TOUGH STANCE

Lamu-Somalia border closed and trade banned

Police say it is a strictly precautionary measure, citing security

In Summary

• Only security officers will be patrolling the border. 

• Police say Shabaab militants use the border to enter the country either directly or in disguise. 

The Lamu section of the Kenya-Somalia border has been closed and Kenyans warned not to engage in any cross-border trade with the neighbours.

The border is closed to the public until further notice, according to the Lamu security office on Tuesday.

Anybody contravening the directive stands to lose his/her business permit and subsequently face prosecution.

County police commander Muchangi Kioi said in Lamu town that only security officers would be patrolling the border.

The closure followed last week's ban of fishermen to operate on the border.

County commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said while announcing the ban that fishing hubs like Ras Kiamboni and Kiunga were out of bounds and that those who ignored the ban would be arrested and prosecuted.

Kanyiri indicated that the ban was strictly a security precaution.

Lamu has been at the receiving end of al Shabaab terror attacks in which hundreds of civilians and security officers have been killed.

The militants are known to use the porous Lamu-Somalia border to cross into the country either directly or under disguise.

The police have also exposed trade in contraband goods and human and narcotics trafficking on the border.

Kioi said it’s a punishable crime for Kenyans to purchase any items from Somalia on the borderline as most of them are contraband.

He said an operation to ensure the ban is honoured is underway in Ishakani, Kiunga, Ras Kamboni and neighbouring areas.  More than 10 bags of contraband sugar and several bags of milk had been seized by the border surveillance unit.

All shop owners found selling commodities from Somalia will have their shops closed. They will also be prosecuted. “The same applies to those smuggling items from Kenya to Somalia. It's all contraband irrespective of where it's coming from,” he added.

Trouble on the border began in 2011 after al Shabaab militants abducted fishermen and tourists. Many of the hostages were sneaked into the neighbouring country where they were either killed or forced to join the terror group.

The border is now under 24-hour surveillance by  Kenya Defence Forces and various units under the National Police Service. The units are under the Linda Boni security operation in Lamu.

The operation was launched in 2015 and is meant to flush out al Shabaab militants hidden in the Boni Forest and other volatile areas. 

(Edited by R.Wamochie)