The United Nations Security Council has given a cautiously favourable response to a joint request by Kenya and the African Union for incorporation of Kenya troops into the AU military mission in Somalia.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula, who also chairs the AU Peace and Security Council, urged the UN top body to authorise the expansion of Amisom troop levels to include Kenyan forces now fighting in Somalia.
The Amisom deployment would increase from 12,000 to 17,731 under the proposal, which also entails additional troops from Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi. (READ: Kenya gets nod to join AU troops in Somalia offensive)
Mr Wetang’ula said in his address to the 15-member council that it was imperative to provide “force enablers” and “multipliers” — a reference to heavier weaponry and air support for Amisom troops on the ground.
The foreign minister likewise reiterated Kenya’s call for a UN-supported blockade of the port of Kismayu.
The US, one of the Security Council’s five permanent members, in turn gave a clear endorsement of Kenya’s military presence in Somalia.
“Kenya and Ethiopia have thrown their weight behind the effort to defeat Al-Shabaab, and we welcome their contributions as well,” said US delegate Jeffrey DeLaurentis.
But the US, as well as the Security Council itself, cautioned that some points must be refined before authorising an expansion and strengthening of Amisom.
Both Mr DeLaurentis and Mr Lynne Pascoe, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, cited the need to clarify “command and control” arrangements for the added Amisom troops.
Diplomats say Kenyan officials are reluctant to accept Ugandan commanders’ authority over Kenyan troops.
Uganda accounts for most of the current Amisom detachment, with Ugandan commanders having key operational responsibilities for the AU troops in Somalia.
The question of financing for the “rehatted” Kenyan forces must also be resolved.
The US has provided $337 million worth of training, equipment and logistical support to Amisom itself and to Uganda and Burundi for their contributions to the force, Mr DeLaurentis noted.
The Obama administration appears willing to lend additional support once its concerns are addressed.