Kenya is expected in the coming days to start negotiating its troops exit plans from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the Nation has learnt.
The talks to be led by Ministry of Defence CS Monica Juma are part of the anticipated Amisom withdrawal by 2021, the year in which the peacekeeping and enforcement mission is expected to close down its operations in Somalia.
The negotiations aim to end about eight years of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) incursion in Somalia in which the presence of forces potentially reduced possible terrorist attacks as well as exposed Kenyans to varied reasons behind terrorism.
KDF crossed into Somalia on the night of October 16, 2011. The objective of invading Somalia was to destroy and degrade Al-Shabaab, topple its leadership and prevent prospects of terrorist attacks locally.
Kenya shares a 684km-long border with Somalia which has remained porous with Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and a string of terrorist attacks affecting communities living along the border as well as within the capital Nairobi.
Although there was a succession of quick military victories by KDF in Somalia, the operation has not managed to shield Kenya from attacks by Al-Shabaab.
The negotiations come at a time when fights between Federal Government of Somalia forces and various regional government troops have risked drawing back the gains made against the terrorists.
On Monday, Somalia was fighting itself after its national forces ambushed Jubbaland regional troops allied to a fugitive minister, Mr Abdirashid Janaan, near the Kenyan border with Somalia.
Fighting broke out between special troops of the Somali National Army (SNA) deployed to Gedo region to guard the border and Jubbaland forces loyal to Mr Janaan, who reportedly fled prison in Mogadishu with the help of some officials in President Farmajo’s government.
The fighting in Gedo is fuelled by inter-clan fighting between Maheran sub-clans allied to Somali President Mohamed Farmajo and the Maheran clans in the larger Gedo region.
“The incident being referred to happened today afternoon (Monday) in Bulla Hawa in Somalia which borders Kenya’s Mandera Town. We wish to reassure Kenyans that our security teams are on high alert to avert any attempt by militants in Gedo region straying into the country,” Mr Charles Owino, the National Police spokesman, said in a statement.
Experts say the move could potentially aid Al-Shabaab in spreading terror.
The fight broke out a day after 11 Kenyan lawmakers secretly travelled to Somalia and met President Farmajo.
As part of exit preparations, KDF is currently deploying a Battle Group which will facilitate the anticipated withdrawal of troops under the Somali Transition Plan aimed at the gradual transition of security responsibilities to Somalia’s security institutions.
The ongoing rotation of KDF troops between Amisom 8 and Amisom 9 Battle Groups under the command of Brigadier Dickson Rono will be the major undertaking for KDF in Somalia this year.
The Somali Transition Plan follows the development of a Concept of Operations (CONOPs) 2018-2021 that provides for an effective outline for the implementation of the Somali Transition Plan. This CONOPs provides guidelines as it marks the final phase of AMISOM and eventual exit from Somalia.
The withdrawal timelines come at a time when Chief of Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe is expected to be exiting the military after initiating widespread reforms in improving the welfare of KDF troops.
The reforms range from the modernisation of KDF operational and technological warfare capacity as well as establishing a welfare Directorate with an ambitious welfare programs to cater for the psychosocial and physical well-being of wounded soldiers and their families.
The Board One meeting which decides on the promotions and appointments of KDF leadership is set to meet anytime from this month to consider promotions within the senior-most military ranks.
The meeting of Board One is followed by a defence council meeting which may either extend the tenure of the current General or replace him.
Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the term of General Mwathethe after the National Defence Council recommended for the extension of his term citing impressive performance.
Under General Mwathethe’s term, the military has been contributing to President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda especially through the new Kenya Navy Slip Way and the Blue Economy, which the General chairs. Both projects have contributed towards the improvement of national food security and creation of employment.
The Kenya Navy Slip Way which is being built at Mkunguni in Mtongwe Navy Base and is set to be completed by 2021. The slipway will enable Kenya to establish a foothold in ship building and maintenance in the region and to compete with similar facilities located in South Africa and Djibouti. A slipway is a ramp/rail on the shore by which ships or boats can be launched into or out of water. It is also used for building or repairing ships or boats and for launching small boats.
It will also be expected to boost tourism, create employment and accord the Kenya Navy and other Kenya government’s maritime agencies flexible docking and planned maintenance of vessels.
At the Kenya Air Force, there is an ongoing modernisation through various multibillion investments like the establishment of the Air Defence Regiment (ADR) and acquiring an effective Air Defence System (ADS) to be used to defend the country from all airborne aggression.
An ADS system is able to detect an impending attack in time and destroy it before it reaches the target.
New acquisitions include Fennec helicopters, 530F planes and the Italian Spartan aircraft C-27J for transport.
Across the military, there is the establishment of the ultra-modern Rehabilitation Centre at Lang’ata barracks which will be used for treating soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and welfare centres in various barracks and military bases.
“The impact of the massive modernisation and welfare programme from General Mwathethe, offers the Kenyan security architecture a chance to rethink and create a robust security campaign along the Kenya Somalia border, especially now that the soldiers are expected to withdraw from AMISOM” says Major (Rtd) David Omondi, a security expert.