26 January 2014

Somalia: Kenyan Troops Restore Order in Somalia

The Kenya Defence Forces has pacified large swathes of southern Somalia it helped liberate from control of Al-Shabaab militants, and normal life is slowly beginning to return to some of the areas.

A visit by the Sunday Nation to Kismayu and Afmadow regions where heavy fighting took place before the Al-Qaeda-linked militants were driven out indicated that residents who fled to Kenya decades ago were returning, business was thriving while various investors were arriving in search of new opportunities.

Working under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), KDF, which has 3664 troops in the portion of the country they call Sector II, is also focusing on capturing towns which are still under Al-Shabaab control.

The Kenyan military has been pacifying small towns like Findigo and Walmaro and Kobwein.

In Afmadow, Lt Col GG Marrow said there is no al-shabaab "conduct or activities" in a radius of 50 kilometres, leading many non-governmental organisations to express their interest in resuming their operations.

"People from the diaspora are coming back. We have continued to mount foot and aerial patrols," Lt Col Marrow told the Sunday Nation in Afmadow.

KDF commander in-charge of wider Sector II in Somalia, Brig Walter Raria, Lieutenant Colonel Chala Hassan, in-charge of KDF forces under Amisom in two bases in Kismayu, and Lt Col Marrow said KDF was also involved in escorting NGO and local government officials, protecting civilian and key installations, as well as providing medical care.

The Kenyan forces are further engaged in conflict resolution, a thing that has helped end inter-clan fighting and bad blood between forces, including the Ras Kamboni Brigade and the Somalia National Army.

To help build good relations with local communities, KDF has been assisting in recovery of civilian vehicles which get stuck during rainy seasons.

The soldiers are also helping rehabilitate dams and water pans, offering mentorship of staff of key institutions, monitoring resumption of normalcy facilitating education and commerce.

KDF's activities have helped improve the security situation following the defeat of organised armed groups. A number of schools and hospitals have resumed operations, reconstruction activities have started, the Kismayu International Airport has re-opened for the first time in 23 years, as has Afmadow which has not been in use in five years.

Business at Kismayu Port has also resumed. The main supply route of Liboi-Dobley-Kismayu has been re-opened. Hospitals in the towns of Kismayu and Afmadow are also operational.

Brigadier Raria who spoke to journalists in Kismayu said liberation of more areas in Somalia will depend on cooperation of all Amisom forces and the Somalia National Army, and added that there was no time-line for it.

Brig Raria however said plans were in motion for the liberation of the Barare Port City, Jamaane and Jillib farming areas which are currently Al-Shabaab's main source of income.

The militia collects taxes from importers and other traders in Barare while in Jaamane and Jillib, it levies charges on farmers. KDF is currently in control of 186,000 kilometres, and liberated 18 towns.

Amisom's efforts got a boost from the surrender of some of Al-Shabaab fighters who couldn't cope with the onslaught.

Brig Raria said four Al-Shabaab militia and 18 other fighters surrendered to the Mission. The commander, who was accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Chala Hassan showed journalists the 18 clan and militia leaders who were being held in the town.

Lt Col Marrow also said a key Al-Shabaab leader who had participated on four attacks on KDF had surrendered and had been transferred to Kismayu.

The military leaders said the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab had been depleted but had resorted to other tactics to inflict harm.

Brig Raria announced that KDF soldiers in Gedo Region will be relocated to Jubbaland State, and replaced by Ethiopian forces.

Gedo is closer to Kenya but Brig Raria said Ethiopia was also keen in fighting the terrorist outfit which has been a threat to Kenya's economy and stability.

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