By DAVID OCHAMI
The European Union says it is ready to support an expanded African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to include Kenyan troops.
This even as the EU’s new Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mr Alexander Rondos expressed concern that the entrance of regional armies into Somalia pursuing separate aims could complicate getting a solution to the conflict.
"We are watching very carefully who chooses to be an obstacle to that process of stabilisation in Somalia," said Mr Rondos.
Rondos was speaking exclusively to The Standard last week after visiting Mogadishu.
He said while the EU supported participation of Kenya under Amisom, the EU was also demanding "a clarity in strategy and efficiency in delivery" of all programmes and interventions in the war-torn nation.
Currently, Amisom is dominated by Uganda and Burundian forces stationed in Mogadishu while Djibouti contributed troops last December. That was the same month Ethiopian forces entered Somalia and captured the town of Beledweyne from Al Shabaab militants.
The Kenya Defence Forces, on the other hand, entered Southern Somalia last October and have pushed Shabaab from huge swathes of territory. However, the West is reluctant to provide humanitarian aid to the areas taken from the militants
And while Kenya also wants its forces to join Amisom — the UN-mandated peacekeeping mission —it has also sought a mandate that allows its troops to pursue Al Shabaab separately and robustly.
The EU Ambassador to Somalia, Mr Georges Marc Andre, said all military intervention in Somalia should include "an exit strategy" that involves training a future army for Somalia to replace foreign forces.
Between 2007 and this year, the EU has provided 370 million Euros (Sh40 billion) for Amisom peacekeepers and a further 500 million Euros (Sh54 billion) for development and rehabilitation.
Rondos said Somalia must move beyond the transitional phase created in 2004 when the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed in Nairobi, but said the EU "will not prejudge who goes to what position" at the upcoming international conference on Somalia in London, apparently referring to the future of key TFG leaders.
The Envoy said Al Shabaab should be defeated politically or militarily as long as it refused to renounce violence and hailed the KDF and its neighbours "that have gone to sacrifice themselves in Somalia".
He said there must be a turning point to the 20-year conflict this year, including defeating the Islamist insurgents, ending the political deadlock within the TFG and writing a new constitution that guaranteed Somalia’s political future after the expiry of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed Sharif’s regime.
"If you leave something to fester, it comes to you," he said, adding that the EU shared regional states’ desire to stabilise Somalia.
"We in the EU are bankrolling this thing and we cannot afford to see this region further destabilised," the official said, before warning that the EU did not want to "get mixed up in mixed agendas". By mixed agendas, the official was apparently responding to reports that Kenya, Ethiopia and other states in the region have separate reasons for deploying forces in the anarchic country.
Rondos said EU’s financial support for Amisom would be conditioned on evidence of progress in Somalia and within the TFG this year.
"The EU is a political being, not a provider of cash and we have to be accountable to the 400 million citizens (who form the EU bloc). We cannot continue to have more of the same.".
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