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‘Confessions of Kenyan Uber Taxi Driver’ is a piece by Charles ‘Chanchori’ Ndegwa, a young African writer, poet and lawyer that took social media in Kenya by storm. Ndegwa narrates an experience of an Uber (taxi) driver who met a soldier whose life had been thrown into chaos thanks to the war in Somalia. The soldier, named Captain Charles Gachora, narrates to the driver the ordeals of losing a loved one, the trauma of being at war and explains to him that he (the driver) and other civilians get to live their lives because others are risking theirs by fighting a war abroad (the Kenya Defence Forces offensive launched against the Al Shabaab). The piece ends with Captain Gachora’s suicide due to the many traumas and sufferings that his life had succumb to.
Since 1991, Somalia has been through a civil war that has seen many deaths and mass displacement. In a paper by Judith Gardner and Judy El-Bushra, ‘The Impact of War on Somali Men and its Effects on the Family, Women and Children’, it is revealed that Somalia has been ranked ‘one of the worst places in the world to be a woman’, ‘the worst place on Earth to be a mother’ and ‘one of the worst places in the world to be a child’. Many refugees of the war have found a home in the Dadaab camp in Kenya; which the government was set to close until a High Court ruling by Justice JM Mativo blocked the closure. They stated that the government orders were discriminatory, arbitrary, excessive and disproportionate, amounted to collective punishment and were null and void. The government, through its spokesperson, has responded by saying that it will appeal the closure of the camp in the interest of national security.
There have been many efforts to quell the chaos in Kenya, to little (or no) avail. A few of these efforts being AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), a peacekeeping mission created in 2007 and the inclusion of Kenya Defence Forces in the country since 2011 on an operation dabbed Operation Linda Nchi (Operation Protect the Country). Unfortunately the country continues to suffer the consequences of war despite these efforts.
A recent milestone has however been made by the election of former Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed as President of Somalia. It is the hope of many that the President will bring sanity to the country and will end years of suffering to the Somali people. He however needs support from the region – the East African region; which needs to bring its affairs in order in terms of dealing with the crises in Burundi and Southern Sudan. Additionally, the East African region must ensure that Kenya has a peaceful election come August.
Kenyan writer Rasna Warah states in her piece ‘Freeze assets of these warlords to bring peace to South Sudan’, that Kenya particularly has benefited from money stolen by corrupt officials in Somalia and invested in their country. Nipping things in the bud means cutting their source of money for the militia that has picked up arms. This can only be done with the help of the international community. On the other hand, the Kenyan government needs to re-think its decision on the closure of the Dadaab camp since its effect will be to have thousands of refugees sent back to an unstable country. The decision is arguably a retaliation after Somalia filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The case seeks to have matters regarding the maritime border between the two countries adjudicated and is therefore in bad faith.
The government should also withdraw its soldiers from the country since their stay has led to more harm than good. One issue being that many of the soldiers fighting the war in Somalia are young and inexperienced.
The government should focus on protecting Kenya’s borders from within. Further, the addition of more players in the scene seldom leads to good – as is evident with Syria, a country whose situation gets more complicated by the day.