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September 19, 2017

Subdivide Boni Forest to keep al Shabaab at bay, Lamu residents tell state

Residents of Milimani in remote part of the Boni forest try to look for a way to pull out a vehicle that had been stuck in the mud in the bad terrain. /FILE
Residents of Milimani in remote part of the Boni forest try to look for a way to pull out a vehicle that had been stuck in the mud in the bad terrain. /FILE

Lamu residents want the Boni forest subdivided to keep away al Shabaab.

Elders from the community on Wednesday said the the militants have turned the neglected forest into a hideout.

Spokesperson Doza Dizo said they want the government to demarcate and subdivide1,339 km² of the forest to every member of the Boni community.

"We are a very small community and that’s why they call us a minority. We believe that if the forest is turned into a human habitat, the militants will have nowhere to hide," said Dizo.

The elders said once the forest is inhabited, the terrorists will not a place to carry out their illegal operations.

They said the Boni community has been living like squatters since the Linda Boni operation begun to flush away the al-Shabbab hiding within.

"We have always depended on the Boni forest but since they started the operation, Linda Boni, we have become squatters, literally shifting from place to place. The security people tell us it shall be so until Alshabaab is over and done. Our lives are a mess. We can't do farming, We just want our lives back," Almuzdallifa Ruko, one of the residents, said.

Read: Three killed after al Shabaab shoot at passenger bus in Lamu

The community, which is among Kenya’s last forest communities and who are traditionally hunters and gatherers have for decades depended on the Boni forest for food and water.

Most of the shrines for the community are also located inside the forest.

Last week, Linda Boni operation director Joseph Kanyiri said the security agencies had been able to destroy three major Alshabaab camps and hideouts inside the forest.

The al Shabaab militants have been carrying out deadly raids on the residents and taking refuge in the forest.

Read: Three Lamu schools close down for fear of al-Shabaab attacks

Also read: Cops only come to collect bodies, Lamu residents say after al Shabaab massacres

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