North Eastern Regional Commissioner, John Otieno, has called on clerics in the area to work closely with the government in the fight against terrorism.
Otieno said that the clerics have a huge following and their word is taken seriously by the faithful and thus the need for them to preach peace to their followers.
“The role played by the clerics in our country cannot be overemphasized. They are always in touch with the masses and their words are taken seriously. With their huge following, we can tap on intelligence information and through that can, help us to foil anticipated attacks,” Otieno said.
“Peace, security and development go hand in hand. Without it then all the basic services among them education, infrastructure development and health will come to a halt,” he added.
Otieno was, however, emphatic that the government will not allow the militants to distrust law and order, with a view of stalling development projects in the region.
The Regional Commissioner was addressing the press after a daylong closed door meeting with Muslim and Christian clerics, drawn from the eight sub-counties of Garissa County, held at the Garissa Government Guest House. He was flanked by the regional security team.
He said that the religious leaders should use their places of worship to preach against radicalization and violent extremism that has seen a number of young people lured into joining the Al-Shabaab terror group.
This is the second group the Regional Commissioner and his security team is meeting for support in the fight against the Al-Shabaab terrorists, having met Chiefs and their Assistants.
He said that with collective efforts from all stakeholders, the government will be able to put to an end to the Al-Shabaab menace in the region.
SUPKEM National Organizing Secretary, Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, said that the influx of pastoralists from neighbouring counties in search of water and pasture, is contributing to an upsurge in insecurity.
“We have witnessed an upsurge of pastoralist coming to our County in search of pasture and water for their livestock. It’s easy for criminal elements to mingle with them and carry out attacks,” Sheikh Salat said.
Salat said going forward, the clerics will reach out to their faithful with the sole intention of not only preaching peace, but also the need for them to volunteer information to security agencies of suspected criminal elements in their midst.
“We want to tell our people that in the event that we have some who are not comfortable in sharing information with security agencies for one reason or another, then they should pass the same to us,” he said.
Rev. John Mwaura of Full Gospel Churches of Kenya, emphasized on the need for security agents to work closely with religious leaders.
“Going forward, let us be honest with each other and back our words with action. Let us mean what we say at all the times. If it is to volunteer information, then let us do so in real time, so that action can be taken before it is too late and these are some of things we need to tell our congregation,” Mwaura said.
There have been fears from residents that sometimes intelligence reports from the public are leaked, exposing them to insurgents and thus with the collaboration of religious leaders, the residents can confidentially share information with their clerics.
In the past two weeks, Garissa County has witnessed an upsurge in road side Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) targeting security personnel vehicles, that has left six police officers dead.
On February 14, three police officers from the Border Patrol Unit were killed at Hagarbur area along the Garissa-Dadaab road when an IED planted by the roadside blew up their vehicle.
On Friday last week, two police officers suffered the same fate when a Toyota land cruiser they were travelling in from Dadaab to Garissa was hit by another roadside IED.
Present in the meeting was the Garissa County Commissioner, Boaz Cherutich, together with his security team.
By Jacob Songok