Kismayu fall imminent, says leader

Sheikh Madobe (left) talks to Kenya’s Lt. Col Jeff Nyaga at Afmadow.

A Somali faction leader and a principal ally of the Kenyan military campaign in southern Somalia has predicted that the allied forces now gathered on the outskirts of Kismayu will take control of the southern port city “early next week”.

Speaking to the Nation in a telephone interview from an undisclosed “frontline position” near Kismayu, the commander of the Ras Kamboni Brigade, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, said the final push to take the city was very imminent.

Q: Can you give us an update of the situation on the frontlines? When is Kismayu likely to fall?

Sheikh Madobe: I believe the campaign to liberate Kismayu is in the final stages. We are in the process of wrapping it up. I hope by early next week, the city of Kismayu will be in our hands, God willing. Everything is going according to plan. Our combined forces are advancing on multiple fronts and they are on course towards entering the city from all corners early next week.

Q: Talks have been going in Karen (Nairobi) in recent months aimed at creating an inclusive administration for Kismayu. Can you tell us how they are going? Any progress?

A: The talks are still continuing, even though, admittedly, the pace has been slow. We are waiting for the technical committee overseeing the process to complete its work soon. Afterwards, there will be a second phase, which will see a major conference convened, hopefully, inside Somalia. The conference will deliberate on the many proposals put forward by the technical committee before arriving at a decision. It is this conference that will ultimately complete, agree and endorse the composition of the future administration that will govern Kismayu. Only then will the new administration be unveiled. We are very optimistic about this conference. We are very satisfied with the work of the technical committee and the progress so far made.

Q: There have been reports that the imminent fall of Kismayu is creating anxiety among some clans that feel apprehensive about possible Ogaden clan dominance? How are you addressing these perceptions and fears?

A: (Laughs) These are just propaganda churned out by the Somali rumour mills and idlers in Nairobi. There is no such thing. These forces (Ras Kamboni Brigade) are Somali and Kenya is a brotherly neighbouring state. They are not affiliated to this or that clan. The claim that the Ogaden or Marehan are invading other clans is simply untrue. I do not know where this claim is originating from. Obviously, any leader of a group is born to a clan, is a member of a specific clan. Must this then automatically imply that he is fronting for a clan interest? This is nonsense — sheer propaganda — without foundation. The proposed conference will create an all-inclusive administration, and all will be free to vote and express their opinion.

Q: In the light of the experience in Mogadishu, how prepared are you for the potential risks of increased insecurity and insurgency-related violence in Kismayu after its fall?

A: Look, first of all, Kismayu is smaller in size than Mogadishu. Second, we know al-Shabaab well and are familiar with their modus operandi and schemes. God willing, we will deal with them appropriately. We know their plans. We know they left an estimated 500 fighters in the city of Kismayu to cause trouble. We will deal with them robustly, I assure you.

Q: What are the relations between Ras Kamboni and the other Somali factions in the anti-Shabaab alliance — especially the Gandhi group-like?

A: Whether it is the Gandhi group, Ahlu Sunnah (wal Jama’a), the Somali government or the other groups, we are all part of a broad alliance. We are fighting together for the same cause. We have one agenda. At this moment, we have no differences with anyone. We are all part of the (Karen) talks and it is that process and its outcome that will ultimately govern relations. Obviously, all the issues relating to the future administration will be decided within the framework of those negotiations.