State deploys army to dig trenches in Moyale to deter illegal entry

The State has deployed the army to dig trenches along illegal entry points in Moyale to stop cross-border movement between Kenya and Ethiopia.

The development comes days after the governments of both Kenya and Ethiopia closed the common border in a bid to check the spread of Covid-19.

The two countries agreed that only import and export cargo would be allowed to cross the border.

Last Thursday, soldiers from Odha camp, about 25 kilometres east of Moyale town, started sealing the routes used by traffickers and other illegal merchants.

The army, using heavy bulldozers and caterpillars, had by Thursday dug deep trenches stretching kilometres to Moyale’s Biashara Street. Yesterday, they extended the trenches to Heillu and Manyatta Burji.

Last Monday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed closed all borders with neighbouring countries, including Kenya, a move that affected cross-border trade and movement in Moyale and Mandera border towns.

Kenya followed suit a day later by closing the border stretching from Illeret in North Horr (Moyale) to Mandera town.

Yesterday, Marsabit County Commissioner Evans Achoki said the entire border in Marsabit County, stretching more than 500km, had been closed, adding that security personnel are patrolling the Kenyan side round the clock.

“The areas the army are digging (trenches) are the ones used (by smugglers) to bring in foreigners. The same areas are used to bring in contraband goods and drugs,” Mr Achoki said on phone.

However, he said import and export of goods between the two countries remained unaffected.

“A truck ferrying goods must only have a driver and a turn-boy. It is not allowed to carry unauthorised persons,” Achoki said.

He added that the army would join the police to patrol Moyale town, and other trading centres like Sololo, Forolle, Dukana and Illeret.

“We have agreed with our counterparts in Ethiopia, who are also patrolling their side of the border, that no person crosses into either side,” said Achoki.

He added that public health officers deployed by the county government would screen truck drivers ferrying goods to Kenya to ensure that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19, he said. This would be done at the one-stop border point.

Marsabit leaders led by Deputy Governor Solomon Gobu and Health Executive Jama Wolde had already banned importation of miraa from southern Ethiopia.

Dr Wolde said 20 isolation beds had been set aside at the Marsabit County Referral Hospital. Moyale has 10 beds, and Laisamis and North Horr five each.

The Marsabit County administration has also deployed public health officers to the border town of Moyale to screen visitors from Ethiopia and local residents suspected to be unwell.

Mandera Governor Ali Roba has also asked residents to restrict their cross-border activities.