Thursday July 13, 2017
Residents of nine villages bordering Boni Forest in Lamu County are leaving their homes, following plans of a major security operation to weed out Al-Shabaab.
This follows an order by Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa for the residents to pave way for the operation.
On Wednesday, residents of Pandanguo, Maleli, Sendemke, Chumburu, Maisha Masha, Kakathe, Jima and Poromoko were fleeing their homes, with some camping at Witu AIC Church, Witu Catholic Church, Katsaka Kairu Centre and Moa town.
On Monday, Mr Marwa announced the government had increased airstrikes against Al-Shabaab terrorists believed to be hiding in the forest and called on locals to move.
The number of residents who had taken refuge at Witu AIC Church had increased from 35 people to more than 100, with many more expected.
Kenya Red Cross Society county coordinator Kauthar Alwy said 32 families, mostly from Jima and Poromoko villages in Lamu West were at the church.
“We are coordinating with the national government in ensuring those seeking refuge are comfortable wherever they will be. So far we have 32 households at Witu AIC Church.
The number might increase as days go by. That’s why we are holding an urgent meeting today to discuss a way forward,” said Mrs Alwy.
Villagers from Pandanguo sought refuge in Witu town.
Some transferred their children from Pandanguo Primary School to Witu Primary.
“I have moved to Witu with my family. We will be staying here until the government assures us of our security,” said Mr Sharuti Ali.
At Katsaka Kairu Centre in Witu Division, another camp was also established on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Agano Party Senatorial candidate Waihiga Mwaure has called on the government to allocate guns to all adults in the area.
GIVE OUT GUNS
“Why can’t the government give out guns and have them allocated to families, pastors, Muslim clerics and anyone who matters so that people can protect themselves. We want when al-Shabaab militants attack maybe in a group of 30, they find over 50 armed villagers ready to take them down.”Mr Mwaure also questioned why the government is taking long to equip Kenya Police Reservists with sophisticated weapons to enable them fight the criminals.
Elsewhere, the Boni community has denied harbouring the Al-Shabaab who have been terrorising Lamu residents.
The minority community accused Mr Marwa of associating them with Al-Shabaab.
During a press-briefing in Mombasa on Monday, Mr Marwa said residents living near the forest were harbouring and aiding terrorists in their dubious engagements and that the government would arrest such individuals.
But speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the members, who are also referred to as the Aweer, rubbished the claims.
The elders expressed disappointment with Mr Marwa’s sentiments, terming them unfair and untrue.
Mr Ali Abdi said since the launching of the multi-agency security operation Linda Boni in 2015, the Boni people have cooperated with the security agencies conducting the operation by giving crucial leads that have helped the officers make great strides in the operation.
He said the community would never cooperate with any criminals.
They now want Mr Marwa to apologise, saying such allegations paint the community in bad light and might make them a target of harassment.
The Boni people live in Milimani, Basuba, Mararani, Mangai and Kiangwe villages in Lamu East which border the Boni forest.