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Nine police stations constructed in Boni Forest to help restore peace

By CYRUS OMBATI | March 28th 2016

Lamu, Kenya:  Nine new police stations have been constructed and officers posted there in Bothei, Pandanguo and Mananguo areas, Lamu County as part of efforts to restore peace.

Further, three telephone masts have been erected. A deputy county commissioner and 12 Assistant County Commissioners appointed and posted to Ijara, Hulugho, Lamu East and Lamu West as part of the strategies to ensure stability.

The masts are supposed to enhance communication among locals and security teams.

Head of the security team operating in the area James Ole Serian said several old police stations that were dilapidated have been refurbished and reinforced.

“We are now working well with the locals in efforts to ensure things are ok. We just ended a free health clinic in this area where thousands attended,” said Serian.

He added they have received more police patrol vehicles that they are using in their operations.

Serian said their operation to flush out Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militants from Boni Forest will continue and urged herders to stay away.

Serian said they are now supplying relief food to locals and added several suspects had been arrested in Lamu, Garsen, Boni, Baragoni and other places in the operation and charged with various offences.

The operation targets the expansive Boni Forest where terrorists used as an operational place to launch attacks last year and 2014 in which dozens of people were killed.

The area had been neglected by government in many ways hence the instability and insecurity.

The government has been extending a notice declaring the forest Dangerous and Disturbed Area.

This means locals who had been relying on the forest for their daily lives and produce food for selling will have to keep off the area for long.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Nkaissery renewed the declaration on December 9 in a gazette notice. Inspector General of police Joseph Boinnet later told the Standard he had renewed order for surrender of firearms.

Boinnet asked residents of surrounding areas to surrender both legal and illegal firearms they may be having.

The weapons should be handed over at the nearest police stations or administrative offices during the day, for safe custody.

The army and police launched the operation in September 2015 and it was believed Al Shabaab was using the area to launch strikes in Kenya.

Serian is leading the operation and they have since recovered several weapons and other paraphernalia.

"The combined security units have discovered different Al Shabaab hideouts inside the forest. The hideouts have already been destroyed and the weapons handed to the Government. We are progressing well," he said.

Officials said at least 3,000 people living near the forest were forced to leave so that the operation could go ahead.

The forest borders the Indian Ocean and extends to the Somalia border. It is home to the Lag Badana Bush Bush National Park on the Somalia side and Lacta Belt. It also extends to the Hulugho Division in Garissa.

It is believed that some of the militants had been using it in launching attacks in places like Mpeketoni where more than 60 people were killed in 2014.

Local leaders have been complaining the operation was negatively affecting them.

Serian said there are more things that need to be carried out within the forest before it is opened to the public. The services include construction of roads and installation of communication masts to enhance easy mobility and communication, which has been partially achieved.

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