Kenya PM hints at military solution for Somalia

Monday June 22 2009

Prime Minister Raila Odinga with his Somalia counterpart Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake in a joint press conference at his Treasury Building office in Nairobi June 22, 2009. Photo/CHRIS OJOW

Prime Minister Raila Odinga with his Somalia counterpart Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake in a joint press conference at his Treasury Building office in Nairobi June 22, 2009. Photo/CHRIS OJOW 

By PETER LEFTIE

Prime Minister Raila Odinga Monday hinted at a military solution to the crisis in war-torn Somalia.

At a joint press conference with Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake at his Treasury office, Mr Odinga called on the international community to consider sending “military assistance” to the war-torn nation to arrest the armed conflict.

“When I was in Geneva last week, I talked to various agencies to help Somalia deal with the problem, and to also help us to deal with the influx of refugees into Kenya. There is also need to provide military assistance to deal with the situation in Somalia,” said the PM.

But he remained non-committal on whether Kenya would send its troops to Somalia , saying the government would meet and make an announcement on the issue “soon”. “I’m not saying that we will send forces to Somalia, we are consulting and will make an announcement soon,” he added.

Mr Odinga spoke in the wake of reports that the Al Qaeda terrorist group had pitched tent in Somalia where it is fighting alongside extremists to oust the transitional government, posing a deadly threat to the stability of neighbouring countries, Kenya included.

The reports that Al-Muhajirun, a terrorist outfit linked to Al Qaeda and commanded by a Kenyan, Saleh Nabhan, had brought to Somalia some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world posed a major concern to Kenya.

Mr Odinga would not be drawn into discussing the government’s response to warnings by Al-Shabaab insurgents operating in Somalia that they would attack Kenya.

Asked his take on threats to Kenya by the insurgent group, the PM responded; “Al-Shabaab is not telling us how to cope with the influx of refugees at the Dadaab camp, I’m therefore not responding officially to Al-Shabaab”.

He cited IGAD and AU resolutions that restricted nations from interfering in the internal affairs of their neighbours to explain Kenya’s reluctance to send troops to Somalia just yet.

Mr Odinga appealed to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the US government to move in and save the Somalia Transitional Government from being overrun by the insurgents.

He expressed concern that the international community was yet to honour pledges to extend aid to the fledgling Somalia government, amounting to US$213 million, agreed upon during a meeting held in Brussels, Belgium recently.

He warned that the consequences to Kenya would be “very grave” if Mogadishu was to fall to the insurgents, and appealed for international intervention.

Mr Odinga announced that Kenya had offered extra land for the expansion of the Dadaab refugee camp to accommodate the huge number of refugees fleeing from the war in Somalia.

He said that whereas the Dadaab refugee camp used to previously host up to 250,000 refugees, the war in Somalia had meant many more refugees are trooping in by the day, forcing the Kenya government to transfer some to other camps in other parts of the country.

He said that thanks to the rise in pirates attacks in ships in the Indian Ocean, Kenya’s economy was already suffering as insurance firms raise their premiums on goods being shipped to Kenya.

He noted that the ultimate decision to end the crisis in Somalia lay with its own citizens, who must agree to compromise to achieve lasting peace.

Citing the compromise he and president Kibaki had to make to save the country from the post election violence early last year, Mr Odinga noted; “The international community can host meetings at Serena, but ultimately it is upon the people themselves to make compromises.”