NAIROBI, Kenya, March 3 – Kenyan Defense Forces in Somalia could wind up their offensive in the war torn country in October this year.
Military Spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna told a press briefing on Saturday that the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia AMISOM, under which KDF is operating, ends on October 31.
“Since we were integrated into AMISOM, we will operate within its mandate which expires on October 31 this year. We expect to be there for as long as that mandate is running. The mandate within that resolution is peace enforcement which is meant to provide an environment within Somalia that would allow for political processes to take place,” he revealed.
He however stated that the withdrawal of troops from Somalia may depend on the situation on the ground and should it succeed will be followed by the pacification process.
“In the event that it is not conducive for other processes to take place, they may determine whether to extend that period or otherwise. Nonetheless, assuming that it ends on October 31 this year, what happens next is that it will be followed by peace keeping,” he said.
Oguna pointed out that a meeting by the African Union Peace and Security Council due next week will decide whether Kenyans troops may remain in Somalia once the offensive ends.
“The possibility of our troops who are there to re-hat again from Green Beret to blue beret is very high. Right now we are rehating from black to green and then come October possibly to blue, that is peacekeeping but it must be ushered in based on various factors that are taking place on the ground and it is not for us to decide. It is for the African Union Peace and Security Council based on the assessment of what is happening on the ground,” he explained.
A meeting to decide the number of troops Kenya should contribute to the African Union Mission in Somalia is in the meantime set to take place next week in Ethiopia Addis Ababa.
Oguna stated that the meeting will also make arrangement on how troops from the contributing countries will be controlled and commanded.
“Issues were asked with regard to the command and control arrangement and this coming week there will be a meeting of Political and military leadership that will be held in Addis Ababa and it will be able to articulate issues to do with command and other logistical arrangements,” he said.
He pointed out that the meeting will also decide on the timeline of the transition period once the offensive ends.
“The transition phase will go on based on the timeline that will be held in Addis Ababa next week. Other details regarding the force level to be issued by the four major contributing countries will be discussed in that meeting,” he said.
He further called for vigilance along Kenya’s border with Somalia and refugee camps saying foreign Al Shabaab sympathisers are fleeing from Somalia.
He said any suspicious looking people should be reported to the authorities so as to safeguard the region from attack.
“The foreign fighters within the Al-Shabaab are actually taking off. We have observed most of them fleeing toward the south and the Western border. We suspect that they want to gain entry into the refugee camps along our borders,” he said. “We are asking for vigilance around the border areas and the refugee camps so that if they see any suspicious characters they should be able to inform the authorities.”
He further stated that the army will not relent in its offensive until the Al-Shabaab threat was minimised.
“Our message to Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab is that it does not matter to us where they run. The fact remains that for as long as they are in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti or anywhere else, we will hunt them down,” he stated.
“The only place they can be safe is if they are out of those regions. That is our message to them that as long as they are in those regions, we will hunt them down and eliminate them,” he said.