The sporadic conflict over pasture and water along Tana River and Kitui Counties has precipitated the closure of Engamba Primary School in Kitui East for the last 27 years.
The abandoned school, which is located a few kilometres from the border with Tana River County, was closed after a bandit attack that left scores of pupils and teachers injured and the gallant school head teacher shot dead as he shielded pupils fleeing to safety.
Nimrod Mbai, Kitui East MP, has been at the forefront reconciling the two communities and urged the Somali herders to move out of Kamba community farmlands adding that the continued stay had exacerbated the conflict over water and pasture.
Speaking on Thursday at Engamba area, Mbai said that plans are at an advanced stage to reconstruct the dilapidated school infrastructure that has not been in use for the last 27 years and breathe life into the community.
The school which had a population of around 300 pupils has remained deserted since 1992 following the incursion by the armed herders who made the place their hideout as they drove the locals away.
Education remains paralyzed in the area since the nearby school is over 10 kilometres away where kindergarten children find it hard to trek.
“Many children in the area do not enroll in schools for fear of bandit attacks. Other brave ones maneuver their way to school over several kilometers away in the bushy areas. The few who go to school join class one as teenagers when they are strong and mature enough to walk,” said John Kavita, a parent of the closed school.
“Education is critical in national development. I will ensure that the school is functional again through the relevant government agencies. I will support the community in their efforts to build the school and restore security,” said the legislator amid thunderous applause from the residents.
Mbai said the NG-CDF has set aside funds to build two classrooms in the school and will continue to support the institution until it regains its former glory during the times of Ezekiel Mwau, a former MP in the area and Assistant Minister during President Daniel Moi’s government.
Similarly, the MP said that he will lobby telecommunications giants Safaricom and Airtel among others to put up masts in the area to ease mobile telephone penetration in the area since security has been restored.
Mbai said that the local community intends to revive Nziu and Aithi community ranches which cover 40 square kilometres and have been rendered dormant by the conflicts in the area, adding that the limited resources cannot be shared by the two communities.
“We are reviving the two ranches. As we speak, the management of the two ranches is in place and part of our resolution is to get rid of intruders from other communities who are depleting the limited resources we have. Somali herders have to pave way for the new dispensation, and that is why we have first adopted the negotiation way,” said Mbai.
“The Kamba community requests you to leave their land as their pasture is almost depleted and they are currently facing acute water shortage,” said Mutitu DCC, Benjamin Nzioka while addressing the Somali elders at Kinanie, some 10 kilometres from the border.
By Yobesh Onwong’a