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Mandera has become Shabaab’s playground

By Ali Roba | March 16th 2020 at 01:17:19 GMT +0300

Al Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia. [File]

Mandera County suffered several attacks in Jabibar, which lies between Bambo and Rhamu towns on March 11, 2020. A police vehicle belonging to Takaba Police Station was attacked with an improvised explosive device (IED) while heading to Mandera but luckily, no one was hurt. The vehicle was, however, damaged.

Shortly thereafter, a bus travelling from Nairobi to Mandera was ambushed at the same place and the passengers ordered to disembark. A non-local mechanic of the bus was taken hostage and the rest released after some of the passengers were physically assaulted.

Two other vehicles heading to Mandera, one belonging to the County Executive Committee Member for Public Service Management and the other a Land Cruiser ferrying miraa were attacked. As luck would have it, they both escaped safely. Not much later, a lorry believed to be carrying vegetables was stopped at the same site. The driver and turnboy, both non-locals, were taken away. It was later reported that the lorry was burnt to ashes.

These incidents happened in an area that has a high number of security officers and just within 20 minutes reach. The Al Shabaab attackers had a field day executing their heinous acts for more than three hours undeterred by security forces.

While the Government has provided the support we asked for in terms of security personnel, it seems we are not making any progress in securing the area. The attackers seem not to be bothered by the presence of security officers. They execute every attack with uncanny precision.

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Currently, we have foreign troops from Jubaland moving up and down our roads, raising the question; who knows the identity of this large group of armed fighters? The public has resorted to categorising every foreign troop-carrying vehicle on these roads as belonging to Jubaland foreign forces.

As such, even if Al Shabaab militia came into the county uniformed and in strange looking vehicles, they would travel right up to their target area undeterred by our security forces, carry out massacres of our people and we wouldn’t tell who was responsible.

Sadly, Mandera County has been turned into a battlefield for foreign forces by our own national government.  All other concerns have been shelved in preference of foreign interests that seem to have superseded those of Kenyans in Mandera. Mandera leadership recently held a symposium to discuss homegrown solutions to deal with radicalisation and countering violent extremism and proposed several measures to handle the deteriorating situation.

The acts of the militants have negatively impacted our county and entire North Eastern region, thus forcing the Teachers Service Commission to withdraw teachers. For the efforts against the militants to be successful, we require heart and mind campaigns by paying attention to factors that fuel radicalisation and make interventions that would deter recruitment of youth into the movement and decrease indoctrination.

Even as we continue to support our security officers in the campaign against terrorists, it is obvious that intelligence is being passed or shared with our State agencies but action comes too little too late. Sometimes it does not come at all. This often leads to blame games between local leaders and the security teams. Together we can act swiftly and secure our county and country.

As at now, we do not know whether the abducted passengers are still alive or have been executed. These attacks could have been avoided and we continue to appeal to our security officers to respond to intelligence shared with them by members of the public to avert such attacks.

We remain committed to working with the national government on proposals that will help resolve the Al Shabaab attacks. Our homegrown proposals have been shared with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.

One of the solutions we have proposed is the installation of CCTV cameras on main streets, along the border wall fence and in strategic institutions, including schools. This can be part of the National CCTV projects to boost the country’s surveillance and data collection.

Residents and leaders also proposed the need to cascade sensitisation meetings for countering violent extremism across the vast county. However, budgetary challenges have made such noble initiatives, which are shared functions between county and national governments, impossible.

Mr Roba is the Governor, Mandera County

Terrorism Mandera County Al Shabaab
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