Uhuru’s decision to keep troops in Somalia elicits mixed reactions

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KDF soldiers in Somalia

Despite losing most of its key strongholds to the allied forces, Kenya has lost more than 200 soldiers in two separate attacks in their military base in Somalia

By Njeri Kimani, editorial@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI – Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta early in May announced that their troops would stay in Somalia longer despite calls by the opposition to have them out.

Kenyatta argued that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops which had been sent to the country under the Operation Linda Inchi would move out once they completely defeat the Alshabaab extremist group. The operation, which started in October 2011, was a coordinated, military operation between the Kenyan and Somalia Troops and was also meant to prevent the fragile country from going back to the Somalia Civil war.

“Somalia will get on a firm growth trajectory if AMISOM is beefed up. The troops have made significant progress in degrading terrorism activities and stabilizing Somalia and any interference is dangerous,” he added.

Uhuru said that they had not achieved their purpose of ensuring that the country’s security was at par hence the need for them to linger longer. There are about 3000 Kenyan soldiers working towards establishing peace in the country alongside troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia. In his speech Kenyatta pointed out that withdrawing from Somalia at this time would destroy the fragile country.

Kenya has lost more than 200 soldiers in two separate attacks in their military base.

In January thisyear Alshabaab claimed to have killed 57 Kenyan troops in their military base in Kulbiyow in the South of the Horn of Africa.

The militants’ pokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab saidthat had not only counted the 57 bodies but had seized their vehicles and weapons.

In January 2016 Alshabaab claimed it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in El-Adde, a camp near the border.

Former Somalia president Hassan Sheikh Mohhamud claimed the number of soldiers killed in the dawn attack stood at between 180 and 200. Speaking on Somali Cable TV, Mohhamud confirmed fears that the Alshabaab were right in claiming they had killed more than 100 soldiers, a revelation that brought fear to the families who soldiers were in the battle field.

The Kenyan government has up to date refused to release the exact number of the soldiers who died in the attack.

It’s a decision that has brought mixed reactions in both countries, with the Kenyan opposition still maintaining that the soldiers should be withdrawn from the war torn country.

Defense Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia, who lost his brother Corporal Joel Koome Kaberia is among the senior government officials who has been directly affected by the attacks.

Corporal Kaberia was among the soldiers killed in the El Adde attack.

In April this year, a video of a Kenyan soldier held captive by Alshabaab pleading with the government to help him went viral.

At least 12 soldiers were captured in the El-Adde attack with terrorist using them as human shield.

David Ngugi identifies himself as a Kenyan soldier asks the president and the first lady to help secure his release and that of his colleagues. Ngugi said that many soldiers died but some of them are still held captive.

*Peter Muchiri, who lost a brother in this year’s attack, claims that the government is misusing their soldiers. He termed it unwise for them to continue serving yet they had already secured peace in the country’s capital and had managed to drive the extremist back to the villages.

“My brother shouldn’t have died. There should have been enough intelligence to warn them of any pending attack. I feel that the government ignored the telltale signs that were being issued by the militia. Having them stay there longer would mean putting their lives back on the line and opening grounds for any attack,” he added.

Sameer Ibrahim, from Mogadishu, appreciates the role KDF plays in ensuring peace is stabilized.

“We know they are better equipped than we are and have undergone better training that the Somalia Defense Force. Alshabaab has been playing games with our government because they knew they were ill prepared. Pulling out would mean making us susceptible to daily attacks,” he added.

However Omar Juma, also from Mogadishu, feels that they have played their role and hence should be allowed to serve back in their country.

“We have a 20 year old civil war and we never learnt anything, people are still killing each other. Their presence will not make such a huge difference. What is needed is to preach peace, not to introduce more fighting human machines,” he added.

Milka Nyawira, who lost a brother, says his brother did not die in vain.

“He was a hero as he died defending a country. He should be given all the accolades that he deserves. Even though I miss him I know that his death was not in vain. I hope that one day Somalia will appreciate the sacrifices that its neighbors took for them.” She added.

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