Kenyan Troops To Join AU Mission In Somalia.

Halkaan ka akhri

Kenya’s Parliament voted late on Wednesday to allow the country’s troops to join African Union’s ongoing U.N.-mandated military mission in Somalia aimed at providing military support to the U.N.-backed interim Somali government against the Islamist militants.

The Kenyan move came after the AU requested Nairobi last week to allow its troops currently in Somalia on an anti-militant mission to join the bloc’s 9,000-strong troops already deployed in the Horn of Africa nation to support the Somali interim government.

Experts believe Kenya’s latest move would force the AU and the United Nations to finance the costs of the ongoing Kenyan military operation in Somalia, thereby sparing Nairobi of the massive expenses involved in maintaining the military operation in Somalia. It would also ensure Kenya’s active participation in the regional efforts to tackle al-Qaeda-linked militant groups.

Hundreds of Kenyan troops are currently in Somalia as part of a cross-border operation aimed at driving fighters belonging to the infamous al-Shabaab Islamist militant group away from the border separating the two nations, following a wave of abductions along the border.

The Kenyan incursion is also part of a cross-border search for four kidnapped Europeans, including two humanitarian aid workers, believed to have been taken to Somalia by their captors. One of them subsequently died in captivity. Kenyan officials blame al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants for the kidnappings.

However, the Islamist group denies any involvement in the recent abductions in Kenya and has threatened to respond to the Kenyan incursion by launching suicide attacks in Kenya like the July 2010 Ugandan suicide bombings that killed 76 people and left dozens injured. The group has already carried out several bombings in Kenya.

Al-Shabaab is Somalia’s most prominent and influential Islamist militant unit and is branded a terrorist organization by the United States and most of the international community. The outfit is the military wing of the Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopia-backed Somali forces in 2006.

The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s government in 1991. Currently, the weak U.N.-backed interim government set up in 2004 is trying to enforce its authority in the country.

Although the AU peacekeepers and forces loyal to the interim government have managed to take control of capital Mogadishu and adjoining areas in recent weeks, the al-Shabaab and other allied groups though still control large areas in southern Somalia where they enforce strict Islamic laws or Sharia.

The AU currently has a 9,000 strong forces in Somalia. Although the mission was originally planned to have a strength of over 8,000, only Uganda and Burundi contributed troops to the mission initially. But the African Union strengthened by mission recently by adding 2,000 more troops after al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly suicide bombings in Uganda.

Somalia is presently facing its worst drought in more than six decades. Although some regions in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda have also been hit by drought, the situation in southern Somalia is compounded by an Islamist insurgency and acute poverty.

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