Saitoti: Kenya doesn't intend to annex Somalia

Kenya has no intention of occupying Somalia under the guise of fighting terrorism, Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti said October 28, 2011. FILE

Kenya has no intention of occupying Somalia under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Internal Security minister George Saitoti Friday said that the government was only determined to secure its borders but not annex Somalia.

“We have never nursed territorial ambitions to annex Somalia or take their land. The Kenya Government is simply standing its mandate to defend the country and its people,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by President Kibaki who said the decision to carry out military action against the Al-Shabaab was in response to escalating insecurity and violation of Kenya’s territorial integrity.

Addressing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Perth, Australia the President stated that Kenya is not at war with Somalia but is carrying out action against the Islamic militia which is a non-state actor and perpetrating blatant attacks, abductions and killings of innocent civilians.

He said the country had no intention of keeping troops in Somalia longer than is necessary, but will undertake the mission established under the operation to protect its territory.

President Kibaki informed the session, chaired by the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, that the country’s current mission in Somalia is meant to deal with the continued threat posed by Al-Shabaab to Kenya’s national security and economic interests.

“Our mission in Somalia is therefore, based on a legitimate right to protect Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a fundraiser at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, Prof Saitoti explained the Kenyan troops currently pursuing Al-Shabaab in Somalia would come back home as soon as they are eliminated.

He dispelled fears among the public that the country might have entered a permanent conflict with the Al-Shabaab who might retaliate.

Prof Saitoti contradicted earlier government indications that Kenya was ready to hold talks with the Somali militant group.

“The key thing is we are not ready to negotiate with them (Al-Shabaab) because they have criminal intentions,” he said. a

"We are government committed to democratic principles but with them, there is a major divergence in our position.” 

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka told journalists at Parliament Buildings that Kenya was ready to hold talks with the the militia as long as they renounced violence.

"The truth is Al-Shabaab is frequently and constantly in touch with the Kenyan Government (and) our position has always been we must use both military, if need be and consistently diplomatic channels to try and negotiate and discuss," he said.

Mr Onyonka’s statement came hours after government spokesman Alfred Mutua had said Kenya considered Al-Shabaab as a criminal gang and would not negotiate with it.

This came amid rumours that the terror group had contacted Kenyan authorities seeking dialogue, which Dr Mutua denied.

But Prof Saitoti clarified that it was not a contradiction within government agencies, instead saying Mr Onyonka’s statement might have been misunderstood.

Kenya sent its troops to Somalia two weeks ago in pursuit of the terror gang suspected of conducting abductions on Kenyan soil. But soon after, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said he was uncomfortable with the troops’ presence in Somalia.

His Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali though welcomed the operation.