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KDF top commander meets SNA chiefs in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

KISMAYO, Somalia - A top Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] commander on Thursday held a closed-door meeting with a section of the Somali National Army [SNA] leadership serving in the volatile Gedo region, just months after reported differences between the two security teams.

Early this year, the SNA troops accused the KDF team of supporting Jubaland forces, something which led to an altercation at Balad-Hawo town in the common border between Kenya and Somalia. Hundreds of residents were displaced during the skirmishes.

But the African Union Sector II Commander Brig Paul Njema, held a meeting with the SNA team and local officials in Burahache town within Gedo where close cooperation was discussed by the security teams. Njema was promoted to the position in January.

He acknowledged the continued partnership in fostering peace and security in the region and urged the team not to tire in ensuring the area achieves lasting stability that is key to development. He insisted that the teams should focus on degrading the Al-Shabaab militants.

"AMISOM is currently focused on the Somali Transition Plan which will soon see all security responsibilities transferred to you. We are committed to providing mentorship and assure you that we shall continue to work together to clear any remaining elements of Al Shabaab," he said.

Key Leader Engagement by AMISOM has been instrumental in the fight against Al Shabaab in Somalia. The KDF team which mans Sector II and VI of AMISOM first joined the African Union Mission in 2012, just a year into Operation Linda Nchi, which saw the team capturing the port city of Kismayo.

There are close to 3,500 KDF servicemen and women in Somalia and the team is set to quit in 2021 after the planned implementation of the Somali Transition Plan. The troops have managed to bring order and stability in Jubaland, one of the Somalia states which are struggling with the Al-Shabaab insurgency.

His trip comes amid simmering tensions between KDF and SNA forces over the control of the Gedo region. The KDF team has been using Jubaland as the buffer zone in the fight against Al-Shabaab, an idea that has often been criticized by the federal government of Somalia.

Also, there have been concerns that the SNA soldiers working with Somalia's spy agency NISA have been sharing intelligence briefs with Al-Shabaab on the movement of KDF troops. The FGS denied the allegations, terming them "fake and misleading".

Elsewhere, KDF soldiers serving in Sector VI - Kismayu-under the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM] have today handed over sports items in support of football in the town last week. The handover session was presided over by the Sector Commander Brigadier Juma Shee Mwinyikai at the Kismayu Airport as part of AMISOM's continuous Civil-Military Cooperation.

While receiving the items that included football jerseys, shorts, and balls, the Jubaland Minister of sports Osman Hussein Haji who was accompanied by other key sports officials acknowledged the gesture as a boost towards sports in Jubaland State.

"We are grateful for the close working relationship we have with the AMISOM KDF soldiers in Civil-Military Cooperation. The items will help our youth enhance their talents," he said.