The June 25 attacks in the two villages of Lamu West that claimed the lives of 11 people are strikingly similar to multiple attacks that started in the area in 2014.
Locals describe the killings as a “copy-cat” version of the carnage in 2014 and 2015 in the same constituency that saw the killing of 68 people.
Like the 2014 and 2015 Mpeketoni and Hindi killings of 62 people, last week’s 11 victims were bound by a rope before their throats were slit.
The victims of last week’s attack were also largely male from the same tribe as in the 2014 and 215 carnage in the same constituency.
Police reports have identified victims of the recent attacks as Samuel Chomba Gacurai,60, and a secondary school student Barrack Hussein,19.
Others are Reuben Mwangi Nyamu (33), Peter Mureithi Githinji (40), Daniel Njogu Mureithi, Elizabeth Wairimo, Harrison Njogu Miano, Mwenda alias Sumbua, Lawrence Kinyua Gitari, and Gilbert Mwangi.
Meanwhile, like in past attacks, Wairimo, Mureithi, Miano, Ndei, Gitari, and Mwangi had all their houses burnt in the attack, which confounded residents and security officers.
Remote parts raided
A police report indicated the bandits, between six and 30, descended on Salama and Juhudi villages in the remote parts of Kibaoni from about 10.30pm.
Most victims had their throats slit after being captured by armed men, and their livestock and belongings were stolen.
Predictably, security agencies have blamed the Somali-based Al Shabaab for the attacks in Salama and Juhudi villages in the remote parts of Kibaoni.
But locals and a section of politicians have dismissed the Al Shabaab angle and linked the attacks to the land disputes between ranchers and settlers.
Ranch owners and settlers dispute land ownership in Salama and Juhudi villages. On July 2014, assailants descended the Hindi area and tied 24 victims’ hands to the back before slitting their throats.
Meanwhile, security analysts believe the attacks are acts of an unholy alliance between Al Shabaab returnees and locals out to settle scores.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
It is unclear which of the three alleged motives behind the killings in Lamu, but most appear to happen days after a major land dispute.
Thirteen days before the recent attacks, some elders from the Bajuni tribe protested against the composition of the newly appointed Lamu West Land Control Board.
The elders rejected the board composed by Lands CS Zachariah Njeru in May, saying the list of the members did not meet the requirement for ethnic balance and representation of minorities.
Those appointed to the board via Gazette Notice Number 6277 on May 16 of this year are Julia Njuguna, Ali Omar Mohamed, Simon Mwarania, Dominic Njoroge, John Njoka, Zeinabu Wako, James Ngiriri, and Cecilia Ng’ang’a.
Led by Omar Shariff, the leader of Bajuni groups, the elders called for the immediate revocation of the board and its reconstitution with new members to ensure inclusivity.
Shariff said he had filed a petition at the Environment and Land Court registry in Malindi to challenge CS Njeru’s decision saying it was biased.
The protesting groups included the Lamu Foundation, Bajuni Council of Elders, Singwaya Welfare Association, and Mianga.
“While the rest of Kenyans are celebrating 60 years of self-rule, our community, which is indigenous to Lamu, feels discriminated against and frustrated when it comes to land rights. We are urging President Ruto to intervene and ensure the board is appropriately constituted,” said Shariff.
Yesterday, Julius Ogogoh, Executive Officer Commission for Human Rights and Justice (CHRJ), told the Sunday Standard that although the locals had genuine grievances, the Al Shabaab appears to be taking advantage of the land disputes.
“It is clear that the agenda of these attacks in Lamu is to wedge a rift between the indigenous Banjuni tribe against the settlers most from central Kenya,” said Ogogoh.
He said the state should “stop doing lip services on the issue of land problem in Lamu. The long-lasting solution Lamu is to address the land issues and not to send military tanks into the area.”
But debate about land started in February when Lamu Woman Rep Monica Marubu said ranchers were behind the attacks on the settlers.
Speaking at Mpeketoni during an interdenominational prayer attended by President William Ruto, Marubu said Al Shabaab was not behind the killings but the ranchers.
The owners of Witu Nyongoro, Amu, and Witu Livestock Cooperative Society limited ranches accused Marubu of inciting the local communities.
Led by Witu Livestock Cooperative Society Limited chairman, Jare Elema, the ranchers called on the government to take action against the woman representative.
Elema also threatened court action against the politician claiming that she had caused them damage. Elema said their ranch was given to them by the government, although part of it has been invaded by squatters, adding that they were resolving the matter using legal channels.
“We are not behind the frequent killings in Lamu county. The government has many investigating agencies and should unravel the truth rather than a politician making wild claims against us,” he said.
A retired chief Abdi Kofonde said they had acquired the properties through legal means.
“...we have lived here for years and have a right to our land,” Kofonde said.
He asked the government to conduct investigations and take action against any ranch owner found to be behind the attacks.
Kofonde said whenever there are attacks, ranch owners are summoned to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for questioning, but no one has been arrested.
Nyongoro Ranch chairman Athman Mohamed said: “Let Marubu offer evidence to the DCI to aid investigations. There are many ranches in the country, but none has been linked to terror attacks except those in Lamu county. We want the truth to come out,” he said.
Ali Hasshim of Amu Ranch said since terrorism started, they have experienced many challenges because they were treated as suspects.
Other leaders in Lamu were also urged to implement the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report to end land disputes in Lamu.
Mohamed Mbwana said the Bajuni community had suffered a lot of historical injustices since independence in 1963.
“The TJRC report should be implemented now by President William Ruto since all injustices meted against the community are documented there.
“The Bajunis were displaced from their land, and ‘foreigners’ were brought to settle on it, leaving the community exposed,” he said.
Mbwana added, “Action must be taken to ensure Bajunis get justice because it was in 1964 when they were forced out of Lamu in what was then the Shifta war, although they were natives together with the Orma, Sante, Koreni, and Somali communities.”
Mbwana said on July 14, 1964, the Bajunis became Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and to date, they live in other people’s areas while others were brought to Lamu in 1971 from Tanzania after fleeing the Mau Mau rebellion.
Mohamed Bahero, a youth representative of the Bajuni Welfare Initiative, said they are paying attention to the larger historical injustices against the Bajuni community.
He said they have no problem with anyone as a community but are fighting to get justice and end the historical injustices.
“Our resources must be preserved for us as a community,” he said.