Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4,600 Kenyan Troops Set for Deployment in Somalia

4,600 Kenyan soldiers to join mission in Somalia

2012-03-13 09:44(Xinhua)

NAIROBI - Kenya is set to deploy 4,660 soldiers in neighboring Somalia as part of the Africa Union enforcement force in the Horn of Africa nation, a senior military official said on Monday.

Chief of Defense Forces of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) General Julius Karangi said the east African nation which launched cross border incursion into Somalia mid October 2011 will have a military council which will be based in the restive Mogadishu with 16 of its staff being Kenyans and other nations will contribute 69 staff.

Karangi said the 85 staff will be part of the military council which will comprise of officers from Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Burundi and other nations that will be based in the Somali capital.

"The commander will have two deputies, one from Kenya and the other from Burundi. These deputies will be in the rank of major general," Karangi told the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Foreign Relations.

Karangi said KDF's new command structure and gains made since the Operation Linda Nchi (Operation to Protect Nation) was launched will not be in vain as result of joining the expanded regional force, adding that two Kenyan military officers will be spokesman and head of intelligence of AMISOM.

"Since we moved into Somalia last year, we have not seen incidents of sea piracy. I must say we have managed to create a fairly safe buffer in Somalia," Karangi said.

He clarified that the Kenyan sector will be commanded by a sector commander from KDF, adding that their mission in the Horn of Africa nation has been successful and called on the Somali refugees in Kenya to be relocated to liberated areas in their country.

"Our ability to deal with the enemy in Somalia is not diminished in any way. We will still pursue them on air, land and sea. We will be doing the same thing that Operation Linda Nchi has been doing, but at the expense of other entities," Karangi said.

The Kenyan soldiers battling Somali militants are due to formally join the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) this week.

Kenyan forces that crossed into Somalia mid October last year have intensified military crackdown inside southern Somalia to push back Al-Shabaab, blamed by Kenya for a series of cross-border kidnappings.

The militant group has also come under pressure from AU peacekeepers, who recently pushed out them out of the outskirts of Somali capital Mogadishu, and from Ethiopia, which seized Baidoa town recently.

AMISOM which crossed into the Horn of the African nation in 2007 and which has a long comprised of Ugandan and Burundi troops recently registered a string of successes against Al-Shabaab militia who had seized much of the central and southern Somalia.

The military chief said the East African nation will compensate families of all soldiers slain in action, according to international laws of war but added there is no clear policies on compensation since it was the first time the Kenyan soldiers have been involved in cross border operation.

Karangi said each Kenyan soldier who will joined AMISOM will be paid a monthly allowance of the equivalent of 1,028 U.S.dollars besides medical cover, accommodation, food and evacuation and treatment by the UN in case of injury in Somalia.

He said Sierra Leone too has promised to send its soldiers to beef up the peace-enforcement force in June and will be deployed in areas secured and controlled by KDF.

"Our soldiers will remain deployed in Somalia on land, air and sea," Karangi said, adding that the UN Security Council Resolution allows deployment of nine general utility helicopters and three attack helicopters for AMISOM operations which KDF may provide if approached.

The re-hatting of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) into AMISOM is part of the pan African body's strategy to combat Al-Shabaab and whose cost will be provided by the UN.

Kenyan officials say Al-Shabaab has continued to incur losses as KDF to continue its emphasis on pacification of areas under KDF and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) control.

The 15-member body unanimously last month requested that AMISOM increase the number of its troops and police officers from 12,000 to a maximum of 17,731, and also decided to both expand the UN's logistical support package to the force and extend it through October 31.

The AU officials have been in Kenya to verify the amount of equipment which will be used by Kenyan troops once they fall under the authority of AMISOM.

The AU team will provide the requirements in order for Kenyan troops to be given the enablers for troops to maintain peace in Somalia.

Kenya has been arguing that under AMISOM, it will secure regional backing and ensure the war is well managed under the African Union.

Currently, AMISOM's mandate restricts it to operate only in Mogadishu as a peace-keeping force where it is providing security to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif.

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