Mandera (Caasimada Online) – In the face of steadily escalating tension in Kenya’s border region with Somalia, Mandera Governor Mohamed Khalif has issued a stirring call for local action.
He has asked the government to consider the recruitment and arming of local residents, a strategy he believes could turn the tide in the fight against the militant Islamist group al-Shabab.
Khalif, who conveyed his concerns at a security meeting in Wajir on Thursday, July 20, painted a grim picture of the militia’s expanding presence there.
“I can confirm the insurgents are in control of a vast land of North Eastern counties,” he remarked.
Al-Shabab once considered a ragtag group, now commands more than half the landmass in these border counties, demonstrating an alarming increase in their activities.
His concerns extend to his county, where he states the group controls up to 60% of Mandera’s territory. The gravity of the situation, he feels, necessitates a localized response.
“We need residents to be recruited to flush them out; otherwise, we will not succeed in this fight against the terror-linked group,” the governor stressed.
Security coordination crisis
In his earnest appeal, Khalif pointed the finger at poor coordination among the various state security agencies, claiming it to be the root cause of the deteriorating security situation in the region.
The lack of unison, he says, has amplified the criminal activities of al-Shabab, with far-reaching implications on the region’s development.
The insecurity, Khalif highlighted, has significantly hampered his government’s ability to deliver on pre-election pledges and offer essential services beyond the county’s headquarters.
He attributed the worsening condition of the region’s roads to this escalating insecurity.
Khalif’s primary worry, however, is the plight of the residents. He says years of grappling with insecurity and other challenges have left the locals terrified and cautious.
“Some of them are afraid of sharing information about the presence of al-Shabab because they have always suffered the consequences of doing so,” he explained.
He says that with proper coordination among the security agencies, locals can avoid being targeted for cooperating.
Calling for border reopening
In a surprising turn, Khalif called on the government to reopen the Somalia border, alleging that the insurgents exploited the closure to extort revenue from the local residents.
“Let us also not postpone reopening our borders because by so doing, we are giving in to their demands,” he implored.
He views this action as a way to resist surrendering to al-Shabab’s illicit operations. “And they will continue collecting money from our people as they establish their criminal agenda in the area,” he warned.
This plea follows a ruthless insurgent attack on July 14, 2023, targeting the Wargadud Police Station in Mandera South.
Three people lost their lives in the incident. The militants razed the police station and several houses and carjacked a police Landcruiser after setting another vehicle ablaze.
Governor Khalif’s call to action underlines the escalating stakes in the region and illuminates the urgent need for innovative, local solutions in the struggle against al-Shabab.