|Col.Cyrus Oguna during a past press conference in Nairobi.|
By Christine Lagat
Kenyan contingent serving in the UN-backed Africa Union forces have appealed for calm and urged Somalis living in Kismayo not to panic since their safety will be highly considered during the ongoing military operation there.
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said civilians living in the strategic port city of Kimayo, the only remaining bastion of Al-Shabaab, will be
protected together with families as well as their property."As KDF/SNA (Somalia National Army) approaches Kismayo, considerations have been made for civilian safety and
security. We would therefore like to urge the people of Kismayo not to panic and to stay calm since no harm will come their way," Oguna said in a statement received on
Saturday. "Instead, they will be offered protection for themselves, their families and their property as well. For those who may wish to leave Kismayo, KDF/SNA have created
safe corridors to designated IDP camps where protection shall be provided."
The statement comes after the international communituy called on the AMISOM soldiers to minimize the potential of civilians being injured during the ongoing military
operation to capture Kismayo. Other international humanitarian agencies have also been calling on AMISOM forces to minimize the impact of their ongoing military operation
to allow the agencies help Somalis deal with the impact of drought, as well as the after-effects of famine in some areas. The organisations said that it was only with the
support of the Somali people that AMISOM had been able to achieve success in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.
Oguna said AMISOM attention had been drawn to various social network sites spreading propaganda and malicious lies that have the potential to create fear and anxiety over
a wide section of both the Somali people and Kenyans. Oguna said such propaganda have particularly targeted AMISOM forces advance towards Kismayu thereby creating
unnecessary tension and panic."These include targeting and abuse of the vulnerable by KDF/SNA, indiscriminate shelling inside the red line zones such as urban civilian areas.
Other propaganda claim that the forces are applying selective support for one clan within Juba region," he said.
The military spokesman said KDF respects and recognizes all communities in Somalia as equal and does not favour any particular community of Jubaland, adding that the
Kenyan troops have been neutral and will maintain the principle of neutrality at all times. "We therefore wish to reassure Kenyans and the people of Somalia that KDF has no
desire for selective support or affiliation with any Somali community," he said.The KDF which officially joined AMISOM on June 2 after the signing of the agreement with AU is
using naval warships which are patrolling the coast off Kismayu targeting militant camps and bases in the economic hub. Sources said several fighters of the Al-Qaida allied
group were killed during the airstrike which has disrupted operations of the militants.But Kismayo unlike Afgooye supplies the insurgents with steady income in the form of
taxes and is an extremely strategic city for Al-Shabaab fighters who have reportedly reinforced their numbers in the port city which is home to top leadership of the ragtag.
The offensive is part of the initial stages of the Kismayo operation which aims at destroying all defensive positions of the militants in the sea port city before the AU soldiers
storm the city. Oguna said KDF efforts within AMISOM have been driven by the global desire for universal peace and stability in Somalia, Kenya and the region at large. "These
efforts have not and will never be directed against any faith or religion. Respect for all cultures, religion being part of a people's culture is a key element of KDF operation
doctrine and values. Thus, allegations that KDF is waging war against certain religion are unfounded and baseless," Oguna stressed.He said KDF strongly believes that a
peaceful Somalia is for the good of all, adding that it was only under a peaceful environment that opportunity for a Somali-led leadership can thrive and provide room for
growth and development in all sectors of any society.
Oguna said military operations in southern Somalia have been conducted with utmost care and concern for civilian safety, noting that no target is ever engaged without
thorough validation to ascertain that they are indeed Al-Shabaab targets. This, Oguna said, has been reinforced further by KDF policy not to engage the following red line
zones - schools, hospitals, mosques, IDP camps and civilian settlement. "This policy and thorough planning have been the central principles that have driven KDF/SNA
operations in Sector 2. The results so far have been impressive with a record of almost no collateral damage. Thus allegations of wanton shelling in Kismayu by KDF/SNA are
unfounded," he said.
On Friday, the UNHCR said more than 10,000 people have fled Kismayo in southern Somalia since the start of September fearing the ongoing military operation. UNHCR
Somalia Representative Bruno Geddo said that some 7,500 Somalis fled the city which in last four days amid tension. "In September alone, more than 10,000 people have fled
from Kismayo fearing the resumption of fighting. Movements substantially increased on Monday and have been continuing since,"it said. "Some 7,500 people fled the area
in the past four days due to growing tensions and belligerent statements," the UN refugee agency said in the statement.
The strategic town of Kismayo has seen some of the most intensified battles since the deployment of the Kenyan troops in mid October 2011.Kenyan naval warships and
helicopter gunships are shelling Al- Shabaab's positions in the port city of Kismayo.Kenyan soldiers have captured a string of towns leading to Kismayo, the third largest city
which is considered the hub of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network, the Al-Qaida, after several years of pledging
loyalty and ideological similarities. (Xinhua)