Isiolo-Moyale highway turning into bandits’ playground

Isiolo-Moyale road

A truck heads to Moyale on the Isiolo-Moyale highway in March 2021. Completion of the highway has been a major boost to the northern region’s economy.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The Isiolo-Moyale highway has been acclaimed by both residents and non-residents as critical to the opening up and development of the Northern Kenya region.

The highway is among roads connecting Northern Kenya towns such as Isiolo, Archers Post, Marsabit and Moyale. It is also a crucial component of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor.

During the Jamhuri Day celebrations held at Marsabit Stadium, Marsabit Deputy Governor Solomon Gubo said that thanks to the highway, the region’s economy is growing at a fast pace.

Several small towns have also mushroomed as a result of the highway.

He reminisced that before the building of the road, residents and visitors suffered as the only form of transport was lorries that ferried both humans and livestock. Travelling between Isiolo and Moyale, a distance of about 507 kilometres, would take four days but now takes six to eight hours.

However, the highway is now slowly turning into a death trap as bandits run rampant.

Mr Gubo lamented that the bandits had taken over the highway between Merille and Archer’s post.

Initially, the bandits majorly targeted trucks ferrying livestock from Moyale and Marsabit to Nairobi. They later started attacking passenger vehicles and trucks ferrying foodstuffs.

The bandits have on a number of occasions been captured on video terrorising motorists by first deflating the tyres before demanding money and other valuables. Some of the attacks are carried out just a few kilometres from paramilitary roadblocks.

Marsabit Central ward rep Jacob Godana also expressed concern over the attacks, citing a recent incident in which a lorry in the Merille area was sprayed with over 20 bullets.

Human rights activist Mohammed Hassan called on the authorities to act with speed to contain the menace.

“We can’t be still talking of insecurity and highway banditry 59 years after independence. It is downright shameful to our people,” Mr Hassan said.

County Commissioner Paul Rotich said that the area in question was not under their jurisdiction but rather that of security agencies in Samburu County.

“I have heard your concerns. Although the area is not under our jurisdiction, we will have to act because it is our people who suffer the most,” Mr Rotich said.