Government must adopt a wholesome approach in disarmament plan

Editorial

Insecurity along our borders has remained the single-most challenge for the security forces.

Its vastness has made it easy for insurgents to enter the country and attack villages, leaving behind a trail of destruction and deaths.

In the last six months, these attacks on Kenyan borders have escalated to worrying levels. And in the last two weeks, Kenyan borders have come under attack twice by suspected Al-Shabaab militias.

The insurgents early this month attacked an outpost housing Kenyan forces from General Service Unit – a paramilitary outfit – in a remote town near the Kenya-Somalia border.

The group of heavily armed fighters opened fire on the officers, injuring many of them. The soldiers, however, overpowered the attackers who fled to Somalia.

Two days ago, the attackers raided Liboi town, barricaded roads, and attacked several points within the remote town, which is only 18km from Somalia’s porous-ragged border.

In February, two Kenyan soldiers were shot dead and six others seriously injured in an attack on a Kenya Army convoy in the Kenya/Sudan border at Nadapal.

The soldiers were in a convoy on patrol five kilometres inside Kenya when they were ambushed by the gunmen who sprayed their vehicles with bullets and mortars killing the two on the spot and seriously injuring six others.

Soldiers withdrawn

These attacks seem well co-ordinated, but the response from the Government has been the usual ad hoc deployment of soldiers to the affected area, which are withdrawn once the situation calms down.

And the attackers seem to know the Kenyan Government pattern because as soon as the soldiers are withdrawn the attackers strike, again.

Even where Kenyan officers have set base, it is worrying the militias have the guts to attack and most of the time catching them unawares.

Though the attacks have been largely blamed on the volatile situation in Somalia, Southern Ethiopia, and Southern Sudan, extremist militia has in the past threatened to attack the country because it is seen to support the fragile transition Government in Mogadishu.

And though the Government has been sending troops to patrol the border points, there is need to do more.

The on-going disarmament of pastoralists will ensure proliferation of small arms, which gets its way to main towns, is curbed.

However, the Government’s latest push for disarmament risk failing like previous ones if it does not adopt a wholesome approach.

Previous exercises have failed largely because the Government did not realise that for any disarmament to succeed, it must go hand in hand with the provision of security.

Herders have been reluctant to surrender their firearms because it means leaving them in a defenceless position and risk losing their livestock and lives to raiders from neighbouring countries.

Disarmament in Uganda has been relatively successful because its soldiers move with the pastoralists to provide security from any attacks.

Vulnerable to attacks

In the Kenyan scenario, as soon as mopping up of arms is over, the security personnel are withdrawn from the region leaving the herders vulnerable to attacks.

We know how the country would be safer if arms held illegally are possessed, but the Government should ensure safe grazing environment.

If providing armed escorts to pastoralist can reduce proliferation of arms and secure their lives and that of their livestock, the country should adapt this style.

It is a fact that proliferation of illegal arms through porous borders is always at its peak during instability in the neighbouring countries.

The Government should always work in collaboration with Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan to carry out disarmament simultaneously.

And even as this is worked out as a long term plan, there is need to increase the number of police officers or even have the army set up permanent bases on the porous border points.