Uhuru says KDF soldiers in Somalia to stay longer

KDF soldiers during patrol at Afmadow in Somalia on November 22, 2015. FILE PHOTO | NMG
KDF soldiers during patrol at Afmadow in Somalia on November 22, 2015. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

President Uhuru Kenyatta has reiterated that Kenya won’t withdraw troops from war-torn neighbour until Al-Shabaab militants are defeated.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has ruled out a quick return of the Kenyan soldiers from Somalia, saying they will remain in the war-torn country until political stability is achieved.

In an apparent response to frequent Opposition calls for immediate withdrawal of troops from Somalia, Mr Kenyatta said the soldiers would stay put until Kenyans are assured of their safety.

“The world has learnt from the catastrophes in the Middle East and parts of North Africa that the terrorists who seek the destruction of democracies like Kenya can quickly exploit vacuums in governance and government,” he said in his Madaraka Day speech on Thursday.

“That is why we will continue with our stabilisation mission in Somalia, keeping to the commitments we have made, alongside our neighbours and the international community, to support Somalia for the sake of its security and ours.”

Hundreds of Kenyan soldiers crossed into the troubled Horn of Africa country in October 2011 to flush out Al-Shabaab militants.

The soldiers are working alongside the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Their operation, though credited for reduced Indian Ocean piracy and cross-border terrorist attacks, has come at a heavy price with hundreds of them losing their lives.

Al-Shabaab has also organised several attacks on Kenyan interests in a bid to force the soldiers out of Somalia.

The United Nations-backed Amisom has since announced its intention to pull out of Somalia beginning next year following the February 8 presidential elections.

It costs billions of shillings to keep the soldiers in Somalia.

According to data published by the Treasury last Friday, the UN has disbursed Sh4.975 billion in the last 10 months of 2016/17 financial year or 77 per cent of the Sh6.44 billion annual budget of keeping the soldiers in Somalia.

President Kenyatta said Kenyan soldiers will continue to fight the terrorists in Somalia as security agencies step up efforts to extinguish homeland extremism.

“We are also working to ensure that citizen engagement, and innovative tools to disengage, rehabilitate and reintegrate criminals and extremists, will complement our security system,” he said in Nyeri.