Uhuru accuses SNA troops of provoking KDF in Mandera border clashes
NAIROBI, Kenya - Barely 48 hours after deadly chaos involving Somali National Army [SNA] troops and Jubaland forces at Balad-Hawo town near Mandera, Kenya has fired back, terming military activities along with the border "provocation".
President Uhuru Kenyatta also accused the federal government of Somalia of violation of Kenya's "territorial integrity and sovereignty" in a statement issued on Wednesday by State House spokesperson Kanze Dena.
Fighting erupted on Monday in the border town between the two parties, with the skirmishes leaving three soldiers dead and scored injured, officials said.
Also, over 50, 000 people have been displaced in the larger Gedo region since the "incursion" of SNA troops in Jubaland, with the battle almost spilling over to Mandera, Kenya.
Somalia had initially accused Kenya of "interfering with its domestic affairs" in reference to Jubaland politics, where Nairobi is accused of "protecting" Ahmed Madobe, the region's leader.
Abukar Dahir Osman, the Somalia ambassador to the UN, threatened to sue Kenya for "endlessly meddling in our Affairs" during the UNSC session last week in New York.
Uhuru provoked with SNA raids
But Monday's SNA raid in Mandera border has seemingly provoked Mr. Kenyatta, who termed the assault "unwarranted provocation" of Kenya's territorial integrity in his statement.
SNA troops had claimed that the assault targeted "Al-Shabaab militants" in the region, although Mogadishu had previously accused Kenya of harboring Jubaland minister Abdirashid Janan, who is accused of "serious crimes" by FGS.
After chairing the National Security Council [NSC] meeting, Uhuru blamed SNA of "flagrant breach and total disregard of international laws" besides accusing the troops of "harassing and destroying" properties of Kenyan citizens in Mandera.
NSC comprises of the President, his deputy, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior ministers, Chief of Defense Forces, Director of the National Intelligence Service and Inspector General of Police.
SNA raids, Uhuru said, "amounts to an unwarranted attack by foreign soldiers with the intention of provoking Kenya". KDF troops, he added, "acted in restraint because Kenya cherishes peace".
Sources in Mandera claimed that Jubaland forces, who are said to enjoy Kenya backing, retreated to Mandera before KDF restoring order after several hours of a gunfight.
Kenya pays price for supporting peace mission in Somalia
While acknowledging Kenya's role in the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, Uhuru also dismissed Mogadishu's allegations of interference as "baseless and invalid".
He accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of using Kenya as "scapegoat" to justify challenges in Somalia for "political gain". He added that Kenya will not "accept" the narrative.
Mr. Kenyatta also encouraged FGS to stop the "smear campaign" and "commit energy" to deliver leadership and prosperity to its people.
Throughout the civil war in Somalia and subsequent terrorism siege, Uhuru said, Kenya has paid "heavy price" for the sake of pushing for peace and stability.
Among others, Kenya hosts thousands of refugees from Somalia, most of them occupying Dadaab camp, situated in Garissa County, he added, terming the sacrifices "consistent".
There are also over 3,000 troops from the KDF team playing a role in AMISOM duties within Somalia. Kenya first invaded the country in 2011 under Operation Linda Nchi.
Although the troops have managed to liberate a host of towns, a number have also died in the process. In addition, Kenya has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab raids in northeastern, with the incidents linked to KDF roles in Somalia.
Need for urgent reconciliation
Terming Mogadishu's onslaught against federal States' leaders "short term" political expediency, Uhuru asked Farmajo to look for "political consensus" with federal states.
For months now, Mogadishu has been at loggerheads with federal states on matters politics and resource sharing, further causing internal rifts that threaten peaceful coexistence.
While Farmajo's antics have managed to "destabilize" Hirshebelle, Southwest, and Galmadug by "imposing" his loyalists, the situation has been different in Jubaland and Puntland.
Madobe and Said Deni have been critical of FGS "onslaught", a reason that is said to have motivated Farmajo to push for the creation of "parallel government" in Gedo, which falls under Jubaland.
But Uhuru now wants both sides to strike a truce for the well-being of Somalia people, as the country prepares to hold first-ever universal suffrage polls in December.
"These efforts are imperative in consolidating the gains made and ensuring that Somalia is firmly on the trajectory to peace, stability, and prosperity; which cannot be achieved through the barrel of a gun," he noted.
The al-Shabaab threat in Somalia
The current squabbles, Uhuru said, could pave way for the resurgence of Al-Shabaab militants in areas already liberated should FGS fallout with federal states.
Kenya, he noted, "is desirous to see that security resources in Somalia at both Federal and State level rationally used to defeat Al Shabaab terrorists and stabilize Somalia."
A stable Somalia will pave way for the exit of over 22,000 AMISOM troops, whose tentative pull out is scheduled next year in December, Mr. Kenyatta added.
Already, Kenya has started plans to pull out its troops from Somalia in compliance with AMISOM timelines. By the end of March, at least 1,000 AMISOM troops would have left, officials said.
Al Shabaab remains the major existential threat to Somalia, Kenya and the Horn of Africa region, said Uhuru, who is set for retirement in 2022
"Defeating Al Shabaab and its international network should, therefore, remain the primary security focus of the Federal Government of Somalia as its core mandate," he said.
He asked Somalia to "stop unnecessary provocation" and focus on managing its internal affairs. Al-Shabaab has killed over 4,000 people since 2008, the UN observed in a report.