, MOGADISHU, Jul 1 – Somalia’s government has demanded that Kenyan troops stationed in the volatile port city of Kismayu as part of an African Union force be replaced, accusing them of backing a militia force opposing Mogadishu.
Calling for a “more neutral African Union force”, Somalia’s information ministry accused the troops of supporting militia soldiers “in violation of their mandate”, as well as attacking civilians and arresting a top government army commander.
Several rival factions are battling for control of Kismayu, a strategic and economic hub in the southern Jubaland region: these include former Islamist chief Ahmed Madobe, who in May appointed himself “president” of Jubaland, and Bare Hirale, a former Somali defence minister who also leads a powerful militia.
The Kenyan troops, who invaded Somalia in 2011, ousting Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab fighters from Kismayu before joining the 17,700-strong AU force known as AMISOM, back Madobe’s control of the region.
But since Mogadishu’s weak central government does not recognise the title of “president” or the region of Jubaland, the Kenyan troops are seen as opposing the central government they are mandated – and funded by the UN and European Union – to support.
Abdishakur Ali Mire, Somali deputy information minister, called for an “immediate replacement” of Kenyan troops there with AU forces from other nations.