in its armed engagement with the Al Shabaab, not only in the regional but the global context as well.

Read More


Get Weekly Updates from The HORN Institute