Kenya's fresh demands on Somalia war

Defence minister Yusuf Haji (right) said the notion that Kenya’s ultimate goal was Kismayu was imaginary.

Kenya is unwilling to capture the port city of Kismayu without the financial and logistical backing of the international community.

Defence minister Yusuf Haji told The EastAfrican that the country’s military incursion into Somalia had created conditions that would allow the international community to help bring lasting peace, but Kenya is unwilling to continue underwriting the financial burden of an open-ended war. 

It is now emerging that Kenya considers its intervention in Somalia in October last year as a major service to the global war against terror and expects logistical and financial support to complete the job of smashing the Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda networks.

The admission by Mr Haji seemed to reverse Kenya’s stated military objective, which was predicated on capturing Kismayu in order to undermine the financial base of Al- Shabaab.

Mr Haji said the notion that Kenya’s ultimate goal was Kismayu was imaginary.

He said the Kenya Defence Forces had indicated that their main objective was to create a buffer zone by pushing Al-Shabaab far enough from the country’s borders to assure its national security.

“The Kismayu question is for the international community to decide. Kenya was not going to fix the entire Somalia problem since it has been a failed state for 20 years.

“We did not have the intention of going into Somalia if we were not provoked. We feel we have attained our intention of pushing Al-Shabaab away from our borders,” said Mr Haji.

His comments appear to be timed to take advantage not only of the approval by the UN Security Council of the African Union request that Kenya join Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia), increasing the latter’s troop levels to 17,700, but also of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. (READ: UN approves Kenya’s bid to join African force in Somalia)

At the same time, two people were killed and scores injured during fighting between Al-Shabaab militants and allied forces in the Garbaharey District of Gedo Region at the weekend.

Transitional Federal Government (TFG) officials said their forces, with the support of the Kenya Defence Forces and the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, engaged Al-Shabaab in a fierce fight when the militant group launched attacks on bases of the allied forces in the Gedo region, the officials said.

“They attacked us but we forced the enemy to run away,” said a TFG official.

On Saturday, Al-Shabaab named a new administration for Kismayo after the militant group fired both it’s governor, Sheikh Hasan Yakub, and the head of preaching, Sheikh Abdinasir.