NAIROBI, Jun 12 – The EU and the US have been asked to help the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) to wrest the port of Kismayu from Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamists, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Tuesday.
“Our aim is to get to Kismayu by August,” Odinga said, saying that taking the Al Shabaab’s last bastion would entail an “operation by land, sea and air.”
“We have asked the EU to help us with the Atalanta forces that they have there; they are reluctant,” Odinga told a meeting with international media.
Between five and 10 warships, depending on the period, are deployed off the Horn of Africa as part of the European Union’s Atalanta operation that was launched in 2008 to protect merchant vessels from Somali pirates.
Atalanta’s mandate was expanded in March to include air-borne operations against pirate bases on the Somali coast.
However no mention was made of possible operations against the Shebab Islamists who are fighting the weak transitional government and who still control a large chunk of south and central Somalia.
“We have asked the Americans for assistance … we are talking about financial assistance,” he went on.
The assault on Kismayu “is going to be a joint effort,” the prime minister said. “We are working with other international groups which are in Somalia,” he said, citing Ugandan troops within AMISOM as well as Ethiopian forces.
Kenya rolled tanks and troops across the border into Somalia in October. The Ethiopians went in one month later.
The Kenyan contingent, which according to Nairobi numbers 4,631 soldiers, was officially integrated into AMISOM in early June.
Burundian and Ugandan troops in AMISOM pressured the Al Shabaab into abandoning fixed positions in Mogadishu in August.
The Islamists have lost other major towns such as Beledweyne and Baidoa but have so far held on to the port of Kismayo, from which they draw most of their revenue.
“Kismayu is the real major source of supply of the Shebab, without the control of Kismayu, it is very difficult to completely neutralise Shabaab,” Odinga said.