Over 50 business women from Garissa town took to the streets Thursday to protest what they termed as a ‘crafted move to kill their businesses’.
They were protesting over last week’s seizure of a lorry ferrying bags of rice from Dadaab by security agents who proceeded to set ablaze the entire consignment occasioning them a Sh6 million-plus loss.
The women accused the security agents led by the County Commissioner Meru Mwangi for coming up with the decision to destroy their goods without involving the owners.
One of the traders Dahabo Abdi told the press that she bought the cereals from refugees who sell part of their ration so that they buy other items they don’t have, a business they have been doing for decades.
Dahabo whose goods were destroyed said “it was not the first time they are doing this; several months ago they set a blaze my lorry ferrying genuine goods within the county”.
She said the businesswomen have lost over Sh6 million from last week’s operation and pleaded with the government officials to stop destroying their goods without verifying them first.
Reacting to the allegations, North Eastern Regional Commissioner Nicodemus Ndalana said the women did not prove that the goods really came from the refugees.
He said his team also contacted officials from the UNHCR asking them to confirm in writing whether the consignment come from Dadaab refugee complex was actually theirs but they declined to cooperate.
“We have established that the contraband goods are brought through the border to Dadaab refugee camps where they are repackaged and brought to Garissa,” Ndalana said.
“There is all the reason to believe that the rice that was being transported in lorries were contraband goods. We will not allow this to happen,” he added.
The Regional Commissioner reiterated that the government would not relent in the war against contraband goods.
Interior CS Dr. Fred Matiang’i while on tour of Garissa County in January this year said that he had instructed security agents in North Eastern to deal ruthlessly with contraband trade.
Matiang’i said that contraband trade was not only hurting businesses in Kenya but was a direct revenue source for Somali based Al-Shabaab terror group.
“We are going to start an unprecedented crackdown on contraband trade that is thriving in this part of the country because it is direct revenue to Al-Shabaab,” said the CS.
By Jacob Songok