World Bulletin / News Desk
The leader of Kenya’s main opposition party has urged the Kenyan government to pull out the country's troops from neighboring Somalia.
Raila Odinga, who leads the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), made the appeal on Thursday during a surprise visit to Nairobi’s Eastleigh area, a mainly Somali neighborhood that has been recently the target of a massive police crackdown, during which thousands of people have been detained for security screening.
Speaking to thousands of residents of Eastleigh, Odinga decried what he described as “harassment of the Somali community by the government.”
Cheered as he spoke, Odinga said continued presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia was hurting Kenyans.
“It is high time the government evaluated whether or not there is any reason to still have our troops in Somalia,” Odinga said. "Does their continued stay in Somalia bring peace to our country?”
President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly said that he has no intention to withdraw Kenyan troops from Somalia until they "accomplish their mission."
Although Kenyatta did not elaborate on what he meant by the mission that needs to be accomplished, Kenyan observers and military experts believe that the campaign would continue until the troops eliminate the threat of Somalia's Al-Shabaab group.
Kenyan authorities blame a recent string of attacks that hit the country on Al-Shabaab , which demands that Nairobi withdraw its troops – dispatched in 2011 – from Somalia.
Nairobi deployed troops to its troubled neighbor following a series of kidnappings of foreign tourists – many of whom were later executed by Al-Shabaab rebels – from the Kenyan coast.
Al-Shabaab also claimed responsibility for Nairobi's 2013 Westgate Mall attack in which 67 people were killed.
Odinga also reiterated his proposal to the government to hold a national dialogue conference between Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Coalition party and his party to discuss solutions to problems, including insecurity and youth unemployment.
“I have given them [Jubilee Coalition] an ultimatum to speak to us before July 7 to discuss issues of national importance. If they don’t, we will announce a new strategy,” Odinga said.
“I want to tell my brother Uhuru Kenyatta that I can see a storm…A huge storm which will hit all areas and sweep all the dirt to the ocean. The President should allow the talks instead of waiting for the storm.”
Odinga’s renewed call for dialogue came three days after Kenyatta's party rebuffed the calls for national dialogue. “There will be no event for national dialogue, engagement through existing government of Kenya structures,” the Jubilee Coalition said in a statement following a meeting of its parliamentary bloc.Last Mod: 06 Haziran 2014, 10:14