The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is not pulling out of Somalia yet until the country attains full stability.
According to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was speaking during the 7th Annual KDF Day at Kenyatta Barracks in Gilgil, Nakuru County over the weekend, Kenya cannot afford to let down its guard until the complex transnational terror networks operating in the Horn of Africa region are completely removed.
“There is need to ensure that Kenyan borders remain secure, a role the KDF has prayed with pride, courage and determination,” Uhuru said.
KDF Day is marked to commemorate Kenya’s fallen heroes and heroines who died while defending and protecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace and freedom of the country.
KDF, which is touted as the most powerful military in the continent according to Global Fire Power (GFP), was deployed in Somali in 2011 to counter the Al-shabaab terror group, which has launched several attacks in Kenya demanding for the KDF to be pulled out of Somalia.
KDF SMUGGLING SUGAR
The significance of KDF’s stay in Somalia has been criticized in various quarters after some reports linked soldiers to the illicit charcoal and sugar trade in Somalia.
According to a 2015 report by Nairobi’s Journalists for Justice Rights Group, Kenya’s army was allegedly involved in a Sh40 billion sugar smuggling racket in Somalia, a trade that apparently also funds the Al-Qaeda militants it is supposed to be fighting.
‘It’s estimated that the total value of illegal sugar smuggling to Kenya is between $200 million and $400 million (Sh20 billion to Sh40 billion).
CHARCOAL SMUGGLING IN KISMAYO
KDF is also reported to tax every sack of charcoal that leaves and every sack of sugar that arrives at Kismayo, earning an estimated $50 million (46 million euros) a year.
The allegations touching on KDF’s misconduct emerged in 2012 where it was alleged that after taking control of the port of Kismayu in Somalia, the Kenya army engaged in the illegal export and import of banned or smuggled goods from the port instead of putting a stop to the illicit business, which Al-shaabab relied on for their funding.
The infiltration of Al shabaab in the country, who have continued to carry out attacks in several parts of the country, has provided the critics with much fodder to back their allegations.
Since KDF was deployed in Somalia, Al shabaab has carried out massive attacks in the country including the deadly Garissa University terror attack in 2015 that claimed 147 lives and the 2013 Westgate Mall attack that left 67 people dead.
In 2014, the militia also waylaid a bus in Mandera and executed 28 passengers.
The militia has also carried out other small attacks in the northeastern border towns, killing both civilians and security agencies.
EL Edde Attack
In January 17, 2016, Al-Shabaab ambushed a KDF base in El Adde, Somalia, leaving at least 63 soldiers dead, in an assault described as the worst in the military since Operation Linda Nchi was launched in 2011.
The Al-Shabaab reportedly used three vehicle-borne improvised devices (VBIED) commandeered by suicide bombers to attack both the KDF and the Somali National Army (SNA) camps.
Several soldiers were also taken hostage (prisoners of war) by the terrorists and up to date, their whereabouts are unknown.
Two years later, questions still linger on what exactly transpired that fateful night as the government has never issued any official account surrounding the El Adde attack and the biggest question Kenyans have been asking is; just how many soldiers were killed that night and how many were taken as prisoners of war?