Kenya Army was involved in training Kenyans of Somali origin in efforts to topple al-Shabaab from Gedo and the lower and middle Juba region. The United States cables released by whistle blower website, Wikileaks, say the recruitment of up to 4,000 soldiers took place in 2009.
Initially, according to the cables, the army planned to train 36 Somalis and insert them into Somalia to help in fighting the terror group.
“As originally envisioned, the Kenyan army would train 36 Somalis and insert them back into Somalia with ethnic Somali Kenyan retired military officers assigned as military advisors,” says the Wikileaks.
“The plan later evolved into a larger-scale recruitment effort by the original 36 trained Somalis, who were supposed to recruit up to 4,000 additional Somalis for training at Kenyan military bases,” reads part of the cables.
The plan, however, became disconnected from local efforts to confront al-Shabaab inside lower and middle Juba as the recruiting stretched into Kenya's North Eastern Province.
The leaks say Kenyan recruits were being lured with promises of jobs, money (a $600 monthly salary¬), and an association with either the UN or AMISOM.
In spite of the US intervention then through the Assistant Secretary, John Carson, with senior Kenyan officials, in which he made clear the US concerns, and the protests of local communities, recruitment went on, at least in Mandera District.
Somali MPs told the embassy staff up to 1,200 recruits had come from Mandera East and Mandera West Districts alone.
The cables, which were sent by then ambassador Michael Ranneberger, cited various sources saying approximately 2,000 recruits were in December 2009 being trained at a military base at Archer's Post near Isiolo and the other at a Kenya Wildlife Service training facility in Tsavo West National Park (Manyani).
The cable quoted a safari company that provided tents for the trainees in the two training locations saying the tents were housing approximately 3,500 people.
“All of the recruits from Mandera, we understand, are training in Archer's Post and recruits from Garissa were being taken to Manyani,” reads the leaks.
The Parliamentary Committee on Defence and International Affairs chairman Adan Keynan told the embassy staff then because of their protests, 144 youth who had been recruited under what they claimed to have been false pretences, were released and had returned home.
Local leaders were worried about what will happen when Somali Kenyan youth return from Somalia with military skills but no jobs. It appears that the Government is willing to risk, a barely disguised intervention in Somalia, the cables read.
The cables said the Kenyan recruits were not experienced fighters and had little motivation to participate in the operation beyond promises of money and secure employment.
Source: The Standard Media