Chief of Defence Forces Robert Kibochi made a surprise visit to Kenyan soldiers in parts of Somalia, in a bid to boost their morale.
General Kibochi’s tour on Tuesday came ahead of the marking of KDF Day, an annual event aimed at celebrating acts of gallantry by the Kenyan soldiers, yesterday.
October 14 marks the day in 2011 when Kenyan troops went to Somalia under Operation Linda Nchi to pursue Al Shabaab terrorists who had staged abductions in Kenya and launched attacks.
The government saw the attacks as a threat to the country’s sovereignty as it targeted tourism, which is an economic lifeline. Kibochi visited troops in Kuday, Sarira in Somalia and Sankuri, Baure and Manda in Kenya where he lauded them for their dedication to delivering peace and security in Somalia and along its border with Kenya.
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African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) Sector II Commander Brigadier Paul Njema accompanied Kibochi and led in observing a moment of silence in respect of soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in the war against Al Shabaab.
And speaking at the Mariakani Garrison yesterday during celebrations to mark the KDF Day, Cabinet Secretary for Defence Monica Juma, said the Al Shabaab has been severely degraded, but the insurgent group remains a threat.
She said blatant attacks on Kenyan territory from across the border with Somalia have reduced drastically. “Time is gone for ceremonial armies... nine years since the Kenya Defence Force entered Somalia, they have exhibited professionalism and readiness to fight and defend the dignity of both Somali and Kenyans,” she said.
She said Kenya has the ability to deploy a high calibre force and KDF continues to deliver enhanced service. “My ministry will continue to support you achieve KDF goals both as a fighting force and the force that renders exemplary service to mankind,” she added.
The ninth edition of the KDF Day was themed “enhancing peace and security through civil-military cooperation.”
CS Juma said while the day is a solemn occasion to honour fallen heroes and heroines who have died defending their motherland Kenya, it is still a day to recognise and honour the good work by men and women in uniform. “Their sacrifices (for those who have paid the ultimate price with their lives) shall not be in vain,” she said.
The CS also reiterated the government’s commitment to stand with and walk together with families of the departed soldiers. “We continue to appreciate and salute you all. Kenyans owe you, soldiers, a huge debt of gratitude,” she said.
Meanwhile, more than 600 KDF personnel are undergoing a joint UK and Kenya training at Archers Post, Samburu County, in preparation for deployment to Somalia.
This is the first large scale joint UK-Kenya military training since the outbreak of coronavirus.
The British High Commission in Nairobi said the training is an important part of the two countries’ close military cooperation, formalised under the 2016 UK-Kenya Defence Co-operation Agreement.
Over the past two years, the British Army and the KDF have conducted 10 joint training exercises in Kenya, involving more than 1,500 Kenyan troops and contributing an estimated Sh500 million to the economy annually.
Peace and stability
British Deputy High Commissioner Julius Court said the UK has a long-standing defence relationship with Kenya and supports the country’s work to promote peace and stability across East Africa.
“We are also working with the African Union (AU) to build its capacity to prevent, manage and respond to conflicts in Africa, enhancing the capability of troop-contributing countries like Kenya participating in AU or United Nations peacekeeping missions such as Amisom,” she said.
In January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed a new, ambitious, strategic partnership that will further elevate the strong relationship between the UK and Kenya.
The court said the agreement will guide co-operation over the next five years, and help Kenya respond to global terrorism, violent extremism, organised crime and corruption.