Locals will no longer be able to access 11 areas after the national government declared them no-go-zones as part of efforts to curb further al-Shabaab attacks in the county.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale declared Tabasamu, Mkunumbi, Marafa, Ukumbi, Marafa-Toto, Juhudi, Salama, Widho, Poromoko, Jirma, and Pandanguo as disturbed areas amid sustained incursions by the Somalia-based militants.
Mr Duale said that, once gazzetted as no-go zones, the outlined areas will be off-limits to all civilians. Thousands of people currently call the targeted areas home and Mr Duale was non-committal about their fates.
For the past three months, the areas, particularly Juhudi, Salama, and Widho, all of which are found in Lamu West Sub-county, have witnessed a spate of terrorist attacks orchestrated by al-Shabaab militants that have left at least 10 people dead and over 20 houses razed down during the raids, most of which are mostly conducted at night.
The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) has been engaged in a security operation in areas bordering and inside the expansive Boni Forest, dubbed Operation Amani Boni since September 2015.
“We have discussed with the security team, the local leadership, and even the citizens themselves here. We have decided that my office, together with [Interior Cabinet Secretary] Kithure Kindiki, gazette the areas mentioned as disturbed and reserved only for security operations led by our KDF soldiers, the National Police Service, National Intelligence Servive and other security agencies,” said Mr Duale. He said the KDF will build six security roads, including the 21-kilometre Witu-Pandanguo and the 40-kilometre Mkokoni-Kiunga roads. Others are Bodhei-Kiunga, Pangani-Bodhei-Kiunga, Kiangwe-Basuba, and Witu-Sendemke-Katsaka Kairu.
“We have certain places in Boni Forest that we want to draw a cutline of about 42 kilometres. No one will be allowed to loiter passed that cutline,” said Mr Duale. Mr Duale assured residents that a police camp will be established in Juhudi where about 400 displaced people are living.
“Lamu is very critical to the economy of our country. We want to protect our people, their property, and the Lapsset [Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor] infrastructur,” he said.
He warned locals against harbouring al-Shabaab militants and aiding their activities.
He expressed disbelief that the terrorists can move all the way from their headquarters in Jilib, Somalia to Lamu, raid villages, and kill innocent citizens without the help of sympathisers.
“You can’t tell me that al-Shabaab can move from Jilib to Lamu to and kill a driver and his conductor and go back without them being noticed. There must be local working with them,”the CS said, warning such collaborators that “your days are numbered. We shall come for you”.
He ordered chiefs to keep tabs on strangers in their areas and politicians to stop interfering when suspects are arrested.
“I will not entertain any phone calls from you trying to coerce us to release suspects. Keep off security matters. Yes, those suspects might have voted for you but stay in your lane of leadership and leave security matters for us,” mr Duale said.
Following Mr Duale’s visit, locals expressed optimism that the security situation will improve.
“My hope is to see a Lamu that is peaceful and without any al-Shabaab elements and their sympathisers. I hope CS Duale will keep his promise,”Ms Pamela Ogutu, a relative of Barrack Hussein, the 19-year-old Form Three student who was killed in Salama village in Lamu West in mid-June, told Nation.
Mr Duale was on a working tour of the county on Saturday, where he addressed public meetings in Mokowe in Lamu West as well as in Faza in Lamu East.