Kenya stuck with Somali ‘mercenaries’

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An estimated 2500 Somali youths trained by Kenya to fight in Somalia are stranded at Archer’s Post in Isiolo, the Nairobi Star newspaper reported.

A report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia which was presented to the UN Security Council indicates the youths, majority of them from the Ogaden clan, started receiving training early last year at the request of President Sheikh Shariff under the auspices of his then Minister of Defence Mohamed Abdi Mohammed “Gandhi”.
“Kenya hosted the programme and Ethiopia has been closely involved.

Approximately 2 500 youths were recruited by clan elders and commissioned agents both from within Somalia (exclusively the Juba Valley) and North-eastern Kenya, including the Daadab refugee camp,” states the UN report.

The Nairobi Star established that the youths cannot be deployed to Somalia as there was a stalemate between Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia about where they would be most useful.

While the Kenyan security forces want to have the youths deployed in the southern Somali regions of Juba and Gedo to create a buffer zone with the militant Al Shabaab, Ethiopia and the Somalia transitional government want them sent to Mogadishu to help repulse the Al Shabaab who have taken control of large parts of the capital.

Somalia President Sheikh Shariff later fell out with his Defence minister Mohamed Ghandi, an Ogadeni, whom he suspected of pushing for the deployment of the youths in Juba and Gedo to not only fight the Al Shabaab but also lay the foundation for the establishment of an Ogaden autonomous region.

Ethiopia’s fears the deployment of the contingent in Ogaden might bolster and give the Ogaden National Liberation Front a launching pad for its attacks against Ethiopia.

The Ogaden clan live in the central Ogaden plateau of Ethiopia, the North Eastern Province of Kenya, and the Jubaland region of Southern Somalia. In Kenya, the Ogadeni have served the government in key positions since independence.

Last week Somalia Ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, confirmed there was a stalemate in the deployment process. He could not comment further “because the issue is sensitive.”
“The government of Somalia will very soon address that. I am not an authority on this matter. I can’t talk about it, but I have heard the reports of the former Somali Defence minister meeting with Somali elders in Nairobi on the deployment issue,” said Ali Nur.

The Ministry of Foreign Affair spokesman Egara Kabaji denied the UN report that Kenya was training the youths to support Somalia transitional government. He denied the existence of the such a contingent anywhere in the country, Kabaji said the only training that the government was involved in was in accordance with an agreement between the EU and Kenya in which Kenya offered to train policemen for the Somalia government.
“The last time we trained Somali police officers was in 2006, when we trained 200 VIP protection police officers. But even as we speak there is a plan between Kenya and the EU to train Somali policemen,” said Kabaji.

However, according to the UN report: “In December 2009, the Kenyan Minister for security, George Saitoti, reportedly confirmed to foreign diplomats the existence of Jubaland policy which is intended to establish a ‘buffer zone’ bordering Kenya in the Juba Valley.” Yesterday Parliament’s departmental committee of Foreign Affairs said they will in the next 10 days table a report on the recruitment in the House.

Committee chairman Aden Keynan said the matter had serious consequences for security in the region.
“The issue we have been dealing with is about recruitment of the youth which the committee has concluded its investigations,” said Keynan.

According to the UN report, two training centres were established at the Kenya Wildlife Service training camp at Manyani, and near Archer’s Post in Isiolo.
“A total of 36 Somali officers were recruited to assist in the training under the command of a General Abdi Mahdi and Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail ‘Fartaag’. The officers completed one-month training in September 2009”.

The youths under the command of General Mahdi, a former Somali warlord, were supposed to be deployed on February 16, 2010 immediately after they completed their training.

They have been at the training camps since then waiting for their deployment.

Yesterday security analysts were fearful that if the squad is allowed back into the communities it would pose a grave security risk. A few of the trainees escaped from the camp when they received reports they might be deployed to Mogadishu to fight the Al-Shabaab militants.

One of the Kenyan Somali trainers who sought anonymity told the Nairobi Star Newspaper that he and other trainers have not been paid since the programme started last September.

The youths who were each promised a salary of $150 (Sh11 400) a month after recruitment had also not been paid.

Last week the former Somalia Defence minister Mohamed Ghandi hosted elders from the Marehan and Ogaden clans to brief them on the training and deployment plans.

The meeting, held at Chester House, Nairobi, also discussed the possibility of the two clans withdrawing their support to the Somali government.

Sources at the meeting said Ghandi assured the elders that the youths will be deployed in the Gedo and Juba region as he had initially planned when he was still Minister.



Sources: www.somalilandpress.com and Nairobi Star newspaper