The Kenya Defense Forces operations in Somalia could be grounded in few months time due to delayed disbursement of funds by European Union, For the last three months, records reveal, EU has not been able to fulfill her financial obligations, with the burden now left to the government of Kenya despite the troops serving under United Nations. Kenya is set to pursue reimbursement of close to Sh5 billion from the Brussel-based organisation as it seeks to support close to 4,000 her AMISOM soldiers in Somalia.
The 28-nation EU, the largest contributor of funds to the Amisom through the African Peace Facility, in April pledged to continue supporting the mission’s programmes and activities in financial year 2019/20. The funds cater for allowances for the Amisom troops and police, international and local civilian staff salaries, operational costs of their offices, among others.
Nairobi first sent soldiers to Somalia in 2011 under Operation Linda Nchi following escalating cases of Al-Shabaab attacks. The soldiers were absorbed by the UN a year later.Each soldier gets Kshs103,000 monthly from the mission but the Kenyan government deducts close to Kshs20,000 for operations and maintenance.
The money is channeled through government accounts. KDF Deputy Director for Public Communication Brigadier Bogita Ongeri could not be reached for comment since he neither responded to texts nor received calls. “The government is broke and if EU is unable to disburse the funds in time, then the mission will collapse,” said Nyambega Gisesa, a Nation journalist who covered KDF activities in Somalia.
The KDF team has made several gains in Somalia among them liberation of Kismayo, the seaport city once regarded as ‘commercial’ capital of the Al-Shabaab. But in the process, the troops have suffered a number of casualties. In 2016, close to 200 soldiers were killed at El Adde within Gedo region.
A year later, 70 soldiers were gunned down by Al-Shabaab in Kulbiyow military base.
Despite the looming financial downturn, President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday insisted that KDF troops will continue helping Somalia to stabilise. He spoke during Mashujaa Day celebrations. KDF Vice Chief of Defense Forces Lieutenant General Robert Kibochi, in June said Somalia National Army must be effectively trained, equipped and organised to take over responsibilities being undertaken by Kenyan forces.
“To bring security and stability to Somalia, the security forces must be organized, trained up, and equipped for them to eventually take over the roles and responsibilities that the KDF and AMISOM troops are undertaking in Somalia,” Kibochi told African Defense Magazine in an interview. Kenya is tentatively planning to exit Somalia in 2021, should the AMISOM stick to the current agreement. Somalia is expected to go to polls in 2020, a reason which makes KDF presence critical.
While the forces have been lauded for restoring peace in some sections, Somalia government have often questioned their integrity, with a recent Amnesty International report linking them to illegal destruction of property, rape among others.