, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 5 -The Kenyan military has slowed down on the offensive against the Al Shabaab to allow for humanitarian assistance for the Somali people.
According to Colonel Cyrus Oguna from the Department of Defence, the military officers are now providing an enabling environment to aid organisations that the Al Shabaab had blocked from operating.
Colonel Oguna who was briefing the press at the police headquarters on Saturday also said the military had contributed towards humanitarian support in the towns already liberated from the Al Shabaab.
Oguna said: “We have slowed down the tempo of the operation to help the Somali people and we are also giving NGO’s a conducive environment to give humanitarian aid, previously the Al Shabaab had blocked them from operating.”
Oguna said that the troops were nearing Kismayu although the issue of blockading the port was still under consideration as it served other useful purposes other than those of the Al Shabaab.
“One of the possibilities we are looking at is not the blockade. The port serves other vital functions for the Somali people, so we are broadly consulting with friendly nations,” he reiterated.
He however said that the ban on fishing activities at the coast still stands and urged the locals to heed to it. Oguna emphasised that vigilance still remains high at sea and that the Kenya Navy will deal decisively with any boats at sea that do not stop when challenged.
He said the Navy was on Saturday morning still in pursuit of a boat that failed to stop when challenged but in instead its occupants shot at Kenyan officers.
On Wednesday, the Kenya Defense forces said it had sunk a boat of the Al Shabaab fighters in the high seas, killing 18 militants.
However some families in Mombasa emerged on Friday and claimed those killed, were Kenyans on a fishing expedition who were returning home.
Colonel Oguna however maintained that those killed failed to stop when told to do so.
“It is hard to know who is an enemy and who is not an enemy, any boat or ship that is challenged and fails to stop will be dealt with. There is a fishing ban, the border is closed and everybody must respect it,” he stressed.
At the same time Colonel Oguna intimated that the military had received information on weapons that the Al Shabaab had received. He said the weapons had been distributed in various towns but the military was determined to handle the situation.
During the same briefing, Deputy Police Spokesman Charles Owino who also accompanied him said that the police had stepped up vigilance in the country.
Owino however called upon Kenyans to stop discrimination against the Somali community as Al Shabaab draws its membership widely not only from the Somali.
“Our main concern now is the stigma going on about the Somali people, we would like to caution against it, let the Kenyan people not stigmatise the Somali or any other visitor.
Any person can be an Al Shabaab not necessarily the Somali,” he said giving the example of Oliacha Bwire who was sentenced for life in jail last week for being a member of the terrorist group.
Elsewhere, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has warned that the continued branding of Kenyan Somalis as Al-Shabaab sympathizers, could fuel xenophobic attacks against the community.
Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia who addressed journalists as his Delta house offices vowed that his commission would not allow the hate campaign that has been mainly propagated on social media, broadcasts and SMS text messages.
“These include one that advises Kenyans to alight from matatus if they get on board. This out-rightly amounts to fear mongering and is likely to fuel xenophobic attacks against the community. We shall not allow this to happen,” said Kibunjia
“People become Al-Shabaab or any militia group on their individual capacity and not as an ethnic group or race,” he reiterated.