U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Kenya on Monday it had an important role in helping resolve conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia and pledged $45 million in new aid to help it deal with 600,000 refugees.
Speaking after meetings with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition politicians in Nairobi, he said recent attacks by Somali al Shabaab Islamist militants in Kenya were part of the cost of playing that role.
“We believe it is absolutely critical for Africa to be front and center in the solutions to challenges in Africa,” Kerry told a news conference.
“Kenya will be safer if Somalia is more stable, Kenya will be safer if South Sudan can resolve its problems,” he added
Kenya first sent its troops into neighboring Somalia in 2011 after several attacks on its territory that it blamed on al Shabaab. It later joined the AMISOM peacekeeping force and currently has 3,664 troops in Somalia.
Al Shabaab has since carried out attacks to punish Kenya, including a 2013 raid on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall that killed at least 67 people and the massacre of 148 people at a university near the Somali border last month.
The group has also built up a network in Kenya, which on Monday charged four men with recruiting youths along the coast south of the Somali border to join the movement.
Kerry criticized South Sudan’s government and rebels for failing to end its civil conflict, saying their actions put the future of the world’s youngest nation at “grave risk”.