Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga ended his visit to Israel this week with a promise in hand from President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to help establish a new alliance to combat the spread of fundamentalist Islam into the predominantly Christian African nations Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan. Their combined populations total 138 million.
DEBKAfil's military sources report that Israel has agreed to supply Kenya with drones, fast naval boats, military instructors, munitions, armored vehicles and electronic surveillance equipment. This was discussed with the Kenyan prime minister and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti who accompanied him on his visit. On Oct. 16, Kenya sent troops into neighboring Somali to fight the al Qaeda-linked al Shabab after a series of cross-border abductions.
Israel owns a strong interest in curtailing the presence in these strategic lands not only of Islamist terrorist groups but also of Iran. It needs naval bases along the Gulf of Aden and eastern Indian Ocean where Iran has in the past year built up a naval presence close to Israel's southern border.
Netanyahu told Prime Minister Odinga that Israel would join him in setting up "a coalition against fundamentalism in East Africa, incorporating Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania."
debkafile's military sources note that this interest places Israel squarely in the middle of two African wars: Kenya's campaign in southern Somalia; and the inevitable flare-up of major hostilities on the volatile border between the newly-created republic of South Sudan and Khartoum.
Israel is already providing South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit with military and intelligence assistance to counter the military support President Omar al-Bashir receives from Iran.
After a 40-year absence from this part of Africa, Israel is therefore regaining a major presence there and helping to draw a safety belt around its countries to ward off the intrusion of Islamist movements.
Those movements include the Muslim Brotherhood, which has climbed aboard Arab uprisings to attain the political center stage in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The Brotherhood is expected to scoop up least 40 percent of the vote in Egypt's first post-Mubarak elections starting Nov. 28.
Our sources emphasize that Israel's African entrée is coordinated with the Obama administration in Washington which is engaged in two parallel and contrasting thrusts. The US is sponsoring "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood elements in North Africa and the Arab countries alongside an effort in conjunction with Israel and France to strengthen the non-Muslim nations of East Africa and the Horn against the oncoming Islamist tide
Prime Minister Odinga ended his visit to Israel Sunday, Nov. 11 by stating, "Kenya got the backing of Israel to rid its territory of fundamentalist elements."
Peres and Netanyahu were careful to avoid involving Israel directly in Kenya's military intervention in Somalia. Like Washington Jerusalem too is wary of committing its military to any part of that country's long war against al Qaeda. Israel has designated its assistance to friendly Kenya as necessary to defend its border provinces against Al-Shabab's aggressive incursions and more abductions of Western citizens, while stopping at the Somalia border.
Odinga put it this way: "Israel would help Kenya's police force detect and destroy al-Shabab's networks in Kenya," a reference to the terrorist attacks carried out in Nairobi since Kenya invaded Somalia.
Our military sources report that Kenya's strategic goal is to capture the big southern Somali port of Kismayo, a town of a quarter of a million inhabitants on the coast of the Indian Ocean.
Al Shabab have made Kismayo their capital, its port facilities providing much of their revenue. Capture of this town would give Kenya control of most of southern Somalia. But it is beyond its military capabilities at the moment and so Nairobi bombards the city from the air.
It remains to be seen whether Israel's military assistance will help Kenya achieve this objective.