Lamu residents have been reassured of safe travel both by road and by air despite growing fears about insecurity brought about by the two recent Al-Shabaab attacks.
This comes in the wake of an ambush attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militants who in their attempt to hijack two Lamu bound buses killed three civilians in the attack that took place in Nyongoro an area that has been a blackspot area, where militants launch attacks.
However, with the presence of a nearby KDF camp in the area that also guards government installations that includes a communication mast, the attack was repulsed and more than 60 passengers saved.
The county’s top security brass has however expressed optimism that Al-Shabaab’s threat in the county is on the decline, due to increased government investment in security ensuring the coastal county is safe.
“Operation Linda Boni has thus far been a success with large tracts of it heavily under surveillance,” Colonel David Chesire intimates, who is the lead KDF officer in Operation Linda Boni, adding that the terror outfit are finding it very hard to stamp their authority in the region due to heavy security presence and investment.
He further states that KDF has been successful in thwarting any Al Shabaab attacks by engaging actively with residents located within the Boni whom he says are keen on ensuring that normalcy returns to the Boni area.
“Securing the Boni area has been key in the war against Al-Shabaab and that is why they are finding it very hard to retreat back into the forest as they used to do in the past after they carry out their attacks,” a senior KDF official adds.
Sentiments echoed by Lamu County Commissioner (CC), Macharia Irungu who has reiterated that the war against terror is one that the national government will not pull the brakes on.
He adds that there is enormous goodwill on the part of residents and the political leadership to ensure that Lamu is secured and residents provided with an enabling environment for development.
“The national government’s projects that include, the Lamu Port as well as the rapid urbanization that is being seen in Mokowe and Kililana, provides even more impetus for the national government to secure Lamu further especially with the region having lagged behind for so many years due to the Shifta wars and the Al-Shabaab attacks in 2014 that affected Mpeketoni particularly,” Lamu County governor Fahim Twaha stated.
He further adds that the county government will stand with the national government to ensure that such attacks are stamped out, adding violent extremism is one of the reasons Lamu’s education sector has lagged behind.
At least five schools within the Boni area have remained closed since 2014 due to prevalent Al-Shabaab attacks that made all the teachers within those schools run away for fear of being killed.
The Lamu County Education Executive, Paul Kamau Thairu states that with the county government investing at least Sh.120 million in bursaries and scholarships for the 2019/2020 financial year, there is urgent need to ensure security prevails in the five closed schools to ease learning for the more than 5,000 students suffering from either a lack of education or having to trek long distances to access schools in Mokowe or Kiunga.
“The mythical fear that Al-Shabaab have tried to instill in residents and the county at large needs to be urgently debunked, if Lamu is to progress with the rest of the country in terms of education and socio economic progress,” Education Chief Officer Mohammed Sagar states.
Irungu, who has been at the forefront of championing the Boni schools to be re-opened further states that the national government has adequate resources to weed out Al-Shabaab despite their lurking presence with the two recent attacks.
“We have to show these mercenaries that we can be able to carry on with our lives normally, and with enhanced security as it is today, Al-Shabaab or any other insurgent group will find it very hard to cement their doctrine in Lamu,” Irungu observes.
“The attack on the US/Kenya army base nearly cost us the closure of the civilian Manda Airport, whose closure would mean the sure death of tourism in Lamu,” Lamu Tourism CEC Fahima Araphat says, adding that the national government’s quick response in addressing the attack led to the immediate opening of the port.
There had earlier on today been a frenzy among air travellers and tourists after Fly 540 and Skyward airlines issued press statements reiterating the closure of Manda airport until further notice.
However, the closure was rescinded merely hours after the KDF forces issued a press statement, stating that they had secured the US/Kenya Camp Simba army base following the dawn raid on Sunday.
The Lamu County Police Commander, Perminus Kioi stated that the security situation on Lamu had greatly improved noting that the security personnel have not only been increased within the county but are also well equipped.
However, scepticism still hangs as a dark cloud over Lamu’s security agents to tackle violent extremism despite vast improvements’ in the security agents response time to attacks in comparison to 2014-2017 period in which Lamu was subjected to frequent attacks.
The national government through its security agents and by its own admission has stated that winning the war against terrorism in Lamu, will enable socio-economic development in a region that has so far lagged behind due to such threats.
“The Lamu Port and Resort city, in addition to the Lamu Port facilities that will eventually boast 32 berths, can only thrive in an environment where terrorist threat is tackled decisively,” Kioi notes, adding that the measures put in place and the results despite the recent attacks are a pointer towards the national government winning the war against terror in Lamu.
By Amenya Ochieng