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The Somalia dilemma: Should Kenya pull out troops or not?


Withdrawing the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops from Somalia could unleash a wave of unprecedented instability in the region, security experts now warn.
Mr Richard Tuta, a former police officer and a scholar in criminal and security matters, says withdrawing Kenyan troops is a populist move that will hand ‘victory’ to Al-Shabaab. “Any terrorist group should be on the run, not on the move. Removing our troops means they will have time to regroup…they will easily overrun the current government in Somalia and then we will be back to where we started.

The whole region will be in danger,” he said. The government and the opposition have been sparring about the fate of Kenyan troops in Somalia, especially after Al-Shabaab militants massacred 148 people in Garissa early this month. The opposition says the solution to such attacks is to pull out KDF from Somalia, a suggestion the government has dismissed outrightly.

“Our main challenge is not being in Somalia,” said Mr George Musamali, a former General Service Unit (GSU) officer and now a consultant on security and terrorism. “It is people crossing over from Somalia to come and hit us at home. There are no grenades being lobbed into Kenya from Somalia. These attacks are being carried out by our own boys,” he said.

In the wake of the Garissa attack, carried out by four Kenyan-born militants, the government initiated measures to deal with the Al-Shabaab threat. First, it has commenced construction of a wall along the Kenya- Somalia border to curb the inflow of militants. See also: Did insecurity inform Friday’s military changes? It also gave a 10-day amnesty to Kenyan Al-Shabaab recruits to surrender.

While praising some of these moves, Tuta said they should be viewed as components of a greater plan to contain Al-Shabaab, not the ultimate solution.

“The government ought to employ soft and hard power in its approach. Soft power can be seen in the amnesty incentive and hard power should be the application of more punitive laws,” he said. But Musamali criticised the amnesty offer, saying: “We offered amnesty to Mungiki and the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) and I don’t remember any of them coming forward. What about terrorists who have been thoroughly indoctrinated?” While hosting a group of visiting US senators for dinner last week, CORD leader Raila Odinga called on the delegation to ask President Barack Obama to prevail on President Kenyatta to pull out the troops.

However, Musamali says “Kenya does not have a unilateral say about its troops there” since KDF troops are now part of the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom).