Israel is willing to help Kenya fight al Shabaab militia in Somalia, the Kenyan Prime Minister’s office has said.
The BBC says that during Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit to Israel the Kenyan government received backing from Israel to “rid its territory of fundamentalist elements.”
In a statement, Odinga’s office quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that “Kenya’s enemies are Israel’s enemies”.
“We have similar forces planning to bring us down. I see it as an opportunity to strengthen ties.”
Odinga said that Israel could help Kenya’s police detect and destroy al Shabaab’s networks in Kenya. He also said that Israel needed to supply vehicles for border patrols and maritime surveillance equipment to curb piracy off the East African coast.
“We need to be able to convincingly ensure homeland security,” Odinga said.
Netanyahu as promising to help build a “coalition against fundamentalism” in East Africa, incorporating Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Israel’s President Shimon Peres had promised to “make everything available” to Kenya to guarantee its security within its borders.
“Consistently, Kenya has shown a very positive attitude towards Israel and Israel is ready to help,” the statement quotes Peres as saying.
Kenya mounted an air and ground offensive against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab in Somalia a month ago after a string of kidnappings and cross-border raids it blamed on the group.
Kenya is the latest country to entangle itself in the affairs of its anarchic neighbour which has suffered two decades of civil war. Kenya has long cast a wary eye at its lawless neighbour, awash with weapons and mired in conflict since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991.
The region’s biggest economy is so worried by the anarchy in Somalia, where first warlords then Islamist insurgents have stepped into a political vacuum, that it has quietly supported the birth of a semi-autonomous Somali province dubbed ‘Jubaland’, comprising the three Somali regions bordering Kenya.
The status of Jubaland, also sometimes called Azania, is not clear. Somalia’s government says it does not support the Jubaland initiative.
Kenya’s military has denied its incursion was carefully planned for years with a view to annexing Somali territory that could act as a buffer zone between the two countries.
The military says it wants to eliminate the threat of al Shabaab, which has hit Kenya’s crucial tourist industry, and help the Western-backed Mogadishu government which has been fighting the militants since 2007.
The African Union said on Monday its peacekeeping force in Somalia, AMISOM, would receive an extra 1,150 troops from Burundi and Djibouti by mid-December, taking the total to around 11,000 — near the 12,000 authorised by the United Nations.
The peacekeepers have prevented al Shabaab from expelling the government from its foothold in the capital. “For the first time, we are now realistically envisioning the (government) extending its political reach and authority beyond Mogadishu,” AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra told reporters in Addis Ababa.
After a fairly smooth advance, the Kenyan forces fighting al Shabaab have camped near several rebel strongholds, but have had no serious clashes with the insurgents, and have not seized any significant bases.