Govt to use chiefs, locals to stem Shabaab attacks

North Eastern Regional Commissioner

North Eastern Regional Commissioner John Otieno  has asked chiefs and their assistants in the region to join the fight against terrorism along the Lapsset corridor project. 

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo I Nation Media Group

The recent terror attacks in Lamu and Garissa counties have forced security agencies to suspend the building of a crucial road linking Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Works on the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) corridor project was suspended last week and workers asked to stay away at least for six weeks.

“There was a communication from the security team that we stay away for a period of six weeks to allow them to address the problem of insecurity posed by Al-Shabaab militants. We have been asked to remain indoors in our camps at the site,” a construction worker on the project told Nation. Africa on condition of anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

He said workers on leave were asked to stay away until when they will be recalled.

A security operation has since been launched in the area to flush out the militants believed to be operating from the Boni forest in Lamu county.

Terror attacks

Since September 2022, at least 30 deaths have been recorded on the project in suspected terror attacks with December alone recording seven incidents all targeting workers.

The Lapsset road construction sites have been targeted three times while there have been four ambushes on the road.

Sources said the increase in casualties is due to failure by security agencies to use protective vehicles.

“They stopped using the protective vehicles in patrolling the road before we passed as it used to be. This has not happened since December when we have had the attacks,” said one worker.

On Tuesday, the newly transferred North Eastern Regional Commissioner John Otieno met all the chiefs and their assistants over insecurity on the Lapsset project.
In his address, Mr Otieno maintained that the national government will not allow militants to interfere with the progress of the multi-billion project.

“We have witnessed a re-emergence of Al-shabaab activities along the Lapsset corridor and this is a very important project to the government. We cannot allow the militias to interfere with the progress of that project,” he said.

Mr Otieno added: “To that end, security personnel have moved in full swing and we have done a number of operations to flush out these militants so that the project can continue without any interruptions”.

According to Mr Otieno, chiefs and their assistants play a critical role in managing security because they are from the grassroots.

“They are critical segments that provide information to the security teams for necessary reaction. I called them for this meeting so that together we can put the necessary measures in place so that we can deal with the Al-shabaab threat and other security issues,” he said.

Even as Mr Otieno met the chiefs and their assistants, it remained to be seen how the local administrators would ensure security in the region.

“Al-shabaab threats are real and most of these administrators run their jurisdictions from main towns far away. I don’t understand how the government will achieve this goal when the chiefs no longer stay with the people,” Mr Hassan Ali, a local resident questioned.

While Mr Ali and others doubted the chiefs’ commitment in fighting terrorism, Mr Otieno said the meeting was successful.

Lorry IED attack

A lorry that was damaged by an explosive on January 17, 2023 along the LAPSSET project. Construction works on the project have been suspended due to an increase in terror incidents. 

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo I Nation Media Group

“We have had a very fruitful meeting. We have put the necessary measures in place that will see that area and the entire region secured,” Mr Otieno said.

While in Garissa town last week, Defence Cabinet Secretary Adan Duale revealed that the national government would act tough on anyone hell bent on destabilizing the security of the country.

CS Duale said the Kenya Kwanza administration was keen on ensuring all corners of the country are secure and peaceful.

“As a government, we will do everything possible to make sure that we protect Kenyans and their property. We will not compromise on that,” Mr Duale said.

He added: “I want to urge our leaders that we fully cooperate on this issue and find a lasting solution to it. We have the Lapsset project ongoing and despite huge security investment in it, we still hear of incidents every other day. We all need to give security the seriousness it deserves by working with all security agencies.”

There have been seven attacks since December 8, targeting the project workers and property leaving at least 14 people dead and valuables destroyed.

Military personnel

The latest incident happened last week, when a convoy carrying the workers escorted by military personnel were attacked. Reports said six people died.

The attack happened at Algeis Malhadhon Adam area near Bodhai police camp.

Three vehicles were damaged after being hit by explosives.

On the same day, two military officers were injured in an explosion along the Garissa Hulugho road.

The incident happened between Hulugho and Mchanga Nyekundu stretch when an APC was hit by a roadside explosive.

The APC driver lost both legs while a gunner sustained internal injuries that left him unconscious. They were both flown to Nairobi for specialised treatment.

Earlier in the day, intelligence reports had been shared that a group of 20 Al-shabaab militants had been sighted along the border by herders.

The group inquired about the Bodhei communication mast and its security manning strength. Armed with AK-47 rifles and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), the group had a note with names of National Police Reservists (NPRs) in Garissa.

On January 11, four Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) staff were killed in a suspected terror attack in Bura East, Garissa County.

A convoy of KeNHA engineers in three vehicles who were on routine assessment of the Lapsset road were attacked by suspected Al-shabaab elements who had placed an IED on the old Lapsset road which exploded destroying the first vehicle completely.

The team was travelling from Garissa to Hailey Chinese Camp and then to Bura East.

While the first vehicle, a Toyota Hilux double cabin, was destroyed completely by the IED, the other vehicles returned to Hailey camp.

On December 21, three people including two police officers were killed between the Hayley Lapsset Camp and Garissa in similar attacks.

On the same day, a Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) hurled by suspected Al-shabaab militants narrowly missed a GSU vehicle patrolling Garsen Road.

Reports indicated the incident happened near Nyongoro, Lamu area and no one was injured.

On December 30, the terrorists set an explosive device on the road in Mlima Faru in Lamu that killed one soldier and injured five others when their vehicle ran over it.

Lapsset project

A Chinese company is constructing the Bura-Garissa road connecting Tana River and Kilifi counties. The construction comprises a 257 km Lamu-Ijara-Garissa section, which is part of the Lapsset project.

The road will lead to Garissa, Isiolo and later to Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The project is almost 60 per cent complete now but the attacks are delaying their targets.

There is also the 113-kilometer Hindi-Bodhei-Basuba-Kiunga section and the 83km Ijara-Sangailu-Hulugho section.

The Lapsset Corridor Programme is Eastern Africa's largest and most ambitious infrastructure project bringing together Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The Kenya Vision 2030 flagship project is planned to be completed by December 31.

The project entails a port at Manda Bay in Lamu county, a standard gauge railway line to Juba in South Sudan and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

A road network, oil pipelines, an oil refinery at Bargoni, atleast three Airports and three resort cities.

It is projected that the project will make a tremendous contribution into Kenya’s economic growth of between 8 and 10 percent of GDP.

The project has several components spread all over Kenya and will open up the northern parts of the country relieving strain on the Mombasa port.


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