Al Shabaab Wants To Behead China’s LAPSSET Silk Road

Al Shabaab Wants To Behead China’s LAPSSET Silk Road


Al Shabaab beheaded nine people in a coastal area of Kenya that’s supposed to be the staging ground for one of China’s most ambitious New Silk Road projects in the region.

 The scene of this gruesome terrorist attack was Lamu County, a region of Kenya abutting the Somalian border and therefore susceptible to Al Shabaab’s penetration. The group has attacked Kenya several times before in high-profile incidents, but this one is different because of where it took place. Instead of in the much larger city of Garissa or its namesake county where most of these attacks have happened in the past, this one occurred near the small, sleepy fishing village of Lamu that’s expected to host China’s Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Economic Corridor, otherwise known as LAPSSET. This multimodal transport corridor is one of China’s chief New Silk Road investments in all of Africa and aims to create a strategic network linking Kenya with is South Sudanese and Ethiopian neighbors, which is very significant because the last two states are landlocked, though the former has major oil supplies while the latter is among the fastest-growing economies in the world.  China just built the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railroad to connect Ethiopia to the outside world through its tiny coastal neighbor Djibouti, but the Chinese understand the importance of having a secondary route for reaching this country, especially one which connects the region’s two largest economies. As for South Sudan, it’s hoped that improving its access to the outside world could help real-sector economic and commercial development seep in and counteract the humanitarian crisis that’s exploded there since its still-unresolved civil war broke out a few years ago shortly after the country’s independence. China is building a military base in Ethiopia’s Djiboutian chokepoint and has dispatched peacekeepers to South Sudan, so it’s clearly invested in both countries’ success, hence the prioritization given to LAPSSET as a complementary vehicle for ensuring their long-term stability.  

 Enter Al Shabaab, which is now threatening the viability of the LAPSSET Corridor through its recent terrorist upsurge in Lamu and the enduring danger that it presents to the entire east Kenyan portion of this project. This terrorist group might have arisen due to unique regional conditions, but it nowadays fits into the global strategic model being spearheaded by the US, which is to wage identity-centric Hybrid Wars in geostrategic transit states along China’s New Silk Roads in order to disrupt, control, or influence these initiatives. Al Shabaab’s latest beheading spree should be seen in this context and analyzed for the effect that it’ll have on LAPSSET, as well as the chances that it could serve as an impetus for strengthening the military aspects of the Chinese-Kenyan Strategic Partnership.

 There’s little doubt that Al Shabaab will remain a constant threat to this project and others so long as it enjoys its Somalian safe havens, so there’s a chance that China might press the African Union and specifically its Kenyan and Ethiopian partners to once again take the risk and commence military operations there in order to decisively defeat it. In exchange, China could promise that it will come in afterwards and rebuild the country in order to turn it into a key node on the New Silk Road, eventually redeveloping it just like it plans to do with South Sudan through LAPSSET as a means of giving Somalians their best bet yet for prolonged stability in the 21st century.

Andrew KORYBKO  Political analyst / Moscow

 DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.  

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