Violence in the Mount Elgon region over traditional land rights has increased in intensity in the past years despite the presence of security forces. According to the Ploughshares Project and Human Rights Watch, fighting among clans of the Kalenjin tribe left nearly 200 people dead and around 116,000 displaced in 2007, and the death toll rose to between 200 and 500 in 2008. Human rights groups, journalists and even the International Committee of the Red Cross were temporarily barred by Kenyan security services from entering the area.
In March 2008, the Government launched a huge military operation designed to target members of the Sabaot Land Defence Forces, the militia seen as responsible for hundreds of deaths and major displacement in the region. Despite the seeming success of the government operation, reports emerged in February 2012 that the Sabaot might be regrouping.
See also: "Security Brief: "Operation Okoa Maisha' in Mt. Elgon", Kenya Police, 14 March 2008 and "'All the Men Have Gone', War Crimes in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Conflict", Human Rights Watch, 27 July 2008
In October 2011, hundreds of Kenyan troops entered Somalia, escalating their efforts to fight the al-Shabab militant group, which it accused of kidnappings and raiding Kenyan coastal resorts and refugee camps. The group soon threatened reprisals against Kenya and witnesses reported seeing al-Shabab fighters move toward the areas invaded. The operation came under criticism after a Kenyan aerial bombardment hit a refugee camp, killing five civilians. It was also met with fears of proxy wars flaring in the region. Kenya had previously trained Somali soldiers with the aim of ensuring a buffer zone to shield itself from the violence in Somalia.
The operation was initially called "misguided", "ill-thought out" and "the biggest security gamble Kenya has taken since independence". Somalia's President has also termed the operation "inappropriate and unacceptable". However, it has since gained momentum as well as foreign approval. In a joint communique on 31 October 2011, Kenyan and Somali authorities agreed to cooperate in their fight against al-Shabab, invoking the right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. France offered support and training, and other countries, such as Israel and Denmark, also offered their assistance to Kenya. Ethiopia agreed to back the operation as well. In December 2011, Kenya announced that its troops would become part of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) efforts to combat al-Shabab/
By 2012, heavy fighting was being reported between Somali and Kenyan forces and the Al-Shabab in the south of Somalia. Kenyan troops were said to have killed tens of militants. Then, by February 2012, they had captured the Baidoa base from the militants, and then El Bur base by the end of March 2012. The operation was reported as making advances as of April 2012, with al-Shabab leadership said to become fractured following its losses. In September 2012, African Union forces attacked Kismayo, the stronghold of al-Shabab which used it for illegal charcoal trade and smuggling. Airstrikes with naval gun support preceded the arrival of ground troops in the city. Al-Shabab forces were said to have withdrawn from the city following the assault.
Further reading: "Kenya: Human Rights Concerns of Operation “Linda Nchi”", Human Rights Watch, 18 November 2011 and "Linda Nchi: A First Quarter Review", SomaliaReport, 18 January 2012
Last updated: 22 November 2012