Kenya and Somalia have delivered a powerful show of unity in Nairobi, pledging their commitment to the ongoing joint military operation against Al Shabaab insurgents.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga at his office met with TFG officials led by Somalia Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who said Al Shabaab must be destroyed all the way to the strategic port of Kismayu. This came just a week after President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia termed as "inappropriate" the ongoing offensive by the Kenya Defence Force, and accused Nairobi of violating his country’s sovereignty.
Somalia government supports operation by Kenyan forces, which is being co-ordinated with the TFG. Photo: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard
Monday’s public mending of fences in the full glare of the media was strengthened by the presence of Somalia’s Defence Minister Hussein Arab Isse, Interior Minister Abdisamad Moalin Mohamud and General Abdulkarim Dini, commander of TFG forces.
As the Somali and Kenyan delegates were meeting, military spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chirchir said a Kenya Air Force jet attacked an Al Shabaab camp in the village of Jilib on Saturday, killing 10 insurgents and wounding 47.
He dismissed claims by humanitarian agency, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders or MSF), in Marere, Lower Juba, of an attack on an Internally Displaced Persons camp that allegedly killed three civilians and injuring 52.
"We wish to clarify that the incident at the IDP camp developed following enemy actions in the area," said Major Chirchir.
Aid agencies operate in central and southern Somalia only with permission from the Al Shabaab, and there has been no independent verification of the claims by MSF.
But Major Chirchir blamed the deaths and injuries in the camp on Al Shabaab who fled into the IDP camp aboard a burning "technical battle wagon mounted with a ZSU 2-3 anti-aircraft gun".
He said the wagon exploded inside the camp causing the deaths and injuries.
Kenyan and Somali officials were on Monday united behind Kenya’s military operations in Somalia as they sought international assistance to storm Kismayu.
Kenya vowed not to negotiate with Al Shabaab but said Somalia’s weak government may do so if the extremist militia renounces violence. Kenya now wants international donors to provide relief aid and support reconstruction and security in areas from where it has expelled Al Shabaab in the last two weeks.
After hours of negotiations, the two delegations released a joint communiquÈ pledging joint military, diplomatic and political support for Operation Linda Nchi.
They requested that African Union peacekeepers move into "liberated areas" and called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to start crimes against humanity investigations of key officials in Al Shabaab’s leadership.
The communiquÈ, signed by the two prime ministers, described Al Shabaab as "a threat to both Somalia and Kenya" and "a common enemy" and said "the Somalia government supports the activities of the Kenyan forces, which are being fully co-ordinated with the TFG."
Accompanying Raila on Monday were Defence Minister Mohamed Yusuf Haji and PS Nancy Kirui, Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Onyonka, Chief of Defence Forces General Julius Karangi, Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere and Director of the National Security Intelligence Services Michael Gichangi.
Abdiweli denounced Al Shabaab as "a threat to the security of both countries" and justified the need for bilateral action against it. "So it is necessary to have a common strategy against a common enemy," he added.
The TFG premier asked the international community to support the joint action, describing Al Shabaab as "a global problem that should be eliminated from the face of the earth."
But he added that the operation on Al Shabaab "would be led by Somali forces with support of Kenyan forces" without elaborating.
They formed a joint "high-level co-ordinating committee" to maintain regular contacts between Nairobi and Mogadishu.
Other news, widely reported on Somali Internet blogs, alleged that Eritrea was supplying the Al Shabaab with weapons.
A plane said to be Eritrean landed at Baidoa airstrip on Sunday with military supplies, including weapons and the area was sealed off by the insurgents who also patrolled key roads leading to the area.
In July, a report by the United Nations Monitoring Group accused Eritrea of financing subversive activities in Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia and said its actions posed a threat to security and peace in the region.
However, the Eritrean government in Asmara denied the claims.
On Tuesday, Kenyan and Somali officials will meet international diplomats in Nairobi "to galvanise support for the operation" which will be followed by joint visits to foreign capitals including at the UN in New York.
Raila urged Kenyans not to assess the importance of the military intervention on its financial cost alone, but also on the need to safeguard Kenya’s territory and economy.
"The cost of inaction is much higher," he told journalists after the meeting and added "we have no imperialist designs in areas we have liberated."
The PM said the intervention in Somalia was "not a tea party" and the Kenya Defence Force would stay in the country "until the enemy is destroyed."
Raila said Kenya and the TFG have resources to support civilians in areas under their control, citing some who have welcomed KDF troops "with velvet gloves."
He noted that Kenya has not supported plans to create an autonomous region in Jubaland as reported in some media and the two governments would support the formation of local administrations in liberated areas based on local consensus, in order to foster post Al Shabaab reconstruction.
He said under international law, Kenya has the right to attack the militia and has since galvanised international and regional support for Operation Linda Nchi.
Kenya has asked the AU to deploy Djiboutian peacekeepers in areas where it has forced out Al Shabaab.