Withdrawing Kenyan troops from Somalia will compromise the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa, an African Union special envoy said on Thursday.
Dr Maman Sidikou, the special representative of the chairman of the African Union Commission for Somalia, said Kenyan troops were an integral part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
Kenya Defence Forces, he said, have played a major role in liberating parts of Somalia from the control of Al-Shabaab extremists.
“The Kenyan soldiers and those from other countries are playing their part in stabilising and bringing peace to Somalia not only for the benefit of the country but also for Africa as a whole.
This is not the time to politicise the issue, our soldiers need our support and we must remain united,” said Dr Sidikou.
TROOPS INSTRUMENTAL The Kenyan troops were instrumental in the recent recapture of the key towns of Bardhere and Dinsoor, which were formally under the control of Al-Shabaab.
Dr Sidikou’s remarks mirror those made by US President Barrack Obama, who while visiting Kenya thanked the government for donating troops to Amisom to help fight terrorism and stabilise Somalia.
Mr Obama also promised US support to Amisom, saying defeating terrorists in Somalia was one of the top agenda of the international community.
The US government gave the Kenya Defence Forces Sh9.5 billion this financial year to enhance the fight against Al-Shabaab. Members of the Opposition, led by Cord leader Raila Odinga, have been calling for the withdrawal of the KDF from Somalia, saying Kenya’s participation in the war is attracting attacks from Al-Shabaab.
CHANGED SOMALIA However, Dr Sidikou said it would be a mistake for African countries to leave Somalia before Al-Shabaab is defeated and peace restored.
“If you ask me whether I would like to have more troops and more funding to complete our task effectively and in the shortest time possible, my answer would be yes.
However, we are also aware of the challenges at hand,” the AU special representative said. Dr Sidikou said since its establishment in 2007, Amisom had progressively changed the face of Somalia, not only by enhancing security but also helping in strengthening political institutions.
“Today, Somalia has a provisional national Constitution, which is being finalised by the Constitution Review Commission.
We have an elected Parliament and an elected President and the country is looking forward to democratic elections next year,” Dr Sidikou said.
SOMALIA’S FUTURE He said Amisom is currently working with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia to facilitate the establishment of interim regional administrations for Jubaland, the South-west and Galmudug.
Amisom is also working with other partners to support the Somali government rebuild the country. “In this area, we are focusing our attention on the Somalia National Army and Somalia Police Force,” Dr Sidikou added.
He urged the international community to help equip the Somali National Army, saying a well-equipped force is important for the stability of Somalia once Amisom forces leave the country.