KDF to withdraw from Somalia by December 2024, pledges CS Duale

Defence CS Aden Duale speaks after signing a Defence Cooperation Agreement with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III at the Defence Headquarters in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale has said that Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) will withdraw from Somalia by December 2024 when all the countries that contributed troops for the peacekeeping mission will exit.

Duale, who appeared before the Senate plenary to answer senators' questions, Wednesday said the withdrawal of KDF troops is dependent on several factors including the progress of the Africa Union Transmission Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) mandate and prevailing security and political conditions in the country.

He told the Senate that there is an ongoing ATMIS drawdown strategy, which aims to gradually transfer security responsibilities to the Somalia Security Forces and Kenya alongside other troop-contributing countries and international partners, and is actively engaged in supporting the Somali military in capacity-building to ensure a smooth transition.

“Already, Phase 1 of the drawdown has been completed where a total of 2,000 ATMIS soldiers exited, with Kenya drawing down 400 soldiers by June 2023. Phase 2 of the drawdown, was initially planned to end on September 30, 2023, however, this has been technically paused awaiting the African Union and United Nations decision on the Government of Somalia's request for a three-month extension,” said Duale.

The CS said that this notwithstanding, the troop-contributing countries are prepared to draw down 3,000 troops, of which Kenya will withdraw 754 troops in Phase 2 with Phase 3 set to commence on October 1 through to June 30, 2024, where a total of 4,000 troops will be drawn down.

He told the Senate that the families of KDF officers who die in the line of duty in Kenya receive Sh4 million compensation while those who die while serving under ATMIS their families get Sh7 million.

Duale further said that there is provision for psycho-social support to the current and retired KDF personnel and their families.

The CS assured that by actively combating the Al-Shabaab terror group to stabilize Somalia, Kenya has contributed to the reduction of terrorism within our borders.

He said the tourism sector at the Coast was under threat from Al Shabaab militants while commerce through the Indian Ocean was heavily impacted by sea piracy which.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that the KDF incursion into Somalia has had a direct positive socio-economic and security impact on Kenya.

“Our efforts in Somalia have fostered regional stability, a more stable and secure Somalia is critical for peace and development in Eastern Africa and beyond, our participation has strengthened Kenya's diplomatic ties with other troop-contributing countries, as well as international partners,” he said.

Duale said Kenya’s involvement in Somalia's peace efforts has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid hence alleviating the plight of thousands of families, enabled many refugees and internally displaced people to return home with progress in the restoration of state institutions in the Horn of Africa country.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale asked the CS what benefits the country is set to achieve by taking police officers to Haiti which is far away from Kenya, and the two countries have very little in common. Duale however said his counterpart in Interior Kithure Kindiki was better placed to answer.

Nominated Senator George Mbugua asked him why KDF is not guarding the porous borders with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan like the neighbouring countries were doing of which the CS responded that they are devolving military bases to various parts of the country for that purpose.

“Kenya Defence Forces working jointly with National Police Service has helped bring peace in the six counties of Laikipia, Samburu, Turkana, Baringo, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet where the guns have been silenced since the government moved to the region listed as disturbed and dangerous,” he said.

Duale said that they will be meeting leaders from Samburu, Baringo and Laikipia counties to review the security operation and determine whether it has achieved its target before leaders from the other three counties are invited.