Uhuru asked to withdraw KDF from Somalia amid diplomatic rift
NAIROBI, Kenya - Even in the middle of the tensions between Somalia and Kenya over the Indian Ocean maritime dispute, President Uhuru Kenyatta is now under pressure to withdraw Kenyan troops from Somalia, Garowe Online reports.
KDF troops were first deployed to Somalia in 2011 to flush out Al-Shabaab militants but would be absorbed into AMISOM a year later, following an agreement between Kenya and African Union.
For eight years now, the troops have liberated several towns within the Horn of Africa nation, besides suffering a number of casualties within Jubaland state.
During September's Kenya Defense Forces pass out parade at Recruit Training School, Uhuru maintained that the troops will continue helping Somalia in the peace mission duties.
"Kenya Defence Forces will continue playing its role in regional and international security with more vigor. KDF will continue supporting the quest for peace and stabilization of Somalia under AMISOM," Uhuru said.
But multiple interviews with a number of seasoned politicians portray a different picture, with a number of them recommending immediate withdrawal of KDF from Somalia.
Kenya's second-largest party ODM has been pushing for the withdrawal of the troops, with party leader Raila Odinga leading such calls. Although Raila has since gone slow, the party's treasurer Timothy Bosire said the troops should be recalled.
"Has (deployment) been a wrong step ab initio, and that led me to collide with the government and the president in parliament, by the way, was one of the reasons for whistling in the chambers. Will cost the country more in days ahead," said Bosire, a former MP.
And in reference to US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria, a veteran politician and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale urged Uhuru to pull out of Somalia.
"Our government should borrow a leaf from this. Why are our Kenyan soldiers fighting for Somalis in Somalia?" wondered Khalwale, adding that it was time Kenya to withdraw.
Similar sentiments were shared by National Assembly Minority Chief Whip Junet Mohamed, who asked the government to consider stationing troops along the borders.
The withdrawal calls come a few days after an IED explosion killed 11 police officers in Dadaab constituency where they were patrolling dangerous Liboi border point.
Uhuru's position was reiterated by Kenya's Chief of Defense Forces General Samson Mwathethe on Monday during KDF Day, where he argued that 'Kenya will continue helping Somalia to stabilize'.
In an interview published by Africa Defense Forum Magazine in June, Kenya's Vice Chief of Defense Forces Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi said the situation in Somalia is encouraging, adding that AMISOM is gaining ground.
"To bring security and stability to Somalia, the security forces must be organized, trained up, and equipped for them to eventually take over the roles and responsibilities that the KDF and AMISOM troops are undertaking in Somalia. Being a neighbor, we very much want to find a lasting solution to the stability of our eastern neighbor," he said, an indication that KDF is not about to withdraw.
In 2016, Al-Shabaab militants ran over KDF base at El Adde, killing at least 200 soldiers. A year later, 70 soldiers were also killed under similar circumstances at Kulbiyow's military base.
But among the gains KDF has made in as many years, include liberating seaport city of Kismayo from the militants. For years, the town had been used as key revenue collection center by the militants.
While KDF's presence has bolstered security and businesses in Somalia, there have been also claiming that the military has often attacked civilians and certain businesses.
For instance, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia, accused KDF of destroying Harmuud Telecommunication company mast, arguing that the incident was impolite and unprecedented.
Kenya has often worked closely with Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe, even choosing to send Majority Leader Aden Duale on Saturday during the inauguration at Kismayo.
Aware of the friction between Madobe and President Mohamed Farmaajo, Duale called for dialogue, ruling out the possibility of Kenya imposing sanctions on the Jubaland state of Somalia.