By: Capital Fm
Kenyan President William Ruto now says Kenya’s top priority is to help stabilize Somalia stating that it is in the region’s best interest to ensure President Hassan Mohamud’s government succeeds.
Speaking to Aljazeera on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Saturday, President Ruto said Kenya is paying a heavy price for its military intervention in the neighboring country that continues to bear the brunt of frequent attacks from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militant group.
Ruto described Mohamud, who took over the country’s leadership in May, as a “much more progressive and a positive person” who is more committed to countering violent extremism.
“It is in our best interest, economic interest, and security interest to make sure Somalia works and I think President Hassan gives us the best possible chance,” Ruto said in a recorded interview with Aljazeera.
The Head of State said that having in place a functional security arrangement will allow Kenya to pull out its troops from the country and pave way for other engagements on the solutions to challenges affecting both countries.
The Kenyan military is among the forces currently serving under the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) alongside troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Uganda and are tasked with helping Somali forces fight the Al-Shabaab which continues to wreak havoc in the region despite progress in degrading it.
Ruto’s remarks come at a time when plans are underway for the troops serving under ATMIS to leave the country by 2024 and transfer all the responsibilities to the Somali forces.
Kenyan troops first entered Somalia in 2011 when the country launched a military offensive against the Al-Shabaab in an operation code-named “Operation Linda Nchi” to counter a rising insurgency that saw a number of tourists abducted from the Kenyan coast.
As a result of Kenya’s involvement in Somalia, the country has suffered several large-scale and small-scale attacks from the Shabaab militant group both in the country and Kenya’s security installations outside the country.
Six years ago, on January 15, 2016, Al-Shabaab militants mounted a major attack on a Kenyan-run AMISOM army base in El Adde, Gedo, Somalia leaving at least 100 soldiers dead. Though Kenya is yet to release the official figures on the number of casualties, the El Adde attack remains one of the deadliest against Kenyan forces.
Kenya last suffered a major terror attack on January 15, 2019, at the Dusit D2 Hotel complex in Nairobi where more than 20 people were killed among them sixteen Kenyans, an American, a South African, a Briton, and 3 others who were not identified. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Other major attacks carried out by the Al Shabaab include a siege on the Westgate Shopping Mall on September 21, 2013, which left 71 people dead among them four terrorists, and Garissa University on April 3, 2015, when 147 people, many of them students were killed, among others.
Even as Kenya prepares to leave Somalia, security experts in Kenya and Somalia have proposed the creation of a border defense force as part of long-term measures to combat the growing threat of violent extremism in the region.
Speaking last week during a virtual discussion hosted by Counterterrorism Policing Kenya — a joint initiative of State, Non-State Actors and Citizens on counterterrorism efforts, participants argued that the scaling up of military presence in terror-prone areas will play a crucial role in preventing the penetration of extremist elements seeking to destabilize the region.
“My expectation and my hope is that the current President (William Ruto) will actually recommit Kenya’s engagement in Somalia for the time being so that everything is choreographed, and Kenya does not make a hasty retreat,” Rashid Abdi, Chief Analyst, Horn of Africa and the Gulf said on September 15.