Somalia: SNA threatens revenge on KDF over alleged bombings in Gedo
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The fragile relationship between Somali National Army [SNA] and their colleagues from Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] could escalate to unprecedented levels, it has been established, with the Gedo region crisis being at the epicenter of the latest provocation.
On Monday, senior military officials from SNA accused KDF of "indiscriminately" bombing residents of the Gedo region, which has been the battlefield for unending squabbles between President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and Jubaland regional leader Ahmed Madobe.
Col. Hassan Aden, one of the force commanders of SNA in Gedo claimed KDF warplanes have been in the past few weeks bombed at least six villages in Gedo, adding that "this is being done with unfathomable IMPUNITY" which the Somali forces are "ready to resist".
Some of the villages affected by the latest alleged skirmishes include Aws-Qurun, Lafa-Geri, Fahfahdhuum, and Busar, he added. The KDF team has a Forward Operating Base at Busar which is not far from the Kenya-Somalia porous border.
Without disclosing the level of damage, the SNA commander told reporters that "the situation is unacceptable" given the "sustained endless aggression" which according to him, "does not meet the international standards" on civilian protection.
"This must be resisted with all our available resources," he said. "We shall ensure they pay a heavy price for their crimes, we cannot watch our people suffer due to impunity by a foreign force which is hell-bent to finish our people."
Gedo region is found within Jubaland, a semi-autonomous state of Somalia under the leadership of Madobe. But in recent months, it has played host to fragile relationship and endless political intrigues involving federal leader Mohamed Abdullahi and Madobe.
Similar sentiments were shared by Hassan Aden Bihi, another top commander working with SNA, saying that "there must be respect to humanity when executing these operations, what we are seeing is a total disregard of the law".
SNA controversial deployment in Gedo
The aggression in Gedo has been the epicenter for both local and international debate in recent weeks, following the decision by the Federal Government to deploy SNA troops to the region in February, a move that caused ripples among Somalia's international partners.
Several people were displaced from the region with others feared dead after unprecedented clashes between SNA and regional Jubaland forces, who are loyal to the state's internal security minister Abdirashid Janaan. The minister sneaked from a Mogadishu prison where he had been detained by authorities.
At Balad-Hawo and Doolow, the two sides engaged in a fierce gunfight, leading to pressure from the international community who called for an immediate ceasefire and "urgent" dialogue between the two factions for the sake of "security and stability".
The United States in February termed Farmajo's decision to deploy SNA in Gedo "unnecessary" adding that the move could pave way for the resurgence of the Al-Shabaab. Most parts of Jubaland are still under the Al-Qaida linked militants.
A speech by the UN chief Antonio Guterres exclusively obtained by Garowe Online last week addresses the Jubaland chaos. Deployment of the forces, the UN chief argues, "was not the immediate need for the people" at the time the country is being confronted by the Al-Shabaab menace.
Both SNA, KDF, and ENDF troops in AMISOM along with regional Jubaland forces have been playing an integral part in building Somalia, by liberating several towns which have been under the Al-Shabaab for almost back decade now.
There were also concerns about the "unholy" alliance between the SNA and ENDF non-AMISOM troops, who have been operating in Somalia under controversial circumstances, especially in Gedo and Southwest regions for several months now.
KDF stern warning on Gedo
The latest drama was anticipated due to a strained relationship between Kenya and Somalia, over their interests in Gedo. While the former supports Jubaland's leadership, the latter has been critical of Modabe, leading to the current impasse in the region.
KDF troops in AMISOM man Sectors II and VI within Jubaland and are instrumental in securing many towns within the region. Despite huge losses in El-Adde and Kulbiyow in 2016 and 2017 respectively following Al-Shabaab raid, the Kenyan troops continue to secure large swathes of Al-Shabaab territories.
During the recent clashes between SNA and Jubaland forces, the KDF team through Kenyan security agencies fired a warning to Somali troops, while accusing them of firing RPGs to Mandera just across in the border in Border Point One.
Northeastern Regional coordinator Nicodemus Ndalana told reporters that the "provocation" would be dealt with should SNA troops "continue violating basic regulations". He insisted that the KDF will be forced to act swiftly to "protect Kenya's territorial integrity".
“We will not accept [to have] our people to be targeted while they are taking part in their duty of protecting our country,” he said in reference to the spillover attacks to Kenya, which forced several residents along the border to evacuate to safer grounds in April.
“If they are provoked again even they [KDF] will be forced to fight back since we also have the same rockets that they [Somali army] have,” warned the senior-most security official in the troubled northeastern part of Kenya.
Intelligence reports also indicated that Somalia's spy agency NISA has also been working closely with Al-Shabaab by giving intelligence briefs and finances for the attacks against KDF, although the reports would later be dismissed by Somalia as "fake and misleading".
A fortnight ago, Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops also downed a Kenyan plane carrying medical supplies in Bardale, a move that could further derail reconciliation between the KDF troops and their Ethiopian and Somalian counterparts in the peacekeeping mission.
But in March, both sides had started formal talks to normalize the situation in Gedo, a move that was engineered by the US through the Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy. Uhuru and Farmajo held a phone call, which was followed by a visit by a Kenyan delegation to Mogadishu and Addis Ababa.
Efforts to reach KDF spokesperson Col. Zipporah Kioko were futile on Wednesday since her phone went unanswered. However, the KDF troops launched also airstrikes over the weekend along the Kenya-Somalia border in Wajir, in what officials said was "operations against Al-Shabaab".