Officers battling Al Shabaab militia cry out for support

Police officers in Boni Forest, Lamu County. Officers machine guns break down and have to rely on poor cell phone network to call for reinforcement [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]
Administration Police officers involved in the security operation in Lamu County have warned that the exercise risks failing unless the government intervenes.

During confidential interviews with Saturday Standard, the officers cited logistical challenges, training deficit, poor remuneration and lack of morale among others as inhibiting success of the operation.

Our investigation covered only the police component of the multi-faceted Operation Linda Boni.

The team established that all police camps lack water and medical personnel, experience delayed food supplies and missing allowances.

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Some officers at Kipini and Ishakani which were evacuated in January had not received allowances for months.

Police officers in this operation are entitled to a Sh31,500 monthly allowance. 

Deserted duty

“From our training we know an operation should last not more than three months because it is intensive and we do not sleep but in Lamu some of us have been here for eight months,” said an officerpreviously stationed at Ishakani.

Officers at Kiangwe alleged they have not received allowances for four months from September when they arrived adding that food and water supply have been erratic. 

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“Sometimes we lack food and we have to fish,” he said adding that in December last year a senior police officer from Nairobi came face to face with the problems when he visited Kiangwe, Kipini and Ishakani and other camps.

“He promised to act but unfortunately he was removed from his post,” said another officer who added that they raise money to buy water because most water boozers have been grounded after they were destroyed during attacks. 

An official of the Lamu County government told Saturday Standard that they stopped supplying water to police camps because of an outstanding Sh10 million debt.

Officers at one camp told us that in November last year one of them deserted duty while another developed mental problems out of frustration and lack of rest. “We were 34 officers and four were recalled after two of them sprained their legs and arms when they fell in a trench while searching for food. One became wild and began firing aimlessly and a fourth one just left the camp and we do not know where he is although he communicates with us,” said an officer.

They complained that military and GSU camps were better equipped with up to three doctors or nurses.

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At the crack of dawn in November last year, Al Shabaab militants besieged one of the camps for hours and only retreated after they sensed that the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) troops were coming to the rescue of the police.

“It was a mixture of luck and training that none of us was killed although the camp was destroyed,” an officer said.

There were about 34 police officers at this camp, the average number deployed in most of the six camps at Ishakani, Kengen, Kipini, Wema, Mangai, Mararani and Bargoni.

Officers killed

The officer claimed that KDF were surprised to learn that although “we had enough trained men capable of defending ourselves and taking out the attackers we were poorly equipped for the job.”

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He disclosed that the camp had only three hand grenades and three machine guns but only one was operational.

“They often begin their attack with Rocket Propelled Grenade and machine gunfire. Beyond training and skill you require adequate firepower to cut them down and repel them which we did not have,” the officer said.

Between June and November last year 28 police especially from the Administration Police’s Border Patrol Unit and Quick Response Unit (QRU) and other formations have been killed in action in various parts of Lamu through ambushes, gun or explosives attacks. The latest officers killed were from QRU at Nyongoro on November 28 in an ambush. They were identified as Eric Okoth, a Cpl Mutua and Muthithi Musyoka.

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