War against mili­tias in So­ma­lia en­ters con­di­tional tran­sit stage

In the fi­nal phase, the troops are to hand over to the So­ma­lia Na­tional Army

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - NEWS - BY FRED MUKINDA fmukinda@ke.na­tion­media.com

In to­tal, there are over 21,000 African Union troops in So­ma­lia

Nearly seven years af­ter Kenyan troops crossed the border to fight the al-shabaab in So­ma­lia, the war has en­tered a cru­cial phase which could see the sol­diers re­turn home in 2020.

In the tran­si­tion phase, the troops will sur­ren­der their For­ward Oper­at­ing Bases to the So­mali Na­tional Army.

There are also po­lice sta­tions manned by Kenyan of­fi­cers which, too, will be handed over to their So­ma­lia coun­ter­parts. But the with­drawal is de­signed to be grad­ual and con­di­tional.

Be­sides Kenya, there are more troops from Uganda, Dji­bouti, Ethiopia and Bu­rundi who are also ex­pected to pull out when the United Na­tions man­date ends in 2020.

In to­tal, there are over 21,000 African Union troops in So­ma­lia.

At present, all the African troops there are un­der Kenya’s Ma­jor-gen­eral Tai Gi­tuai, who is the act­ing com­man­der of the joint force.

He said: “The tran­sit plan is con­di­tional. We will give them the For­ward Oper­at­ing Bases on con­di­tion that they will have the re­sources and ac­quired ca­pa­bil­i­ties to op­er­ate on their own.”

Maj-gen Gi­tuai went on: “It is a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach that will also in­volve the po­lice as well as de­vel­op­ment part­ners. They must have pris­ons, a work­ing ju­di­cial sys­tem, schools and health cen­tres.”

He also re­vealed that the Euro­pean Union has given 100 mil­lion Eu­ros (Sh11.8 bil­lion) to make the dream a re­al­ity. The funds are meant to last until 2020, when So­ma­lia is ex­pected to hold a Gen­eral Elec­tion.

“That time, African Union Mis­sion to So­ma­lia (Ami­som) may exit on con­di­tions. As of now, our troops, other po­lice and civil­ian com­po­nents of Ami­som are men­tor­ing So­ma­lians and pro­fes­sion­al­is­ing their agen­cies. We are look­ing at a tran­si­tion driven by So­mali gov­ern­ment be­cause we feel there is abil­ity they can take care of se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” said Maj-gen Gi­tuai.

The forces have di­vided So­ma­lia into sec­tors and Kenyans are de­ployed in Sec­tor 2 as well as Kis­mayu area.

The Kenyan troops are spread out in 16 For­ward Oper­at­ing Bases with the head­quar­ters at Dhob­ley.

Dhob­ley was a stronghold of al­shabaab be­fore the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops flushed out the ter­ror­ists in 2011.

The pull­out be­gan in earnest as the Ami­som force last year with­drew 1,000 sol­diers af­ter a United Na­tions (UN) res­o­lu­tion. An ad­di­tional 1,000 Ami­som troops are sup­posed to re­turn to their coun­tries by Oc­to­ber, in line with an­other UN res­o­lu­tion.

Kenyan com­man­ders in So­ma­lia are, how­ever, cau­tious of the draw-downs.

Bri­gadier Joachim Ngure Mwamburi is Sec­tor 2 Com­man­der, plac­ing him squarely on the front-lines.

“We are ready to hand over to the So­ma­lia mil­i­tary but we have to be sure that, on their own, they can hold lib­er­ated ar­eas af­ter we hand over. They are upbeat in re­cruit­ment and we are ready to train. But if the So­mali Na­tional Army (SNA) is not ready, in num­bers and re­sources, the UN should hold the draw-down,” he said.

The Gen­er­als are also con­cerned that SNA may find chal­lenges in oper­at­ing as a unit af­ter the pull­out be­cause, as of now, it is a col­lec­tion of re­gional armies, and each is re­ceiv­ing dif­fer­ent train­ing from foreign forces.

In Kis­mayu, the Bri­tish have been train­ing So­mali Army of­fi­cers while in Lower Juba, KDF are help­ing Juba­land Defence Force. Other coun­tries in­volved in train­ing are the United States’ Africa Com­mand, the United Arab Emi­rates, Turkey, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Maj-gen Gi­tuai said be­cause mil­i­taries have dif­fer­ent train­ing and doc­trines, the SNA sol­diers will not be im­me­di­ately re­ar­ranged into one.

“Those trained in Baidoa will be de­ployed there and those in Kis­mayu like­wise. But the of­fi­cers cadre, trained by the Bri­tish, is more of a sin­gle unit,” he said.

KDF en­tered So­ma­lia in Oc­to­ber 2011, five years af­ter Bu­rundi and Ugan­dan troops had de­ployed in Mo­gadishu un­der Ami­som.

Kenya joined Ami­som in 2012 at the re­quest of the African Union and the UN.

FRED MUKINDA | NA­TION

Kenya Defence Forces sol­diers at­tached to Ami­som keep guard at Tabda camp in So­ma­lia.

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