Security surveillance along the Kenya-Tanzania border at Taveta sub-county has been enhanced to curb illegal border crossing as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Taita-Taveta County Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said Taveta sub-county security team had intensified patrols along the border to ensure there was no illegal cross-border movements between the two countries.
Both Tanzania and Kenya have reported cases of people infected by the coronavirus.
The County Commissioner on Wednesday led a team of County Emergency Response Team to assess the situation at the One-Stop-Border-Post in Taveta to ensure government directives are enforced.
Speaking to KNA on Thursday, Ms. Onyancha noted that trade and movement of people across the border at Holili has been halted to contain the potential spread of corona virus.
“We have tasked the sub-county security committee to ensure that all illegal routes that can be used to sneak from Kenya to Tanzania are under surveillance,” she said.
She further directed that the livestock movement by herders in both Tanzania and Kenya be stopped to enforce the ban on cross-border interactions.
The security patrols will extend to far-flung areas of Kitoghoto and Madarasani where cases of illegal border crossing are often reported. The crossings are mostly done by relatives with families on the other side of the border or small-scale traders.
Security reports indicate that boda boda riders are most notorious for ferrying undocumented citizens across the border without any approval from the government.
These illegal crossing are normally done to circumvent the immigration offices’ bureaucratic procedures at the One-Stop Border Post. These procedures include filling of forms, questions on the purpose for crossing the border and duration of the stay.
As a result, most local residents prefer using illegal routes to cross the border to conduct their private business before using the same routes to return home. In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the government has warned that such activities were dangerous and placed thousands of innocent people in border villagers in mortal peril.
Ms. Onyancha said chiefs, their assistants and village security apparatus including Nyumba Kumi and community policing were actively thwarting any efforts or attempt to cross the border.
“What people must know is that these measures are meant to shield them from this virus,” she said.
As surveillance is intensified, residents living in the border villages expressed fears over the possible increased movements along the illegal routes at the porous border.
Mr. Hussein Jureji, a resident of Kitobo village, said there were dozens of illegal routes used for crossing. He warned that due to the enhanced scrutiny by immigration officials at the border, many people were likely use illegal paths to cross into Tanzania and back into Kenya.
He added that there was need for rapid sensitization on the role of the public in reporting strangers and other illegal border crossing to authorities as soon as possible. He stated that such a move would bolster security efforts to secure the borders.
“The border is too porous and too long to be effectively manned by the police alone. The government needs to loop in the community through sensitizations because villagers along the border are the first line of defense against illegal crossing,” he said.
He further said most farmers in the region relied on markets at Himo and Mwanga in Tanzania to sell their products. However, after Tanzania government closed markets, the farmers are now panicking over possible loss of their produce.
Mr. Jureji noted that the local residents were observing sanitation rules including washing hands and avoiding handshakes.
By Wagema Mwangi