Kenya’s military spokesman is using Twitter to warn people not to help al-Qaeda-linked militants by selling them an old-world transportation tool: donkeys.
Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir is tweeting updates on Kenya’s military push into Somalia to fight the al-Shabaab militants.
On Thursday, he warned unidentified planes to stay out of the region for fear they were transporting weapons to al-Shabaab. Chirchir said in an interview that Kenya would shoot down any planes that officials suspect are full of weapons.
His commentary also carries the kind of military warnings not usually issued by the Pentagon or NATO: Southern Somalia is getting heavy rains that vehicles can’t move through. Accordingly, the price of animal transport has shot up.
“Kenyans dealing in donkey trade along the Kenya-Somali border are advised not to sell their animals to al-Shabaab,” Chirchir tweeted, adding: “Selling Donkeys to ae l-Shabaab will undermine our efforts in Somalia.”
“In addition we are also reliably informed that the cost of donkeys has risen from [US]$150 to [US]$200 for a donkey. Thus, any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered as Al Shabaab activity,” Chirchir said.
Chirchir said that Twitter is an easy way to quickly and easily communicate the military’s message and that many Somalians are online. Earlier this week, Chirchir tweeted a list of 10 Somalian towns it warned would soon be attacked, prompting residents to flee after Somali media picked up the story.
“When you do something on Twitter it goes onto the Internet and people who see it can even call those who can’t see it,” he said. “We’re getting good feedback that Somalis are moving away from al-Shabaab camps. It is heard in Mogadishu, Kismayo and Baidoa.”
Chirchir said the Kenyan military has informants who have said that three flights carrying weapons for al-Shabaab have landed in Baidoa, Somalia in the past week. Residents and a Somalian legislator say that al-Shabaab fighters had blocked off the access to the airport in the central Somalian town of Baidoa.
“All aircrafts are hereby warned not to land in BAIDOA. Anyone violating this will be doing so at their peril,” Chirchir tweeted.