Protests against KDF escalate in troubled Somalia

GARBAHAREY, Somalia – Hundreds of Somalis crowd the streets of the towns of Balad-Hawo, El-Wak and Garbaharey for the third consecutive time, following reports of misconduct by the Kenyan defense forces [KDF] stationed in the Gedo area.

Kenyan forces operate across the border at Mandera and those serving in Sector II of the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], in which could significantly affect security protocols in the country.

Reports from several sources indicate that civilians are against the presence of the KDF in the region, which has been subject to a fair amount of political instability since last year, following internal differences between President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and the leader of Jubaland Ahmed Madobe.

The differences, sparked by local elections, have since been resolved, albeit temporarily, following the recent conference in Mogadishu. But despite the deal, the federal government has yet to withdraw dozens of Somali National Army soldiers [SNA] de Gedo, an area which is disputed by both parties.

But SNA troops have often disagreed with the KDF team they accuse of protecting the Jubaland security forces. The KDF team is protecting Sector II and the areas along Border Point One in Mandera, where they have a base on the Kenyan side, which is being used as a temporary forward operating base.

And over the past three days, protesters carrying Somalia’s national flags have flooded the border town, calling for the immediate withdrawal of KDF from Somalia, over accusations of attacking residents in addition to kidnapping three people in recent days under controversial circumstances.

Protesters further claimed that one of the abductees was found shot dead near El-Wak, another border town between the Kenya-Somalia border. The body had gunshot wounds and it is not known who pulled the trigger and why, but protesters pointed accusing fingers at KDF.

According to protesters, the other two people are still missing. They called on Somalia’s federal government to immediately take up the matter and push for the withdrawal of the KDF from the country, arguing that their presence would jeopardize security situations.

So far, neither the KDF team nor AMISOM forces in Mogadishu have yet issued a statement regarding the lingering tensions in Gedo. But instances where troops from peacekeeping missions brutalize residents are synonymous in Somalia, and forces have often promised to exercise restraint in dealing with suspected criminals.

About four months ago, the SNA clashed with security forces from Jubaland near the border and the fighting spread to Mandera, forcing the KDF team to cross the border to respond. In a stern warning issued by the security forces, the KDF team warned SNA troops against “provoking us” in a statement that was followed by a wave of diplomatic activity.

The KDF first invaded Somalia in 2011 after reports of kidnappings targeting tourists were reported and have since joined AMISOM security forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab. There are nearly 3,500 KDF soldiers in the insecure Horn of Africa country.

The team’s presence in sections of Jubaland has significantly improved the state of security in Somalia according to African Union reports. Among other cities, the team managed to liberate cities like Afmadow, Dhobley, Qoqani and even the strategic city of Kismayo, which is the regional administrative capital of Jubaland.

But in return, the troops also suffered immense losses, with the UN estimating that most of those who died were from Kenya. The worst tragedy against the team includes the Al-Shabaab raids in El-Adde in Gedo in 2016 and the ensuing attack on the Kulbiyow military base a year later.

ONLINE AXADLE