EL WAK, Somalia – Several troops from the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] have been deployed along the border between Kenya and Somalia near the Gedo region, reports show, amid simmering tensions between troops from the two neighboring countries that have been in harmony for a few years now.
The last three weeks have been tough in the region with civilians taking to the streets of the border town of Balad-Hawo and accusing the KDF team of committing “crimes against humanity” to Somali people. The protests have been frequent accompanied by calls for the withdrawal of KDF from Somalia.
Reports show that a suspected KDF contingent “abducted” three people near the border town of El-Wak and subsequently killed another resident during controversial circumstances in Balad-Hawo. The three are yet to be located and it is believed they were executed.
These are the two incidents that also claimed clashes between the KDF and the Somali National Army [SNA], which was recently sent to the city. Although it is not clear how long the clashes will take, the government of Somalia has written to the African Union Mission in Somalia demanding the latest developments in the region.
But Somali authorities now say several KDF troops have been deployed to Balad-Hawo in Gedo and sections of Border Point One, and they are believed to be planning a major attack. The troops are now joining their counterparts in sections of Jubaland that have been fighting the Al-Shabaab militants for almost 8 years.
Officials said the fresh contingent is mostly non-AMISOM troops and is deployed along the fragile border amid rising tensions. This is the first time a non-AMISOM contingent from Kenya has crossed the border into Somalia in pursuit of the Al-Shabaab militants.
Eyewitnesses said the troops were armed to the teeth and it is not clear what their immediate mission was. Earlier, SNA troops along the border had accused Kenyan troops of helping Jubaland’s security forces “rebel” against Somali authorities, a claim that Kenya has often rejected.
The troops are believed to have been deployed from the Modika Barracks in Garissa. This comes at a time when the U.S.-African Command is considering the possibility of launching air strikes in northeastern Kenya and coastal regions if a proposal to the Department of Defense goes through.
But in a recent interview, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta insisted that the United States has never made requests to launch air strikes in the Northern Frontier Districts. [NFDs] and the coastal strip, which has mainly witnessed increasing attacks by Al-Shabaab. Ih, Uhuru remarked, was completely “unnecessary” since the militants do not have bases in Kenya.
“There is no such situation. We are at the level we have terrorist attacks, but we do not have terrorist bases inside Kenya. The United States has never even asked for authority to launch even this drone attack in Kenya,” Uhuru said, arguing that the main Al-Shabaab bases are located in Somalia.
Over the past two years, he has added that Kenya has worked closely with international partners to combat attacks on its territory. Through such cooperation, he said the militants have been significantly dismantled and can no longer carry out successful attacks within the East African nation.
The last major attack was carried out by the militants in 2018 at the Dusit D2 Hotel in Nairobi, Uhuru acknowledged, arguing that sustained security demonstrates Kenya’s ability to fight terrorism. Since 2018, however, the group has managed to carry out successful sporadic attacks in the northeastern part and the coastal strip.
“We do not even think this is necessary. The truth of the matter is that Kenya’s security forces working with the international partners have greatly reduced incidents of attacks within our borders,” he said. “We have made tremendous progress because we have never had a major incident since the Dusit D2 Hotel raid.”