The government has impounded three World Food Programme trucks for allegedly ferrying food to Al-Shabaab militants, Mandera County Commissioner Fredrick Shisia has said.
Speaking in his office on Tuesday, Mr Shisia said the trucks, destined for Dolo, Somalia, were suspected to be carrying food and other items for the terror group.
“We have stopped [the] transiting of [the] WFP consignment because of allegations that there was a meeting between the community and [the] Somalia government to the effect that Al-Shabaab be allowed to pick [up] food and other logistical arrangements undeterred,” he said.
He said the government was not willing to allow Al-Shabaab to replenish their supplies and then turn on Kenya, threatening its security and people.
“We need an explanation from [the] WFP as to who is the sole beneficiary of the food programme before we allow it to get into Somalia,” said Mr Shisia.
DOING A GOOD JOB
He said the WFP was doing a good job but their arrangements on the ground are not clear and it is suspected the NGO could be feeding the government’s enemy.
“We will not allow or assist anybody from our end if those benefiting from the food programme are militants who later turn against our country,” said Mr Shisia.
He said a fourth truck, ferrying a Toyota Land Cruiser, was allowed to proceed into Somalia but the other three vehicles were held with an unknown quantity of what is said to be food on Saturday.
The move has caused tension since Sunday after it was alleged that the militant group had dispatched its members to carry out attacks in Mandera town and get the trucks.
“On Sunday there was a message wanting NGOs [to get] out of Mandera. These are the antics of Al-Shabaab and we appeal to NGOs to confirm with us the authenticity of such messages before taking any action,” he said.
When contacted for comment by Nation.co.ke, WFP Senior Regional Spokeswoman Challiss McDonough expressed shock at the decision to impound the vehicles.
“It is not WFP policy to transport any food stuff for any other reason apart for humanitarian purposes,” she said.
She said she did not have full information on the matter as she had just arrived in the country from Ethiopia.
Ms McDonough said it is not “unusual” for the WFP to transport food to Somalia.
The WFP is the food aid branch of the United Nations that fights hunger and promotes food security.
'DIRECTIVES FROM ABOVE'
A government source, who wished not to be named, said a security team in Mandera had received “directives from above” not to allow any humanitarian aid to cross into Somalia without a proper explanation.
“These are means to starve the militants who depend on donors for food supply and it has been triggered by the El-Adde attack that left an unknown number of Kenyan soldiers dead,” said the source.
The government has been engaging the NGOs in efforts to combat terrorism and in April 2015, it deregistered several NGOs on the grounds that they were funding militant groups.
On the ongoing security operation after a series of attacks in Mandera last December, Mr Shisia said the situation in Mandera was good.
“The ground is well covered and dominated by our security officers in the hotspot areas as the community cooperates,” he said.
Additional information by Samuel Karanja.
February 3, 2016:
Editor's note: The story has been updated to include information on the mission of the World Food Programme, and to correct the spelling of the first name of the agency's regional spokesperson.