Kenya Defence Forces in crusade to win Somali hearts, minds

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 00:00 |
Amisom spokesman Lt-Col Charles Imbiakha chats with children at Dhobley town. Photo/PD/ZADOCK ANGIRA

Members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) operating in Somalia have adopted a multi-pronged strategy to combat terror, especially in the Jubbaland State.

Though their core mandate is to neutralise the operations of Al Shabaab terrorists within Jubbaland, the team is also involved in civil-military cooperation activities and other alternative tactical approaches purposed to  win the hearts and minds of Somali people. 

Apart from protecting populated centres to ensure guaranteed safety and economic stability,  the Kenyan soldiers   are also involved in opening and securing the main roads to allow the movement of goods in the region as well as delivery of public services. 

The team is under the Sector Two Commander, Brigadier Dickson Ruto.

“It is not a question of body count. The measure of success is getting the support of the locals, for the flow of information,” Brig. Ruto said.

“When KDF was deployed in Dhobley, so many young people got employment and many are now engaged in business,” he added.

To effectively deal with the rise of irregular and asymmetric warfare, the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and KDF in April this year set up the Dhobley Level II Hospital within the KDF camp. 

The hospital handles about 170 patients per month. It has four wards:  Kilimanjaro, Longonot, Elgon and Mt Kenya and   is now admitting patients from the region. When People Daily visited the facility,  five-year old Abdi Dekow Aden was admitted in the hospital together with his mother nursing him. 

KDF personnel are constructing a road linking Dhobley and Afmadhow through Tabda and Belles Qoqani. The route is expected to open up the area for free movement of people and goods.

Even as they do this, KDF is also part of the Amisom troops involved in building capacity of Somali Security Forces to be able to take over the responsibilities — in a country faced with drought, hunger, civil war and terror — when Amisom exits.

Ambassador Franscisco Madiera, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (SRCC) for Somalia said the forces had successfully implemented the core mandate to reduce the threat posed by al Shabaab and other armed opposition groups in Somalia.

Law and order

“The prevailing peaceful environment has enabled the country to establish functional State institutions. Also, Somalia has conducted three successful electoral processes,” he said

Madiera disclosed that the Somali diaspora were returning home to invest, and that the country was open for international business. 

Already, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways and  Ethiopian Airlines are operating regular flights in Somalia. 

Presently, Amisom is in the process of implementing a Somali Transition Plan, under which troops undergo gradual reduction in readiness for final exit in December 2021.

Amisom police are deployed in secured areas for maintenance of law and order   by  troops from Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda.

In the first phase of transition, Amisom handed over to the Federal Government of Somalia the Somali Nation university, the Mogadishu Stadium, and the Jaale Siyaad military Academy, among others.

In July, Amisom commenced implementation of the second phase of The Somali Transition Plan in which they have laid ground for the safe conduct of one-person-one-votes elections in 2020/22.

“It has been 50 years since Somalia last conducted a one-person-one-vote election. So, the coming elections will be a watershed moment in the history of Somalia,” he said.

Within the larger Somalia, over the next one year, Amisom also plans to reconstitute the Forward Operation Bases (FOBs) following the reduction in troop numbers and establish Amisom rapid response force.

Brig. Ruto said the forces now face a challenge of continued use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as a weapon of choice. “We need to find a solution to reduce the availability of materials for making these explosives in Somalia,” he said.

Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia Lt-Gen (Rtd) Lucas K. Tumbo said his country has had a cordial relationship with Somalia and promised continued support. 

“A peaceful neighbour provides opportunity for growth. About 35,000 Kenyans are involved in various fields including hospitality, the NGO, and stabilisation of Somalia,” Tumbo said.

Military cooperation

However, Tumbo said the ongoing maritime conflict between the two countries had not affected the relationship. 

“We are engaging and we know we will solve the matter amicably,” he added.

The country has, however, witnessed insecurity incidents lately. 

Last month, there was an attack at the Banadir Regional Administration Headquarters, the Mayor’s office.

During the attack, six government officials were killed in an explosive attack. A suspected female suicide bomber targeted a weekly security meeting chaired by the mayor of Somalia’s capital, Abdirahman Omar Osman. Three District Commissioners, two directors and a legal advisor were killed in the raid.

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the main target was new UN envoy, James Swan who had left the meeting at the Mayor’s parlour earlier.

Other players in the effort to stabilise the country include Italy which has entered into a military cooperation through which it will extend the training mission for Somali troops. 

Towards that end, the Somali National Army Chief General Dahir Elmi, along with top military commanders are already in Milano, Italy, for training.

More on National