Kenyan forces in Somalia formally joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Friday at a ceremony held at the Kenyan Department of Defence headquarters in the capital Nairobi.
4 664 Kenyan personnel have been integrated into AMISOM, joining those from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda and bringing its strength to just over 17 000. This is slightly below its total authorised strength of 17 700. Sierra Leone will send a battalion of troops at a later stage.
“We are proud to welcome our brothers and sisters from Kenya in this African effort to help the people of Somalia,” said special representative of the chairman of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Boubakar Diarra.
“A major goal of the African Union is to encourage the collective defence, security, and stability of its members. It is clear that Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists based in Somalia pose a significant threat not just to Somalia but to other countries in the region, including Kenya,” he added.
Kenya’s defence minister Yussuf Haji said that, “We cannot stop fighting in Somalia, the war will continue despite what they [al Shabaab] are doing inside our country.”
In mid-January this year the African Union’s Peace and Security Council allowed Kenyan soldiers to join AMISOM. “The [African Union] council endorses the strategic concept for future operations…including the increase of the level of UN-supported AMISOM uniformed personnel from 12 000 to 17 731, including 5 700 from the Djiboutian contingent and the re-hatted Kenyan troops, as well as Amisom’s police component,” read part of a communiqué issued following the decision.
Kenya has tried to beef up security along the border since it sent troops into anarchic Somalia in October to crush the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents. Kenyan has suffered from a wave of kidnappings and cross-border raids that Nairobi blamed on the Islamist rebels, who control large swathes of southern Somalia and are battling a weak Western-backed government.
Created in 2007, AMISOM, is made up of close to 10 000 troops drawn from Uganda and Burundi, well under the 12 000 authorised by the United Nations which helps fund AMISOM. Specifically the mission’s mandate is to conduct peace support operations in Somalia, as well as to stabilise the situation in the country in order to create conditions for the conduct of humanitarian activities.