, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – The African Union’s Special Envoy to Somalia, Jerry Rawlings, has called on the military operation against the Al Shabaab to be conducted humanely.
The former Ghanaian president reiterated that Kenya had the right to take the initiative to protect its boundaries and sovereignty owing to several violations by the Al Qaeda inspired militants.
Rawlings, who paid a courtesy call on Defence Minister Yusuf Haji in Nairobi, however said that all efforts must be made to reduce the number of civilian casualties.
“I appeal that the combat operation is undertaken in possibly the most professional way so that political and moral high ground is not lost to those being fought.”
“It is important that we maintain the support of the civil populace, it’s important that we reduce to the minimum numbers of civilian casualties. We do not want to be talking about undue collateral damage,” he asserted.
Rawlings said much effort has to be made to reach out to the political leadership to harmonise the developing peace situation with the country’s political ambitions.
“We need to create an umbilical cord between the politicians (MPs who live out of Somalia) and the painful realities on the ground, they need to spend more time with the people rather than out of Somalia,” he emphasised.
Rawlings, who first ruled Ghana as a military dictator, additionally urged that an avenue be provided for negotiation with Somali militants who are willing to down their weapons.
“These militants have a force of conviction; even as we do combat, let’s also create an opening for them to come on board politically. All doors must not be shut for them,” he appealed to parties seeking peace stability in Somalia.
The Kenyan government has previously maintained that it will not negotiate with the Al Shabaab.
He further called on the international community not to relent in the aid efforts even as the rain season brings hope for cultivation.
“Even if the children are not looking as bony and miserable a they were before, the humanitarian plight is not over, organisations should continue to offer humanitarian aid until the situation is stable,” he said.
Meanwhile the Kenyan military has already received 600 bags of maize from the Kenya Red Cross to boost the humanitarian efforts in areas already freed from the Al Shabaab in Somalia.
Colonel Cyrus Oguna in charge of information and operations at the Department of Defence also said that they had received 1,000 copies of Bibles mainly for the soldiers in Somalia and over 3,000 Qurans for the local Somali population.
The Bibles were received from Trans World Radio while the Qurans were received from the Muslim Youth alliance.