, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 27 – Two senior government officials on Thursday issued contradictory statements on Kenya’s stand on the Al Shabaab militia that is currently being pursued by Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia.
Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua vowed that the government would never negotiate with a criminal gang like the Al Shabaab but Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka said negotiations with the militia were welcome.
Addressing a news conference at Parliament Buildings, Onyonka said the Al Qaeda-linked terror group has frequently and constantly been in touch with the Kenyan government.
“If the Al Shabaab would like to discuss and engage with the Kenyan government, our channels are very open,” said Mr Onyonka.
“If they don’t renounce violence, the Kenyan government shall not discuss anything with them,” added the Foreign Affairs assistant minister.
He also said that the government had allowed elements of the outlawed group to settle in the country as they sought a peaceful resolution to the Somalia crisis.
“We know that some Al Shabaab people have been staying here and it was a deliberate government decision to allow them to stay here, because we were engaged with them,” said Onyonka.
“The details are available on where they own their properties, where their moneys are… the Kenyan government knows. But even when that is an issue, the position the Kenyan government has had is that we should allow them to have room so we can negotiate with them,” he added.
Speaking separately at his weekly media briefing, the Government Spokesman exuded confidence that Kenya was already winning the war against them.
Mutua said: “There are no plans and that there is no indication of Kenya holding discussions or negotiating with the Al Shabaab, Kenya does not negotiate with outlawed or criminal gangs.”
He declined to confirm or deny reports by a section of the international media claiming that the Al Shabaab had approached the government for negotiations.
Onyonka said the government would confiscate the property of the Al Shabaab members and cautioned against ethnic profiling or the harassment of innocent Kenyans.
Kenya has asked the President of the Transitional Federation of Government to clarify his statement this week that suggested the Kenyan military is not welcome in that country.
(Lordrick Mayabi also contributed to this story)