- The border has been shut for the last 12 years owing to the ban which largely hampered trade and movement between the two regions.
- The ban came into play in 2011 as Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi which was meant to fight and deal with an influx of al-Shabaab fighters in the country.
Lamu residents have lauded the announcement by the government to reopen the Kenya-Somalia border in the next 90 days.
The border has been shut for the last 12 years owing to the ban which largely hampered trade and movement between the two regions.
The ban came into play in 2011 as Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi which was meant to fight and deal with an influx of al-Shabaab fighters in the country.
The border, which was then believed to be porous was being used as a transit and exit point for the militants coming to launch terror attacks in various parts of Kenya.
The recent announcement to reopen the border followed a high-powered consultative meeting between Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh in Nairobi on Monday this week.
The announcement comes as a relief to residents of Lamu border villages of Kiunga, Ishakani, Ras Kamboni, Madina, Kiwayu, and Mkokoni who have persistently called for the closed border to be reopened.
The majority of these residents are fishermen and traders who felt the ban weighed heavily on their economic activities and impacted negatively on their social lives.
The Lamu Fishermen Association chairperson Mohamed Somo said the border ban had negatively impacted trade, business and livelihoods along the border.
Fishing and Miraa trades have equally suffered as it became impossible for the two sides to interact and do business.
He complained that unlike previously, it has become impossible for traders from Somalia and Kenya to freely interact.
Somo thanked the interior CS for the move and said it will go a long way in improving trade and other cross-border economic activities.
“For fishermen, it became illegal to explore the sea beyond Kiunga town and any areas close to the Somalia border. Fishermen have been arrested severally because of that and it was unfortunate. We are however grateful to the CS for opening the border,” said Somo.
According to Omar Bunu of Kiunga village, the border ban had also affected the social lives of communities along the border considering many between the two countries had intermarried.
He said the relations had however become strained following the border closure ban and had caused many families to break up.
“There are people who haven’t seen their relatives on either side of the border for over 12 years. We get to only communicate via phone calls. It’s an emotionally daunting venture. We are grateful to the CS for this,” said Bunu.
Miraa traders are also optimistic that the reopening of the border will boost their trade considering Somalia is a huge consumer of Kenyan Miraa.
“Somalia has been our biggest market. The ban really affected the business. We are hoping for better returns with the open borders,” said Kevin Muriuki, a trader in Kiunga.