By Boniface Ongeri
GARISSA; KENYA: A senior State offi cial has sacked 33 chiefs and their assistants in Garissa town and its environs for allegedly failing to help stop terror attacks in the area.
In the move likely to draw criticism from residents and legislators, North Eastern Provincial Commissioner
Ernest Munyi also suspended issuance of national identity cards (IDs) in the area.
Munyi said he sacked the chiefs for alleged laxity in the fight against Al Shabaab militants, claiming they had taken for granted recent attacks on State security officers in the town.
“The chiefs are not helping us with crucial information we need to help end the Al Shabaab menace in the town. They have taken the killings ofour security offi cers and civilians as sack all of them,” Munyi told journalists in his office.
But several chiefs and their assistants who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity said the PC had not communicated the sacking to them.
“We have been holding a series of meetings with the residents to appeal for assistance. We have risked our lives to condemn the Al Shabaab attacks and if it is true that we have been sacked then that is sad,” one of the chiefs lamented.
“Someone should take responsibility for the deteriorating insecurity in the town. We are being used as sacrificial lambs and scapegoats for someone’s failure,” another said.
On suspension of ID cards issuance, Munyi explained non-Kenyans were illegally acquiring the crucial document.
“We have observed that the identity cards vetting committees are continuing issuing ID cards to people who are not Kenyans. Until we control the situation, issuance of the cards has been stopped with immediate effect,” said Munyi.
He said some of the people getting the identity cards were aliens who are using the documents to engage in illegal trade.
Munyi said there are many foreign visitors in the town and it is the responsibility of the chiefs and their assistants to monitor their activities.
He said he held security meetings with the chiefs pleading for their assistance, but it was not forthcoming.
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The sackings came after the killing of three soldiers by suspected Al Shabaab militants that sparked rampage by the military.
Yesterday our sister paper, The Standard on Sunday carried a special report titled “State of Lawlessness”, that deplored the rising insecurity and highlighted the lip service the Government pays intelligence reports warning of possible attacks.
Munyi said the murders of security officers, subsequent killing of two and injuring of over 50 civilians was unfortunate and said investigations over violence are ongoing.
Munyi blamed the spate of deadly attacks in the town to aliens.
“We cannot lose so many innocent lives of citizens and security officers while the chiefs are silent. It is because of that that I have decided to sack the chiefs in Township locality,” he said.
Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim said one person was arrested in connection with the killing of the soldiers and is assisting police in investigations.
Garissa has borne the brunt of most terror attacks since the Kenya Defence Forces launched an onslaught against Al Shabaab militants in Somalia.
Suspected militants and their sympathisers are believed to be responsible for several attacks on churches and security officers in the town leading to the death of over 25 people.
The PC also said the government will launch a crackdown on vehicles flouting traffic rules in Garissa town.
“There are (unmarked) taxis operating without yellow lines and vehicles with tinted windows and we will crack down on them because we have established that some have been used by terrorists to commit crimes in Garissa,” he said.
He assured all efforts were being made to restore security in the town and residents should go about their business without fear.
Meanwhile, two Parliamentary committees met the Provincial and District Committees separately on Saturday over security.The National Security Committee led by chairman Fred Kapondi barred journalists from covering their meeting.
However, at a press briefing later, another committee called for the immediate transfer of Somalia National Army (SNA) soldiers admitted at the Garissa Provincial Hospital, for security reasons.
The Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee Chairman Aden Keynan said the 28 officers admitted at the hospital are targets of revenge attacks by Al Shabaab sympathisers and pose a serious security risk to staff, patients and visitors to the facility.
“The Kenya Government has an understanding with the African Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to treat the (SNA) soldiers who are injured fighting Al Shabaab. Nevertheless, the Somalia soldiers should be transferred to Forces Memorial Hospital (in Nairobi) and not be mixed with civilians,” he said.
Separately, officials from the Ministry of Special Programmes assessing the damage sparked by the killing of three soldiers said the destruction of properties was overwhelming.
Led by Assistant Minister Mohammed Gabow, the assessors said most of the affected traders would need financial assistance to start afresh.
Gabow said it would be especially difficult for small-scale traders to recover without help. “We are talking of more than 800 traders with more than 40,000 direct dependents. Something needs to be done to compensate the victims,” Gabow pleaded.
On Saturday, Special Programmes Minister, Esther Murugi scoffed at Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s request that her ministry compensate victims of last week’s riots, saying she cannot obey a roadside directive.
But Gabow said he would table his findings for special consideration and compensation for genuine traders.