African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) today assumed formal command of the Kenyan forces in Southern Somalia at a colorful ceremony held at the Kenyan Department of Defense headquarters in Nairobi.
A total of 4664 Kenyan personnel are being integrated into AMISOM, bringing the AMISOM force strength to slightly over 17,000 troops out of a total authorized strength of 17,731.
The Special Representative of the Chairman of the AU Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra and the AMISOM Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, attended the function on behalf of AMISOM.
Diarra thanked the Kenyan people and government for responding to the AU’s invitation to join AMISOM. “We are proud to welcome our brothers and sisters from Kenya in this African effort to help the people of Somalia,” he said.
“A major goal of the African Union is to encourage the collective defense, security, and stability of its members. It is clear that Al Qaeda-affiliated extremists based in Somalia pose a significant threat not just to Somalia but to other countries in the region, including Kenya,” he added.
He lauded Kenya for its historic contribution to efforts to secure peace and stability in Somalia noting that the country had borne the brunt of the terrible humanitarian and displacement crisis in Somalia, hosting massive numbers of refugees.
“The integration of Kenyan forces into AMISOM will provide a boost to the effort to secure the Somali peace process and help create the security conditions to enable much-needed humanitarian assistance to be delivered to the needy population,” he said.
The Kenyan contingent joins those from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda, with Sierra Leone due to send a battalion in the near future.
AMISOM deployed to Somalia in 2007 with an AU Peace and Security Council and UN Security Council mandate to provide peace and stability for the Somali people. Since then, AMISOM has helped Somali security forces secure Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and other key strategic towns, freeing them from the brutal grip of the Al Qaeda affiliated terror group, al Shabaab.
As a result, the capital is experiencing its longest period of relative peace in two decades. This has not only spurred an economic resurgence with many Somalis returning to rebuild their homes and businesses, but has also given a boost to the peace process.
The country has made huge strides in implementing the Roadmap to ending the transition which was agreed to in a conference held in Mogadishu in September last year. An interim constitution will soon be deliberated upon and adopted by a National Constituent Assembly representing a broad cross-section of Somalia paving the way for the establishment of a more permanent, representative and legitimate government for the country.
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