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Uhuru: KDF will not withdraw from Somalia until Al-Shabaab is defeated

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya Defense Forces team under AMISOM will remain in Somalia a little longer than expected, President Uhuru Kenyatta has affirmed.

There have been mixed signals over the possible exit date from the Horn of Africa nation, with the state projecting 2021 as the probable date.

While commissioning 136 Cadets at Kenya Military Academy on Thursday, Uhuru insisted that KDF 'will not leave until objectives are accomplished'.

"We remain steadfast in bringing peace in our region. Our troops will continue being part of Amisom until our objective is achieved," he said.

The head of state lauded the team in Somalia, adding, "Our fight against terrorism will continue so as to secure our borders from any external threats."

At least 4,000 KDF soldiers are taking part in AMISOM duties. Most of them are deployed in the Southern sector which covers the Jubaland state.

Uhuru asked the new soldiers to put the country at heart, adding that they may be called upon to participate in the peace keeping process in Somalia.

“Courage calls for self-confidence, moral ascendancy, self-sacrifice, honesty, fairness, initiative, decisiveness, and dignity," Uhuru added.

Al-Shabaab has remained a major threat in Somalia, delaying the international community's efforts towards stabilizing the country. The group has terrorized the nation and neighbors since 2006.

A fortnight ago, UN envoy to Somalia James Swan noted steady gains against the terrorists at Lower Shebelle in recent months, adding that many strategic towns had been liberated.

Swan said: "After its last offensive in August, the Somali National Army has successfully held its ground despite repeated al Shabaab counter-attacks."

At Nairobi recently, the United Nations also lauded Kenya's commitment to pushing for peace and stability in Somalia. The country is set for elections next year.

"UN commended the role of Kenya and her demonstrated commitment in the pursuit of peace and security in Somalia and the Horn of Africa," Monica Juma said.

Kenya and Somalia have agreed to normalize their bilateral relations after months of animosity over the Indian Ocean maritime dispute.

President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Farmajo a fortnight ago, with the two ordering reinstatement of Mogadishu-Nairobi direct flights.

"We thank you for your contribution to peace and stability in Somalia. Kenya is part of AMISOM that has done a lot and in the process, we have lost many soldiers. Their sacrifices will not go to vain," Farmajo said during a press conference.

Kenya first deployed troops to Somalia in 2011 following parliamentary decree to pursue Al-Shabaab. The troops were integrated into AMISOM in 2012.

Despite liberating many towns in the process, close to 500 troops have succumbed to Al-Shabaab attacks. The worst assault took place in El Adde base in 2016.