• Al Shabaab has resorted to guerilla tactics as Amisom troops batter them in open confrontation
With a modest meal of rice, mashed potatoes, beans and beef, Kenyan soldiers in Somalia have by all standards done well in degrading terror threats posed by al Shabaab group.
The soldiers on a daily basis are always alert, taking nothing to chance. In fact, one has to sleep with a gun in his pillow, as the bad guys can strike anytime.
In 2012, the Kenyan troops liberated Kismayu with its breathtaking beaches. However, the battle to liberate other parts of Somalia continues, with the troops now part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom.
Soldiers now in Dhobley have their hands firmly on the trigger of the DShK, a heavy machine gun with a 2km shooting range. Meanwhile, an air and sea assault is being mounted to wrest parts of the country from al Shabaab.
The hard work has earned the Kenya Defence Forces "the most disciplined forces" tag.
The Special Representative of the Chair Person to the AU Commission, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, said the strategy that has been employed by KDF and other forces will deal a major blow to al Shabaab.
"Al Shabaab uses guerilla and asymmetric war tactics to achieve its mission. They cannot face forces face to face. They rely on surprises, hiding and confusing themselves within masses," Madeira said.
Madeira said the extremists "want political power using Islam, which is a good and peaceful religion".
"The Kenyan troops are facing the enemy in a very successful way. They are opening up a very important artery for people as well as goods to move," Madeira said, referring to roads being opened up connecting Dhobley and Afmadow.
Amisom Deputy Force Commander operations and plans Maj Gen Nakibus Lakara said Somalis were being forced by terror gang to either pay tax. Those who fail to pay would surrender their children to fighters. If not, they risked being killed. But the more they are liberated, the more sanity is restored.
Security analyst Mwenda Mbijiwe told the Star on the phone that KDF has done extremely well. "They have done so well. The grand prize was the capture of Kismayu port. However, good news does not sell," he said.
Mbijiwe said the Kenyan forces have successfully pacified other areas, forcing the enemy to flee. He said Kenyan forces has done critical work in preparing Somalia Nationally Army as they prepare to take over security of their motherland.
"There is a need for continued training of the Somalia National Forces. Morale also has to be boosted. The KDF are well trained and highly motivated," he said.
Mbijiwe said the same kind of treatment that Kenyan forces have should also trickle down to the Somalia forces, if they are to confront the enemy.
LITANY OF WOES
The Somali people have to grapple with terrorist attacks, natural disasters, grave human rights violations and other challenges, such as poverty and lack of basic necessities for their livelihoods.
UN independent expert Bahame Tom Nyanduga earlier this year called on the international community to intervene.
“I urge the international community and Federal Government of Somalia to address the negative effects of climate change on the population and ensure access to basic human rights such as water supply, health services, and education for all children, in particular girls,” he said at the end of a 12-day visit to the country this year.
Nyanduga said Somalia also faces “many other challenges”, including continuing conflict, discrimination and youth unemployment, as well as “delivering economic, social and cultural rights”.
The expert commended the Somali people for their resilience in the face of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, grave human rights violations and other challenges, such as poverty and lack of basic necessities for their livelihoods.
He also expressed concern over the delay in establishing the National Human Rights Commission and in progress on a Sexual Offences Bill.
“I urge the Federal Government and Federal Parliament to address these challenges as a matter of priority to enhance protection of human rights in the country,” he said.
Turning to progress, he cited territory recovered by Somalia’s security institutions, Amisom troops and bilateral forces, praised the increased number of women in Parliament and Cabinet, and welcomed Somalia’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Nyanduga urged Parliament to include specific mechanism within the proposed electoral law to ensure that women, minority clans and other vulnerable groups were represented in Parliament – or risk losing its 2016 gains.
Against the backdrop of reports of continuing intimidation, arbitrary arrests and harassment, he stressed the importance of respecting the right to freedom of expression and opinion of journalists.
The expert also called for action to end the endemic problem of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly allegations of gang rapes across the country.
“A strong judiciary and police force will greatly contribute to the elimination of conflict-related sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence,” he said.