Cable reveals British preference for APs

February 6, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – The latest secret US diplomatic cables released last week shows that the UK Counter-Terrorism department did not trust the effectiveness of elite units within the Kenyan military to patrol the Somalia border.

As a result, the UK was instead keen on equipping the Administration Police department with a modern radio communications network to enable its officers undertake the task of proving patrols along the porous border.

"UK CT efforts in Kenya are focused on two key areas: – Establishment of a radio communications network for the Administrative Police in the North East and Coast provinces for border security," the cable released last Thursday reads in part.

It further reveals that the UK had carried an assessment and established weaknesses within the elite units within the Kenyan military, depicting the inability to undertake proper border patrols.

The cable created in December 2009 says the UK did not agree with assurances from Kenya\’s Ministry of Defence that the units charged with the border patrol responsibility were up to the task.

"The Kenyan Ministry of Defence sees this unit as being a fully capable SF (Special Forces) unit.  "However, the UK assessment is that the unit still falls short of full SF capabilities."

The UK\’s Counter-Terrorism\’s major concerns are that the units within the military can easily be recalled and assigned other tasks hence exposing the borders to insecurity.

"There is concern that the unit might be diverted from CT to perform other duties," the cable sent from the US Embassy in Nairobi to Washington says and continues to warn that "the unit also has yet to be tested under operational conditions."

Kenyan military forces have been undertaking border patrols along the 682-kilometer border with Somalia which was closed in December 2006, fearing an escalation of violence and attacks by fighters loyal to Osama Bin Laden\’s al-Qaeda terror network.

But even as the UK spearhead efforts to have APs acquire advanced communication channels to undertake border patrol duties on the porous border with Somalia, the US warned that "getting multi-agency buy-in within the Kenyan government is difficult."

It states that "The intelligence service has the primary responsibility for Counter Terrorism but the police services provide critical support, including border control."

Kenya is experiencing a major challenge in securing its border with Somalia and has sent contingents of military forces and the police to establish permanent bases on the borders.

The focus on securing the border was prompted by several attempts by militia groups linked to Al Shabaab to cross over into the country.

On some occasions, they have kidnapped local residents who are later released after negotiations by elders and members of the Provincial Administration.

In other instances, Kenyan security forces have had to exchange fire with foreign militiamen at the border points in North Eastern Province, leading to deaths and injuries.

In October last year, intense fighting between Somalia\’s Al Shabaab and other rival militia groups at the Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia border left 30 dead.

Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia said two Kenyans including a young girl were among those wounded in the fighting at the border.

"There has been intense fighting at the border with Somalia where Al Shabaab and other rival groups are fighting.  So far, 30 people have been killed on the Somalia side," Mr Kimemia said at the time.

"We have a young girl and a man who have been wounded on our side but security has been intensified at the border.  We now have round-the-clock patrols to ensure our people are safe," he said and added: "One of those wounded was shot in the hip."

"We have the GSU, army and regular police patrolling those parts, our border is secure despite the intense fighting there," Mr Kimemia assured at a past function in Embakasi.

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