Monday, November 27, 2006


The Government yesterday denied the presence of Ethiopian and American troops in northern Kenya.

Internal Security permanent secretary Cyrus Gituai and Foreign Affairs assistant minister Moses Wetang'ula described the allegations as "alarmist and far-fetched." Mr Wetang'ula .

"There are no foreign troops in this country and there has never been at any time even during the shifta aggression between Kenya and Somalia," Mr Wetang'ula said.

Leaders from various Muslim organisations in the country met in Nairobi yesterday and claimed the Government had allowed foreign troops to use Kenyan soil in preparation to wage war against the Union of Islamic Courts of Somalia.

They claimed the foreign troops had been sighted in parts of northern Kenya like Moyale, Isiolo, Wajir and Garissa.

"We consider this as a strategy to use our country as a base to attack Somalia and destroy the peace and stability being experienced now in that neighbouring country and to discredit the Union of Islamic Courts because of their Islamic credentials," they said in a statement released after the end of a two-day deliberations on the conflict in Somalia.

Meeting under the auspices of the National Muslim Leaders Forum, the Islamic religious leaders said Kenyans would not want the conflict in Somalia to spill over to the country.

"There is a growing risk of dragging Kenya to become part of the conflict and turning our country into another Iraq and Afghanistan.

This will affect every peace-loving citizen with a potential of creating discord between Christians and Muslims," they further said in a joint statement read by the NMLF's vice-chairman Yusuf Murigu.

But Mr Wetang'ula cautioned the Muslim leaders to desist from making "alarming statements that are unpatriotic and unhelpful to the situation in Somalia."

"Kenya has never been used as a launching ground for aggression on any of its neighbours, neither has Kenya aggressed any neighbour and we are not about to change that tradition," the assistant minister said.

Al-Haj Yusuf Murigo (left), the National Muslim Leaders Forum vice-chairman, talks with Sheikh Muhammad Dor, secretary-general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, at a press conference in Nairobi yesterday.

Mediation talks

He further said the relations between Kenya and the Islamists were good and that was why the UIC had agreed to Kenya co-chairing the mediation talks between it and the Transitional Federal Government of President Abdullahi Yusuf.

On his part, Mr Gituai said the Government did not support any side in the Somali conflict since it was in the forefront to mediate for peace.

"We are not siding with either the Union of Islamic Courts or the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in their conflict and those making the allegations are not telling the truth," Mr Gituai said in an interview.

Instead, he said, Kenya was committed to facilitating dialogue between the two Somali warring factions.

Kenya, he said, was concerned over insecurity in the neighbouring country since it ends up playing host to thousands of refugees who cross the borders to North Eastern Province.

But the Muslim leaders stressed they were ready to "meet any challenge from those having a different view."

The Muslim organisations represented in yesterday's press conference at a Nairobi hotel were the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, Kenya Association of Ulama and Imams, Nairobi Muslim Association, Jamia Mosque Committee, Muslim Consultative Council and Islamic Da'awah Group.

Others were National Union of Kenya Muslims, Majmaul Ahbaib, Majlis Ulamaa and Malindi Education and Development Association (MEDA).

End further suffering

The leaders also urged the UIC to accept Kenya as an arbitrator in the current conflict to end further suffering of the Somali people.

Ultimately, they said, it is the people of Somalia who will reach a final settlement and agree on what kind of country they want for themselves.

"As a neighbour and facilitator, we should at best offer help and support to peace initiatives. Kenya has in the past received accolades from the people of Somalia for our hospitality, facilitation and neutrality in the Somali crisis, a disposition we need to maintain," the leaders further said.

They said they were "saddened" that the Government of neighbouring country Ethiopia, had formally declared war on Somalia.

Already they said, Ethiopian troops were in Somalia where they were involved in "overt and covert interference."

"We as Muslim leaders are gravely concerned that our Government has decided to take sides on the Ethiopia-Somalia conflict, a decision that will endanger our security and the stability of our nation," they said.

Kenya as the chair of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) bears heavy responsibility for the outcomes of the UIC-TFG and Ethiopia-Somalia conflicts.