Kenya asks US to lead international effort in Somalia

Kenya’s president has asked the U.S. to lead a greater international effort to stabilize neighboring Somalia, a country that has been without an effective government for 19 years.

Kenya’s leader was speaking at a Tuesday news conference with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Kenya’s president on Tuesday urged the United States to lead international efforts to address piracy and a growing terrorism threat in neighbouring Somalia when he met visiting US Vice- President Joe Biden at statehouse Nairobi.Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and President Mwai Kibaki said that stabilising the chaotic nation was necessary to provide regional security.

‘This matter must be addressed with greater urgency,’ he told journalists in Nairobi after he and Prime Minister Raila Odinga met Biden. ‘We have asked the US government to provide leadership to forge a concerted international effort to stabilise Somalia.’

Insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are battling it out with the fledgling government, which is backed by African Union peacekeepers.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991, is besieged by rebel groups and is fast becoming a haven for foreign terrorists.

This doesn’t come as a surprise due to the fact that Kenya wants stronger US ties given President Obama’s roots with the country and only the U.S. has the resources military, politically and economically to handle the challenges of the region.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, right, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya on Tuesday in Nairobi.

From an article in the Daily Nation on Sunday, What Kenya wants from Obama’s man.

On the Somalia issue, Nairobi would like Washington to add Mogadishu to its list of priorities in the region and to stop paying lip service to the risk that the “reservoir of terrorism” that Somalia has become presents.

Officials here now see al-Shabaab, the most powerful Islamic Somali militant group, as an immediate security threat, not because of its capacity on the battlefront, but because of it’s influence on moderate Muslim populations throughout the Eastern coast of Africa.

Officials are watching with puzzled anxiety the efforts of world powers, the European Union, the US, the United Kingdom and others, ineffectually try to deal with piracy, which is slowly squeezing regional economies.

Some 150 warships from navies across the world are patrolling the seas off Somalia. However, piracy has increased despite their presence.

World powers are not dealing with the problem and are content to try and attack the symptoms, Nairobi feels.

“Once there is an effective government in Somalia, the problem of piracy is solved,” an official told the Daily Nation.

In addition to piracy and terrorism, Kenya is dealing with other consequences of state failure in Somalia. Arms pouring across the border, more than a million legal and illegal immigrants, and rising social tensions, a natural consequence of rapid migration.

“The US and the UK hold the key in Somalia,” the official told the Nation.

Asked what kind of US intervention Nairobi would like to see, the official said only the UN system has the capacity to rebuild war-ravaged country. And the UN will not move without prompting from influential members of the Security Council.

“Somalia is more strategic than Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Darfur,” the official said, referring to the countries where international intervention has been strong.

Nairobi would like the African Union force in Somalia expanded into a full-fledged UN peace keeping operation, providing cover for the reconstruction of the country.

Although officials were adamant that there would be no need for US or Kenyan boots on Somali soil, they also lamented a lack of US enthusiasm for proposals to stabilise the Somali regions bordering Kenya.

Some self-governing regions of Somalia, such as Puntland and Somaliland, are stable and relatively secure and Nairobi would have liked international support in encouraging the sprouting of stable, self-governing regions along its border to act as a buffer zone.

The US is reportedly wary of such an approach, believing it could have “unintended consequences”, meaning that it is worried that it could provoke terrorist attacks against its interests in the region by groups such as al-Shabaab.

But some in Nairobi are hoping that Mr Biden, a foreign policy expert, will be curious about Somalia and possibly lend his support in finding a solution for it.

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