The October 2011 Kenyan invasion of Somalia: fighting al-Shabaab or defending institutional interests?

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This paper asks why Kenya invaded Somalia in October 2011. It scrutinises five possible explanations as to why Kenyan decision-makers decided to invade neighbouring Somalia. The explanations are inspired by different theoretical frameworks. Some are inspired by theories developed to analyse Western societies, whereas others are inspired by theoretical reflections aimed at understanding politics in Africa. It is concluded that the decision to invade Somalia was made because of the institutional and ‘bureaucratic’ interests of the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) advanced by a limited number of men of Somali-Kenyan origin who pursued their own interests. Security and economic concerns did play a role, while the paper dismisses that the invasion can be understood as a consequence of the Kenyan government pursuing an ‘international image management strategy’. Theoretically, the paper concludes that ‘Western’ theories may contribute to explaining the launch of ‘Linda Nchi,’ whereas Africa-focused theories like neo-patrimonialism seem less helpful in this particular context.
TidsskriftJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)39-53
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2018


  • Bureaucratic interests
  • Terrorism
  • Kenyan Defense Forces
  • National security
  • Neo-classical realism
  • neo-patrimonialism

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