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Regional African leaders urge Kenya to hand over control of Somali seaport
Monday, August 05, 2013

Regional African leaders meeting here on Sunday asked Kenya to hand over the management of Somalia’s Kismayo seaport and airport to the Somali government, in efforts aimed at defusing the rising tension between the two countries.

The decision of the leaders from the troop contributing countries to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) followed protests from the Somali government against Kenya that it should be allowed to control the port and airport and also remit revenues to the central government.

Kismayo seaport and airport have been under the control of Kenyan troops, which are part of AMISOM forces, after they captured them from Al Shabaab, a militant group fighting the Somali government.

"In accordance with the provisional federal constitution of Somalia, the control of Kismayo seaport and airport should be handed over the Federal Government of Somalia," said a communique issued at the end of the one-day meeting attended by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and government representatives from Burundi, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.

Earlier, Okello Oryem, Uganda’s minister of state for international affairs told reporters that the matter on who should control Kismayo port had to be resolved in view of not undermining the successes so far in restoring stability in Somalia.

Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf Haaji Adam on Saturday told defense and foreign ministers also meeting here that the lasting solution in Kismayo requires the establishment of government institutions with the help of AMISOM.

"The top priority for the Federal Government of Somalia is to protect its citizens, so that the federal government forces and AMISOM can bring peace and stability in the area and take over the national infrastructure and reorganize Somali National Army and improve the political process," she said.

Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Jibril Mohamed told Xinhua in an interview on Sunday that criticisms labeled against her country over its operations in Somalia are not helpful, noting that focus should instead be put on garnering more support to end fighting in the volatile Horn of African country.

She said the Somali government must concentrate on winning the hearts of its people and gaining their confidence so that it does not face opposition.

"I think there is a lot of work for all of us and there will be very little time for us to complain," she added.

"All of us are in control of our countries but in order to be in control of an area, you have to have some stability there, you must have security, you must have acceptance from the locals ... that is what the Somali government must do, it must get the confidence of its people so that it can go and establish all these institutions without any opposition."

The regional leaders also said that the UN Security Council resolution banning the export of charcoal in Kismayo should be adhered to.

They also urged that negative propaganda against the AMISOM troops in Kismayo must stop.

The defense and foreign ministers in their communique called for the increase in the number of African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia, saying that the current numbers are overstretched.

During the meeting, Kenya, Djibouti and Sierra Leone pledged to deploy additional troops in Somalia.

Uganda has over 6,000 troops deployed in Somalia while Burundi has 5,000, Kenya 4,000, Djibouti 1,000 and Sierra Leone 850 troops.

According to the troop contributing countries, over 20,000 peacekeeping troops are needed in Somalia from the previously needed 17,000 troops.

"We are all overstretched right now and we are talking to other countries to see whether they can come in and support the efforts that we have made.

"Since we and those in the region went into Somalia, we have had really a game changer. We have been able to deal with the threats we face," said the Kenyan foreign minister.

During the meeting, the Somali government recommitted itself to holding general elections in 2016.


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