Will Kenya’s heightened security leave with Obama?

The rubble of Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, following a suicide bomb blast.
The rubble of Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, following a suicide bomb blast. Reuters/Feisal Omar

Kenya has successfully kept Al-Shebab at bay throughout US President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to the country. Neighbouring Somalia was not as fortunate, with a powerful suicide blast ripping through the country’s capital.


Security officials have increased the death toll of the attack on Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu on Sunday to 13 people.

Somalia's Shebab insurgents set off the car bomb, devastating the area and killing one of China’s embassy staff. Bodies were still being found in the rubble the next day.

This as US President Barack Obama is in the region praising the recent advances by Somali and African Union troops against the Shebab militants. In a statement, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called it an attack on a symbol, saying “the Jazeera Hotel was a place where the international community met their counterparts in Somali politics, business and civil society”.

The Jazeera Palace hotel is popular among Somali government officials and is home to the diplomatic missions of China, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. They are seen by Shebab militants as propping up the Somali federal government and as an unwelcome foreign intervention in Somalia, making the Jazeera hotel a target, and not for the first time.

In 2012 suicide bombers stormed the hotel while President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was inside but the president has now vowed to again rebuild it.

Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rajj said the bombing was in revenge for an offensive against Shebab bases in southern Somalia launched earlier this month, but Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) told RFI that this is an act of cowardice.

He is appealing for members of the public to come forward with information on Al-Shebab’s plans.

The group’s capability is much reduced from their peak a few years ago when they controlled much of southern Somalia. The AMISOM forces have been very successful in pushing Al-Shebab into smaller and smaller pockets of land and Professor Hussein Solomon, from South Africa’s University of the Free State, told RFI that far from being a show of strength, this attack actually shows how “desperate” the group is getting.

The security surrounding the president’s visit has been a hot topic. When in Nairobi, many streets across the capital were shut down and a quarter of the country’s police force was mobilised. This troubled some commuters, but the Kenyan security forces successfully held any potential attacks at bay which Professor Solomon is convinced Al-Shebab would have been planning.

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