Kenyan forces captured Kismayo from al-Shabab in October 2012
Friday, July 05, 2013
The apparently accidental publication of a diplomatic letter has exposed a rift between the Somali government and Kenyan troops - supposedly allies.
The letter, verified as genuine by the BBC, accuses the Kenyan army
of causing recent faction fighting that left at least 65 dead in the
port of Kismayo.
Kenyan troops are part of the African Union force battling Islamist militants in support of the UN-backed government.
The Kenyan authorities have not yet commented on the letter in detail.
Some regional diplomats say Kenya is trying to create a
buffer state, known as Jubaland, inside Somalia run by local politicians
it can control.
The letter is from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fawzia
Yusuf Adam - who is also the deputy prime minister - to the African
It is headed "Extremely Urgent - Kismayo conflict".
A diplomat in Mogadishu said the letter appeared to have been emailed to journalists in error.
It seems, the diplomat said, that someone mistakenly added
the prime minister's "press contacts" into the email recipients' list.
A senior official in the president's office confirmed to the BBC that the letter was genuine.
The communication accuses the Kenyans, who are part of the
African Union peacekeeping force, Amisom, of not being neutral
It says the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) backed one Somali
faction against others, arrested a senior Somali government army officer
and used heavy weapons in areas containing civilians.
What the letter bluntly called the "incompetence" of the
Kenyan commander of Amisom in southern Somalia is said to have caused an
outbreak of recent fighting in the southern port city of Kismayo that
had led to a "preliminary" count of 65 dead and 155 injured.
The Kenyan Amisom contingent was recently reinforced by several hundred troops from Sierra Leone.
But the Sierra Leoneans are "embedded" inside Kenyan units,
so the KDF is very much the dominant force in this part of Somalia,
which is known in Amisom jargon as "Sector 2".
The letter calls for the "immediate deployment" of a multinational African peacekeeping force in southern Somalia.
It doesn't go as far to say the Kenyans should be replaced,
but pointedly says new "political officers" should be appointed for the
area "whose nationalities will be different from the Amisom contingent
in Sector 2".
This explosive diplomatic letter has only just been revealed.
Kenya has not yet officially responded to it.
But the Kenyan army has earlier insisted it is neutral in its
dealings with Somalia and is trying to bring peace to its neighbour.
The Somali government accusations may nevertheless confirm
suspicions in the region that while the Kenyans are part of Amisom they
also have their own agenda.
Kenyan forces seized the key port of Kismayo about 480km (300
miles) south of Mogadishu from the Islamist group al-Shabab in October
At the moment, there are several self-declared presidents of Jubaland and the government has said it recognises none of them.
Although the AU and Somali government have driven al-Shabab
from most major cities, its fighters still control smaller towns and
rural areas in central and southern Somalia and they sometimes launch
attacks in government-controlled territory.
The new government, formed last year, is the first one in
more than two decades to be recognised by the US and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF).