Six dead as Kenya troops battle Somali gunmen; and fears war in South Sudan could cost $28bn

Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda could save $53 billion in the coming years should the war end in 2015.

ONE Kenyan soldier and five suspected Islamists insurgents loyal to Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab fighters were killed in a battle in Kenya’s coastal Lamu district on Wednesday, the army said.

Kenyan troops, part of the UN-backed African Union force in Somalia fighting the Islamists, were travelling northwards close to the Somali border when they were attacked.

“A firefight ensued and five suspected Al-Shabaab militants were killed,” army spokesman David Obonyo said in a statement, adding that one Kenyan soldier was killed and three others wounded.

“Some militants escaped with multiple injuries, and immediately an operation was launched in pursuit.”

Kenyan troops entered southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shabaab rebels, later joining the AU force.

The Shabaab are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, but have also carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

Kenya’s government has been under fire since Shabaab gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which at least 67 people were killed.

In December the Shabaab executed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers in a Kenyan border town, following an attack in November when they killed 28 passengers on board a bus.

Wednesday’s attack took place on the mainland in Lamu country near Basuba, over 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Lamu island, a UNESCO World Heritage site dependent on tourism for its economy, that has been badly hit with visitors scared off by a string of attacks.

Sudan’s costly war

MEANWHILE the war in South Sudan will cost up to $28 billion to the country if it continues for five more years, with regional nations risking even more, economists warned Wednesday.

“If the conflict continues for another one to five years, it will cost South Sudan between $22.3 billion and $28 billion depending on its severity,” the joint report read, claiming that should the war be stopped, it would save the international community $30 billion in peacekeeping and aid.

The report was produced by Europe-based Frontier Economics, Uganda’s Center for Conflict Resolution, and South Sudan’s Centre for Peace and Development Studies at Juba University. At the regional level, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda could save $53 billion in the coming years should the war end in 2015, the report added. 

Fighting broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Since then oil production—once around 300,000 barrels a day at independence—has been slashed by at least a third to 160,000. 

Trade with landlocked South Sudan has been cut and almost half a million refugees are in neighbouring nations. East Africa’s IGAD-bloc, which has mediated a string of failed ceasefire deals, should follow through on its repeated threats of sanctions should war continue, the report added. South Sudan has been riven by war for decades—including conflict from 1956-1972 and again from 1983-2005, before breaking away from northern Sudan in 2011. 

War broke out again in December 2013, and the report provided grim estimates of what the economists believe could be the cost should conflict continue. “The price of failing to bring about lasting peace in South Sudan could be $158 billion over the next two decades,” it added.

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