Ruto: KDF will stay in Somalia beyond drawdown schedule

FILE: President William Ruto making an address at State House on September 27, 2022

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya's security forces in Somalia will stay in the country beyond the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] drawdown schedule, President William Ruto has reiterated, even as the mission kick started the process of sending home a number of soldiers in line with Somali Transition Plan [STP].

By the close of business on Monday, ATMIS had handed over seven Forward Operating Bases [FOBs] to the Somali National Army [SNA] across the country, with at least 2,000 soldiers anticipated to leave Somalia by the end of July. The process affects soldiers from all Frontline nations.

It is also expected that additional 3,000 soldiers will leave by the end of September 2023, which will reduce the force to just 14,000 from the current 19,000 soldiers. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi are the Troops Contributing Countries to the Horn of Africa nation.

But in an interview with France 24, President William Ruto ruled out Kenya Defence Forces [KDF] exit from the country, arguing that Kenya is not ready to allow Al-Shabaab militants reverse the gains made over years. KDF has been in the country for the last 10 years, having first joined under Operation Linda Nchi.

"It was, it still is [reopening Kenya-Somalia border] the right decision. The challenge with Al-Shabaab is that we still have to confront it. We have every chance to defeat the Al-Shabaab," Ruto said, following increased Al-Shabaab operations in Northeastern Kenya.

For the last few weeks, over 23 security officers have been killed mainly in Lamu and Garissa by members of the Al-Shabaab. But the president insists opening of Mandera-Bula Hawo, Liboi-Dhoblely and Kiunga-Ras Kamboni border will prevent Al-Shabaab from getting revenue through smuggled goods.

To further maintain security along the border, Ruto, who recently participated in Frontline nations meeting in Kampala, said KDF will stay in the country a little longer to boost stabilization of Somalia. The Al-Shabaab, he maintained, can still be defeated in their own game.

"Because of the drawdown of troops, Al-Shabaab is trying to create an impression that it will take over the region," he said. "We will not allow this to happen. We are working with Hassan Sheikh and as Frontline states, we believe it will be necessary to stay beyond the drawdown table. Al-Shabaab is not going to reverse the gains we have made for a couple of years."

Somalia is preparing the final phase of operations against Al-Shabaab in coming weeks which will focus on Jubaland and Southwest states. The assault, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud revealed, will involve countries in peacekeeping mission, with Kenya and Ethiopia expected to play a major role.


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