Kenya will not sit by as Somalia worsens -minister
Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:56am EDT
By Wangui Kanina
NAIROBI, June 19 (Reuters) - Kenya will not sit by and allow the situation in neighbouring Somalia to deteriorate further because it is a threat to regional stability, the country's foreign minister said on Friday.
Hardline Islamist insurgents stepped up an offensive against Somalia's government last month and on Thursday killed the Horn of Africa country's security minister and at least 30 other people in a suicide car bomb attack. [ID:nLI450352]
Kenya and other countries in the region, as well as Western nations, fear that if the chaos continues, groups with links to al Qaeda will become entrenched and threaten the stability of neighbouring countries.
"We will not sit by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate beyond where it is. We have a duty ... as a government to protect our strategic interests including our security," said Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula.
"Kenya will do exactly that to ensure the unfolding developments in Somalia do not in any way undermine or affect our peace and security as a country," he told a news conference.
Asked about any specific action, Wetangula said an international partnership was dealing with the issue of the insurgency and instability in Somalia and it would be inappropriate to discuss details.
Al Shabaab insurgents, said to have hundreds of foreign fighters in their ranks, claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack. The rebels control much of southern Somalia and some of the capital. They want to oust the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law throughout the country.
John Holmes, the top U.N. humanitarian aid official, said on Friday that instability was making it very tough to deliver food and other supplies to the vulnerable Somalis who are also struggling to cope with drought. "Access to the area is extremely difficult," he told a news conference in Geneva.
Wetangula's comments echoed a joint statement issued on Thursday by the European Union, the African Union, the Inter Governmental Agency on Development, the League of Arab States and the United Nations.
"These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, are continuing their indiscriminate violence. They are a threat not only to the country, but to the IGAD region and the international community," the bodies said.
They condemned the latest suicide attack as "deplorable."
Al Shabaab has so far resisted government attempts to drive its fighters from the capital.
The death of the security minister and Mogadishu's police chief this week were seen as significant setbacks given the two men were closely involved in directing the government's forces.
Analysts say the fighting in Mogadishu since May 7, in which about 300 people have been killed, is the worst for years and the chances of a negotiated peace are waning.
Wetangula, who met several ambassadors in Nairobi on Friday, urged countries who had pledged at least $213 million in April to build up security forces to deliver on those pledges as soon as possible. [ID:nLN971776]
"The government in Mogadishu needs to operate, they need the funds to pay their civil services, their outgoings in many ways and they need survival kits, they are under immense pressure from the rebels that are fighting them," he said.
He said the African Union was committed to beefing up its 4,300-strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and helping to build a police force.
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the news conference the suicide attacks would not deter the government from pursuing peace in the country, mired in conflict since 1991.
"We call on the international community to stand with us and assist our security forces and AMISOM to really defeat these enemies before they pose a threat to the entire region," he said. (Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis in Geneva; Editing by David Clarke and Andrew Dobbie)