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Residents of Mandera have vowed to help the government in the fight against Al Shabaab terrorists.
Speaking at a security meeting in Takaba in Mandera West on Thursday, locals lamented that the terror group had undermined their livelihoods.
They also said the militant group had succeeded in dividing them along tribal lines in the county that has suffered perennial clan skirmishes.
A day after Kenya Wildlife Services officers were attacked on June 9, residents of Takaba took to the streets accusing one clan in Mandera of assisting the militants.
During the demonstrations, a motorcycle owned by a member of that clan was set ablaze and two others damaged.
Mandera Senator Mahamud Maalim Mohamed urged locals to understand that terrorism was hurting the local community.
“We need to know that Al Shabaab is our enemy since they have caused us to lack teachers, medical officers and they are even controlling our mosques preaching to us,” he said.
He urged locals not to engage the militants in any kind of business including selling them food.
“They have a network within and we need to fight it as peace-loving Kenyans. Our enemy is not any clan in Mandera but Al Shabaab,” Mr Mohamed said.
He urged residents to desist from pointing accusing fingers at other clans and branding them Al Shabaab sympathisers.
The senator called for collaboration between the local community and government agencies in the fight.
Mandera Governor Ali Roba, who has been vocal in the fight against terrorism, also urged residents to remain united.
“Al Shabaab has no known clan. We have to stop blaming each other but focus on fighting this enemy that is affecting our lives,” Mr Roba said.
He warned that if locals fail to join the fight they will pay a heavy price for abetting the terrorists.
“Al Shabaab will turn around and start killing you who is hiding them. They will no longer focus on attacking the non-local population but they will start killing the Somalis,” he said.
Resident Halima Yussuf blamed locals for withholding the much-needed information from security agencies hunting down the terrorists.
“We need to come out and share information with the security and we shall win the war. We need to be sincere in this fight and the government should hire more police reservists,” she said.
Ms Yussuf challenged residents to report to the authorities their missing relatives who might have joined the terror group.
Resident Hassan Abdirahman proposed the introduction of foot patrols by security agencies.
Killing the morale to work
“We need officers to be on foot patrol because using vehicles and motorcycles alerts the enemy before you get to their hideout,” he urged.
It was reported that Al Shabaab informers perch on trees to spot oncoming vehicles after which the terrorists quickly place explosives on the roads.
The residents also want police posts established along the main roads for faster response.
Poor remuneration of police reservists was also cited as a contributor to insecurity in the expansive county.
“The locally engaged police reservists are poorly paid or even the little they get is delayed, killing the morale to work. This is contributing to insecurity,” Mowlid Nurrow said.
North Eastern Regional Commissioner Nicodemus Ndalana acknowledged that the Shabaab menace has spread across Mandera but promised to ensure that the enemy is dealt with decisively.
“The Shabaab menace was never in areas of Takaba and Banisa and I want to assure you that this will not continue because we are ready as a government to deal with them,” he said.
Special forces units have been sent to the area.
Mr Ndalana urged residents to provide information on any suspicious individuals in their midst.
“We need to focus all our energy on fighting Al Shabaab but not on clan feuds,” he said.
Terrorism has slowed development projects in Mandera and North Eastern region as a whole, Mr Ndalana said.
“We are aware those operating in this area are our locals. Let their relatives start preparing their graves because we are determined to clear the area,” he said.
He said there will be no negotiating with terror suspects in Mandera.
He said more police reservists will be enlisted by the national government to boost local security in the county.