Nairobi — Kenyan forces formally re-hatted on Friday to operate under the authority of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with a vow by the country's defense chiefs that Kenya will stay the course until the Islamist Al Shabaab network is defeated.
Defence Minister Yussuf Haji said Kenya has no intention of withdrawing its troops from Somalia despite the increased terror threats from the Al Shabaab.
"We cannot stop fighting in Somalia, the war will continue despite what they are doing inside our country," Haji declared.
The Minister was responding to calls from a section of politicians who have been calling for the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia after Al Shabaab waged a war against Kenyans, often hurling grenades in public places with the sole intention of killing or maiming innocent people.
The latest attack occurred Sunday when 17 people were killed in twin blasts inside the ACK and Catholic churches in Garissa. The Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab terror network has since claimed responsibility of the attack.
Chief of Defence Forces Gen Julius Karangi said the war has just begun, and vowed that Kenya will not succumb to Al Shabaab demands of withdrawing.
"The vocabulary of withdrawing is not in us, the war must continue and we are not going to succumb to the demands of Al Shabaab," the military chief said.
"Anyone wishing to express their opinion is free to do so, but you should know that we are not about to give up," he stressed.
Gen Karangi said he will only withdraw soldiers from Somalia once ordered by the government.
"You never, ever, succumb to blackmail. Succumbing to terrorist activities is succumbing to blackmail and it never works that way, if we must suffer to live a better tomorrow, that we must as a people," he said.
The Kenyan forces were formally re-hatted into Amisom Friday, effectively giving them a mandate to fight jointly with soldiers from other nations in restoring peace in the war torn country.
"This is a great day for us, we have formally joined AMISOM, all the costs we had spent previously will be refunded to the government by AU as agreed," he said.
The Kenyan forces entered Somalia last October after the Al Shabaab militants were accused of kidnapping several people, including foreigners from Kenya.