Kenyan military offensive into Somalia, govt info sec interview
Kenyan soldiers reportedly crossed the border into Somalia on Sunday in pursuit of the Al-Shabaab militant group. A large presence of troops were seen in the area, backed by planes and helicopters, according to Kenyan border officials. This latest offensive against the hardline Muslim group follows a number of kidnappings in Kenya. Two Spanish aid workers were seized by gunmen from the Dadaab refugee camp on Thursday last week.
Interview: Ezekiel Mutua, Information Secretary, Kenyan government
Could you tell us more about the Kenyan offensive into Somalia?
The Al-Shabaab terror/militia group has attacked Kenya and held several foreigners and even Kenyans hostage. The move by the government of Kenya to send troops, send the military, is to try and rescue the people who’ve been taken hostage, but at the same time to try and protect our territorial integrity as a country. Previously we have been using a diplomatic approach to resolve the issues of Somalia, the unrest in Sudan and the Horn of Africa in general. But when the territorial integrity of the country is at stake we undertake a resolute decision as a government to protect our borders.
Do you have any information on the number of troops and the exact hardware that the Kenyan military is sending?
What I can confirm is that, it’s true that the government has taken that decision and our military is pursuing the terror group Al-Shabaab, including into the Somali territory.
It’s not clear whether the Kenyan airforce are involved? Can you confirm or deny this?
When the military’s involved they use all means. I think it’s possible that becomes necessary that the Kenyan airforce will be involved as well. But right now it has not gotten involved.
How far will this offensive go into Somalia? There’s obviously a worry that this could turn into a full blown war.
The position of the Kenya government is really not to interfere with government strategies of Somalia. What we are reacting to is the recent wave of rage that have been occasioned by the militia group Al-Shabaab. And I think to the extent that we can ensure that our borders are safe, that our people are safe, and that the poorest who are coming to this country are safe. We have no other intention to either take over Somalia or even to interfere with their government strategy. As a matter of fact Kenya’s played a key role in ensuring that Somali people can have a government. Our diplomatic approach, our peace initiative has seen not to borne fruit in that country. I think the unrest that has visited that country for the last twenty years since the overthrow of Said Barre has quite affected this country. We have borne the brunt of the refugees who are coming from that country – that, we could take, that, we could support as an international obligation. But the attacks by the Al-Shabaab group – they are unacceptable. I think, until we confirm that we have dealt with that situation comprehensively and the peace of this country is guaranteed, I think that we’ll go on.
Do you think there will be a Kenyan military unit sent specifically to free the two female Spanish aid workers who were seized by gunmen?
We cannot reveal the details of the military operation. We are dealing with a terror group here. Of course we are keen to ensure the security of our people, including the military troops that are conducting the operation are safe. Therefore it wouldn’t be fit for me to really give indications of the exact details of all the operations that will be carried out. But suffice to say, everything within our means will be done, to secure borders and protect the territorial integrity of Kenya.
Will you be receiving any foreign help?
The minister for internal security and the government indeed have sent an appeal to the international community. The problem of Somalia is not a problem of Kenya alone. You are aware of what happened in Kampala about a year ago. When the militia group attacked people watching the World Cup and seventy people were confirmed dead. There has been a wave of attacks especially targeting Kenya. The Kenyan coast with the pirate groups causing terror and indeed holding hostages. Not only Kenyans but also foreigners who are visiting this country. I do think that it is in the interest of the world, the community, to come together and ensure that the unrest in Somalia is brought to an end. That these militia groups that are growing by the day are stopped from their illegal activities.
A Somali government spokesperson has said that they welcome logistical support from Kenya. But at the same time they don’t need Kenyan troops. Do you have a reaction to that?
If the Somali government was able to contain this situation Kenya would not have crossed the borders. We are doing this as I’ve yet shown to the inversion, very insistent wave of attacks that have been visited by the Al-Shabaab. I do think when it comes to protecting our borders, protecting the integrity of this country and also freeing it as a nation is not a matter that we are going to negotiate further. As I told you from the beginning the government of Kenya has embarked on a diplomatic approach over the years. We have done everything possible. Our president and even our former president have chaired numerous peace initiatives. We have spent a lot of in terms of supporting Somalia to organise itself and bring peace and stop the unrest in that country. What they perceive of our military crossing their borders is not really our issue as long as we can secure our borders and ensure that our citizens are safe.