WASHINGTON, Oct 2 – The United States Monday praised Kenyan troops from an African Union force for driving out Islamist rebels from the Somali port of Kismayu, and urged Somali leaders to now stabilize the town.
“Somalia is a good news story for the region,” the top US diplomat for Africa Johnnie Carson told reporters, pointing to the nation’s new constitution, and its new parliament and president, after years of lawlessness.
“We applaud the work of AMISOM and what they have done in helping to degrade and defeat and push Al-Shabaab out of Somalia’s main cities.
“We believe that this will help to bring about a return to stability in Somalia, and reduce over time the terrorist threat to Somalia and neighboring states,” Carson added on a conference call.
He said he hoped the Kenyan presence in Kismayu “will not be seen as an occupying force, and that the government in Mogadishu, working alongside AMISOM and the UN, will go in very quickly and establish a political stability, and a political system that takes into account the various clan and sub-clan interests.”
Kenyan troops from the 17,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) entered Kismayu for the first time Monday, witnesses said, three days after launching a beach assault that drove out the militants.
But Somali militia who have been fighting alongside the Kenyans also moved in, raising fears that the second city in southern and central Somalia — which the Shabaab had run for four years — could descend into chaos.
The Kenyan presence in Kismayu was not a “military occupation,” he said, adding it “is intended to be part of a very temporary liberation strategy, that quickly allows Somali leadership to take control.”
And he insisted that this leadership should come from the new government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
The United States was also now going to prioritize helping the Somali leaders build up its national army, as well as helping the government to reform its own infrastructure and the infrastructure of the nation.
“Going forward we would anticipate that most of our new and additional resources will be directed at helping to train and provision a new Somali military. Not to continue to expand AMISOM,” Carson said.
“The focus should be on creating a new Somali army, that will take over from AMISOM, and will assume the responsibilities of providing national security and defense for the nation.”