The Battle at El Adde: The Kenya Defence Forces, al-Shabaab, and Unanswered Questions

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) at El Adde in the Gedo region of Somalia on January 22, 2016. Source: AMISOM/ Abdisalan Omar.

In January 2016, Kenya suffered its largest ever military defeat at the battle of El Adde in the Gedo region of Somalia. Yet many of the questions surrounding this attack remain unanswered. On the six-month anniversary of the battle at El Adde, this report provides a preliminary analysis of the battle and some of the wider issues with respect to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

This issue brief lays out a number of lessons the attack on El Adde can offer to the Kenya Defence Forces, AMISOM, and all peace operations engaged in various forms of stabilization and counterinsurgency. Lessons for AMISOM include the following:

  • It is crucial for AMISOM to develop positive relationships with local communities, without which the mission will struggle to acquire information and earn trust and support, including from the Somali National Army.
  • AMISOM needs better intelligence-gathering capabilities to ensure it is aware of the movements of major al-Shabaab formations.
  • The lack of communication and coordination across AMISOM’s different national contingents played into al-Shabaab’s hands.
  • The lack of an AMISOM rapid-response force and military air assets under the force commander’s control meant there was no hope of rescue in the event of an al-Shabaab attack.