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Leaders hold the key to non-locals’ safety in northern counties

By David Oginde | February 23rd 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

It would appear that the negative impact of the state of insecurity in Northern Kenya has finally dawned on local leaders. In a recent meeting, the political and community leaders from the region came out with their guns trained on the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) CEO Nancy Macharia. Their grievance? The mass transfer of non-local teachers from three counties – Garissa, Mandera and Wajir.

According to reports, almost 900 non-local teachers had already left Wajir County and 800 departed from Mandera County. In Garissa, all non-local teachers had been transferred. The result is that tens of schools in the region had been left without teachers, thereby paralysing learning and forcing some of the schools to close.

At the centre of this crisis is the incessant attacks by suspected Al Shabaab militants targeting non-local teachers and other residents in the region. In the recent past, several non-locals, especially teachers have lost their lives through such attacks. It thus follows that the non-locals living in the region, do so at great risk. The challenge, however, is that children from this region are like any other Kenyan children and deserve education. The fact that they happened to be born in an insecure part of the country should not consign them to an education-less life. Therefore, to remove teachers from the region can only be considered most unfortunate.

Lost their lives

On the other hand, the painful reality is that several men and women have lost their lives or of their loved ones through terrorists or banditry attacks. It is doubtful therefore that friends and relatives would readily release their kin to go back to where their lives are in danger. There must be tangible guarantees of personal security before any sane person can accept to go back.

While such guarantees may not be easy to offer, it has always been my personal conviction that the solution to this menace lies in the hands of leaders from the region. As natives of the area, they have a pretty good picture of all that is good and any that can go wrong. Whereas the Al Shabaab militants have often taken responsibility for the attacks, it has never been fully clear how they have so easily found their way into Kenya.

How come these attackers are able to easily identify the locations and movements of non-locals without being detected?  In all probability, there may be serious cases of collusions with unpatriotic locals to defeat justice.

It thus behoves the local leaders to come up with clear strategies for protecting the lives of harmless citizens who have come to live and work in these counties. Their only crime is to have been born in another part of Kenya.

They are men and women of courage, who have willingly come to dwell among the locals as they offer quality education to our children. It therefore becomes a true case of “asante ya punda ni mateke” (The donkey’s “thank you” is a kick) when all they can do is to kill the personnel.

Though the regional leaders have always claimed ignorance when pressed for answers, it is not plausible that the whole community could be totally ignorant of terrorist activities in the region. There is a serious need for concerted efforts to try and flash out any suspicious persons from within the community. No man or woman who can take the life of another in such cruel actions must be allowed to hide behind the community banner – not even behind religion. They need to be identified, reported, arrested and incarcerated. Unless this happens, the region is likely to be adversely affected as teachers and other professionals leave the region for fear of their safety. In 2018 there was a mass exodus that saw hundreds of teachers leave Wajir County following an attack on Qarsa Primary School.

It is greatly commendable that these are issues that have now been canvassed with the Interior Cabinet Secretary by the leaders from the region. What must prevail is honesty and the courage to confront the facts and reality on the ground. This then should be a pre-curser to a stemming of a mass exodus of teachers and other professionals from the region. Instead, this may open the region up to all and sundry who may want to visit, live, or work there. Because, truth be told, we are one indivisible nation under God. To try to scare us away from any part of this nation is absolutely unacceptable and must never be tolerated.

- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]

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