Kenya to intervene in Somalia crisis

Friday June 19 2009

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula  at a past function. FILE

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula at a past function. FILE 

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

The Kenya government has vowed to intervene in the rapidly declining Somalia crisis.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula made the remarks after a crisis meeting with envoys from the European Union over the growing control of insurgents, now targeting Somali government officials.

Addressing a news conference in his Nairobi office on Friday, Mr Wetang’ula said the meeting had been ordered by President Kibaki following the “security threats to Kenya’s strategic interests.”

Although the Foreign Affairs Minister did not divulge the specific measures being taken to end the insurgency, he hinted at possible military intervention.

He said the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was “looking at options” to protect the Somali government from militia attacks.

Already airports in militia-controlled regions have been declared ‘no-fly zones’, while the ports have been blockaded.

This, Mr Wetang’ula said, is meant to cut off supplies to the insurgents.

“It will be most inappropriate and inadvisable to do nothing when our national security and regional stability is threatened,” he said. “We cannot be by-standers in a situation such as this.”

Kenya’s stake in the Somali conflict is hinged on the insecurity threat posed by the swelling numbers of refugees into the country.

Also, the persistent attacks in the high seas by Somali pirates is a source of concern to a government keen on protecting international trade.

The remarks come against a backdrop of warnings from the Al Shaabab militia asking Kenya to keep off the affairs of the largely unstable Somalia.

However, Mr Wetang’ula dismissed the threats as “not worth our (Kenya’s) comment.”

He ruled out talks with the militia saying “it will be a big mistake and against the rules of the AU.”
He added: “Kenya has the capacity to protect its borders.”

Defence Minister Yusuf Haji attended the meeting but skipped the news conference.

The crisis meeting held on Friday comes in the wake of high-profile assassinations of top officials in the Somali government, most recently, the minister of Internal Security Omar Hashi Aden.

Somali police commissioner and the ambassador to Ethiopia have also been felled by the Al Shaabab militia.

A special fund for Somalia’s restoration was set up by Igad in a past meeting in Brussels.

EU countries plus Russia, China and Norway attended yesterday’s meeting in which they pledged to meet their respective quotas in the Sh16.4 billion (USD 213 million) fund.

Only Italy has honoured its pledge of Sh432 million (4 million euros).

According to Mr Wetang’ula, the delay in releasing the funds to the Somalia kitty was due to “budgetary constraints and red-tape” in those countries.

Somalia’s Prime Minister AbdiRashid Sharmarke attended the briefing together with four other ministers from the war-torn country.

He sought support from the international community in stabilising his country.

At the same time, the recent killings of the internal security minister has evoked an uproar from political blocs across the globe.

The AU, Igad, the League of Arab States, the United Nations and the European Union have condemned the killings and pledged “firm support” for the TFG.

The blocs alluded to foreigners working with Somali’s to carry out the attacks aimed at seizing power from a “legitimate government.”

“We pledge our full support to the Government particularly at this critical time and call for all Somalis to rally behind their Government and all those who are working for peace and stability,” read a statement.

Similarly, the British Minister for Africa, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, condemned the killings.