Moyale-bound passengers stranded for hours at Rhamo

A section of the stranded passengers at Rhamo. [Ibrahim Adan Ali, Standard]

More than 50 passengers are stranded at Rhamo town, 73km from Mandera town, after a bus they were travelling in failed to secure police escort for their onward trip to Moyale.

The passengers who were on board the Moyale Liner bus say they are helpless after the police allegedly declined to escort them to their destination.

According to the bus' conductor, Ali, police officers were to escort them from Mandera town to the next stop at Sarman village before handing them over to their counterparts in Banisa district.

"We arrived in Rhamo at 9.00am and were left stranded as the police officers in Rhamo, who are ought to accompany the bus to Sarman village, refused to continue with the journey," said Ali.

He added, "I don't understand how they [police] can escort us from Mandera then dump us at Rhamo. Most of the passengers are women and children who can't withstand this kind of hardship".

One of the passengers, Judith Kipkemboi, told The Standard that she was distressed as she was travelling with her three children and stuck in an unfamiliar town.

"I have left my residence in Mandera and did not reach my destination. I am hanging in between as security is not guaranteed along the way and we don't have an escort," said Kipkemboi.

A message echoed by non-local residents' chairman, David Karimi, who questioned the move to abandon the travellers halfway into the journey and called for the reinstatement of the armed escort.

"It is risky because the enemy knows that a bus ferrying non-locals is plying the Nairobi-Moyale route  [without escort] and they can plant landmines or launch attacks. The police should provide full escort and take the passengers to their destinations safely,” said Karimi.

Speaking to The Standard, however, Mandera County Commissioner Amos Mariba said he was at a loss as to why there was no escort as the area police commander was under instruction to provide adequate security.

"I have instructed the county police commander to provide police to escort the bus to safer destinations and cannot understand why passengers are stranded at Rhamo," said Mariba.

The Rhamo-Banisa route is considered unsafe due to frequent Al-Shabab attacks.

All buses, including the Moyale Liner bus which withdrew from the route six months ago due to insecurity but was reinstated this week, are, therefore, escorted by police at four different stages.

The first contingent of police officers escort buses between Mandera and Rhamo, then hand them over to a team in Mandera North (Rhamo town). Rhamo’s armed escort then takes up the role and provides security to Sarman village where a contingent in Banisa takes over. The Banisa team escorts passengers to Takaba town then onward to Moyale.