"I hope in three or four months, al-Shabab will have been removed from our region. Then one day I'll invite you to come to Kismayo to see what's going on," said Abdullahi Shafi, personal assistant to the governor of Somalia's Lower Juba region.
He is hopeful that with Kenyan military help, he can soon return home to a new semi-autonomous region in southern Somalia.
"We have been in hell for the last 20 years. We need a new Somalia," he said, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Azania" - the name of the new region which comprises Gedo, Lower Juba and Middle Juba. It already has a flag - blue, white and red - a parliament, a house of elders and a president in waiting.
The Kenyan government says it sent troops to Somalia to fight al-Shabab, whom it blames for the recent kidnappings of tourists and aid workers.
But analysts point out that for several years Kenya, with international support, has been pushing for Azania, traditionally known as Jubaland, to be set up. Kenya has trained and equipped Somali troops, as it would like a buffer zone to shield its territory from lawless Somalia.
So some analysts see the kidnappings as just a convenient excuse for carrying out the plan militarily.
Long and messy
The Kenyan media, which have scarcely questioned the motive for going to war, have told the country about captured towns that no one has ever heard of.
"It's not going to be easy for Kenya to stabilise and pacify that part of Somalia, much less drive out al-Shabab," said Rashid Abdi, of the International Crisis Group. "I think the Kenyans are into a very long and messy intervention in Somalia."
Rich in oil?
The man who hopes to soon end his absentee presidency says the creation of Azania, in April, came about following the consultation of more than 30 clans.
He says he is not a separatist, but speaks of a bright future for his people in a Somalia where power is devolved from Mogadishu.
"Our priority will be to consolidate the peace, set up the administration and re-establish education and health systems before we move on to development and infrastructure," Somali MP Professor Mohammed Abdi Gandhi said in Nairobi.
"To my knowledge, there are no groups or companies that have come to us. When it's peaceful, then we will open the door and all the international oil companies can come to explore. Nothing is under the table."
Somali government officials have given mixed reactions to the Kenyan incursion.
President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said the government was grateful for logistical support but said the Kenyans should stay out of Somalia - a comment which drew this response from the president of Azania.
"Sheikh Sharif doesn't want change. To prolong his power, he wants the status quo. He wants al-Shabab to stay. He is a big obstacle to peace. He has done a lot to block our programme," Professor Gandhi said - without ruling out the possibility of this stance leading to armed conflict between the president's and his soldiers.
"If he keeps the status quo, he can convince the international community that he is fighting al-Shabab. He needs more help and more time. For him, all he has in mind is to stay in power."