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Raila asks US to help Kenya leave Somalia

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Deputy President William Ruto speaking during the official opening ceremony of Mukurweini Technical and Training College on April 11, 2015. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Cord leader Raila Odinga and his co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka now want President Barack Obama and the US government to support the push to have Kenyan soldiers withdrawn from Somalia.

Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka, who held talks with two US senators that are part of a delegation visiting the country, pleaded for total American support for the campaign to have Kenyan troops, who are part of an African Union force, leave Somalia.

US senators Chris Coons of Delaware and his New York counterpart Kristen Gillibrand met the two opposition leaders at a dinner hosted by Mr Odinga at his Karen home. Al-Shabaab has been giving the presence of the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia as an excuse to carry out attacks across the border.

The most recent, and one of the deadliest in Kenya’s history, was the killing of 148 people at Garissa University College on April 2. Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October 2011.

The meeting came as Deputy President William Ruto said the government had given the United Nations a three-month ultimatum to close Dadaab refugee complex in north-eastern Kenya, which mostly hosts Somali refugees.

Mr Ruto said the Jubilee government had started talks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to shut down the camp. If no agreement is reached the government would use force to close down the vast camps in Dadaab.

FORCED RETURN

Kenya is party to three international agreements that prohibit forced return of the refugees.

The Un refugee agency said in February there were at least 335,000 refugees in the camp, but some reports say they are close to 500,000.

“If the UN does not move them within the next three months, we will go there with buses and lorries and remove them,” Mr Ruto said.

The DP spoke during the opening of a technical training institute in Mukurwe-ini. He said the government would be seeking the approval of Parliament to allocate more resources to the Security docket.

“We will do whatever it takes to secure our country even if it means losing business with Somalia. Our aim is to make the country secure for our people,” he said.

This comes in the week in which the building of a wall between Mandera and Somalia along the Kenya-Somali boarder started. The Somali government has protested that it was not consulted. The wall seeks to deter terrorists from crossing into Kenya from the war-damaged country to breed extremists.

“The same way 9/11 changed America is the way the shooting of the university students will change Kenya,” he said.

In Nairobi, the two opposition leaders told the American lawmakers that Kenyan casualties in the battle to secure Somalia had reached unimaginable figures and caused deep pain.

The visiting legislators also discussed President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya in July.

The Kenyan leaders asked the US to rally the international community to push for other countries to move into Somalia so Kenya Defence Forces can pull out.

“We moved in there out of frustration and a feeling that the international community was too slow. Our position in Opposition that we now need to retreat and secure our borders,” Mr Odinga said.

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