Mandera Governor, Mohamed Khalif, expressed his concerns about the growing threat of al-Shabaab in the region, particularly in the border areas of Kenya and Somalia. He stated that the militant group’s presence has expanded to more than half of the landmass in the counties on the border. According to the governor, al-Shabaab’s criminal activities have escalated, and they now control up to 60% of Mandera’s land.
In response to the deteriorating security situation, Governor Khalif proposed a controversial solution – to recruit and arm local residents to assist in the fight against al-Shabaab. He suggested the possibility of involving various clan militias to combat the Islamist group. He believed that the locals’ involvement is necessary to effectively flush out the militants, as the current coordination among state security agencies has proven inadequate.
Governor Khalif highlighted the negative impacts of insecurity on the region, stating that it hinders the delivery of essential services to the people and contributes to the poor condition of roads, making them impassable. Fear among residents due to reprisals from al-Shabaab has also led to a lack of cooperation in sharing information about the group’s presence.
To address the issue, Khalif called on the government to reopen the Somalia border, which has been closed in response to security concerns. He argued that by keeping the border closed, the government inadvertently supports al-Shabaab’s extortion of local residents for revenue.
The urgency of the matter was underscored by a recent attack on Wargadud Police Station in Mandera South, where three people were killed, and properties were destroyed by al-Shabaab militants.
Governor Khalif’s proposal and pleas for better security coordination and border reopening reflect the gravity of the situation and the challenges faced by the region in countering the growing influence of al-Shabaab. However, such a strategy of arming locals also carries risks and potential consequences that would require careful consideration by the government. The ongoing battle against the terror group remains a complex and sensitive issue that demands a comprehensive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of the people in the affected areas.