Terror war succeeding despite attacks — Lamu officials

Residents assured it is safe to travel to and from Lamu by road and air

In Summary

• There had been a panic among air travellers and tourists after Fly 540 and Skyward airlines issued press statements reiterating the closure of Manda Airport. 

• But security officials say Shabaab’s threat in the county is on the decline due to increased government investment in security. 

Security officers on patrol inside the Boni Forest.
UNDER CONTROL: Security officers on patrol inside the Boni Forest.

Lamu residents have been reassured of safety in both air and road travel despite growing fears of insecurity caused two deadly al Shabaab attacks.

This comes in the wake of an ambush by  Shabaab militants who, in their attempt to hijack two Lamu-bound buses, killed three passengers and a conductor at Nyongoro —  blackspot terror area.

However, with the presence of a nearby KDF camp that also guards government installations including a communication mast, the attack was repulsed and more than 60 passengers saved. 

Barely two days after the bus attack, the militants on Sunday attacked the KDF-US military base in Manda, Lamu. Three Americans died

On Tuesday, there had been a frenzy among air travellers and tourists after Fly 540 and Skyward airlines issued press statements reiterating the closure of Manda Airport until further notice. 

However, the closure was rescinded merely hours after the KDF forces issued a press statement that they had secured the US-Kenya Camp Simba army base following the raid.

The government has said there were no  Kenyan casualtes, though the US has said three Americans perished.

Despite these attacks, the county’s top security brass has expressed optimism that Shabaab’s threat in the county is on the decline due to increased government investment in security.

“Operation Linda Boni has thus far been a success with large tracts of it heavily under surveillance,” Colonel David Chesire intimate, who is the lead KDF officer in Operation Linda Boni, said.

He added that the terror outfit is finding it very hard to stamp their authority in the region due to heavy security presence and investment.

KDF, Chesire said, has been successful in thwarting attacks by engaging actively with residents located within the Boni and "who are keen on ensuring normalcy is restored". 

“Securing Boni has been key in the war against al Shabaab and that is why they are finding it very hard to retreat into the forest as they used to do in the past,” a senior KDF official said.

County commissioner Macharia Irungu has reiterated that the country will not slacken the war against terror.

He added that there is enormous goodwill on the part of residents and the political leadership to ensure Lamu is secured and residents provided with an enabling environment for development. 

“The national government’s projects that include the Lamu Port, as well as the rapid urbanisation that is being seen in Mokowe and Kililana, provide even more impetus for the national government to secure Lamu further," Governor Fahim Twaha stated.

He said this was especially so with the region having lagged behind for so many years due to the Shifta wars and the al Shabaab attacks in 2014 that affected Mpeketoni particularly.

He added that the county government will stand with the national government to ensure that such attacks are curbed, adding that violent extremism is one of the reasons Lamu’s education sector has lagged behind.

At least five schools within Boni area have remained closed since 2014 due to attacks that made all the teachers flee.

Education executive Paul Kamau Thairu said the county government has invested at least Sh120 million in bursaries and scholarships in 2019-20. 

He said there is an urgent need to ensure security prevails in the five closed schools to ease learning for the more than 5,000 students suffering from either a lack of education or having to trek long distances to access schools in Mokowe or Kiunga.

“The mythical fear that Shabaab has tried to instil in residents and the county at large needs to be urgently debunked if Lamu is to progress with the rest of the country in terms of education and socio-economic progress,” Education chief officer Mohammed Sagar said.

Irungu, who has been at the forefront of championing the Boni schools to be re-opened, further said the national government has adequate resources to weed out Shabaab despite their lurking presence with the two recent attacks.

“We have to show these mercenaries that we can be able to carry on with our lives normally, and with enhanced security, as it is today, al Shabaab or any other insurgent group will find it very hard to cement their doctrine in Lamu,” Irungu said.

“The attack on the US-Kenya army base nearly cost us the closure of the civilian Manda Airport, whose closure would mean the sure death of tourism in Lamu,” Tourism CEC Fahima Arafat said. He said the national government’s quick response led to the swift opening of the port. 

Police Commander Perminus Kioi said the situation had greatly improved noting that the security personnel have not only been increased within the county but are also better-equipped.

Edited by R.Wamochie