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Lamu IDPs cautioned against secretly going back to villages

Monday September 4 2017

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo. He has cautioned IDPs who left their homes due to Al-Shabaab attacks against secretly returning to their villages. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo who has cautioned IDPs who left their homes due to Al-Shabaab attacks against secretly returning to their villages. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KALUME KAZUNGU
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Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo has cautioned people living in various IDP camps in the county to resist the urge to secretly go back to their homes.

According to Mr Gilbert Kitiyo, the four men who were recently beheaded by suspected Al-Shabaab militants at Maleli in Lamu West had left the camp without permission from security forces and gone to guard their farms when they met their fate.

His sentiments come at a time when most of the IDPs are getting restless and complaining about the living standards in the camps.

Most of them have school-going children and they are missing out on learning.

They also say life in the IDP camps has become unbearable since there is constant shortage of food and water.

FLED HOMES

The IDPs, mostly from Jima, Poromoko, Kakathe, Maleli, Pandanguo and Nyongoro fled their homes following a spate of Al-Shabaab attacks in their villages that left over 20 people, including security officers, dead between June and July this year.

This forced the government in early July to direct villagers closer to Boni Forest to move to IDP camps in order to give way for the Linda Boni multi-agency security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants who continue to wreak havoc in many parts of the county.

A total of 2,150 IDPs are currently putting up at the Katsaka Kairu camp while others are at another camp situated in the AIC Church in Witu Town.

Addressing journalists in Lamu on Sunday, Mr Kitiyo said it was dangerous for the IDPs to leave the camps before being granted permission by the security and before being given an update on the security situation in their villages where a security operation is currently underway.

PATIENT

He called on the IDPs to be patient and wait for permission from the security agencies who will advise them when it is safe for them to go back to their homes.

Mr Kitiyo also said the national government is currently in the process of recruiting and equipping more Kenya Police Reservists (KPR) who will work with the police and KDF to ensure security in the villages.

He said there is a bit of calm in the affected villages but added that it is not yet at a level where they can allow the villagers to go back home.

“My advice to the IDPs at Katsaka Kairu and Witu AIC is that they should wait for our signal on whether or not it’s safe for them to go back to their villages.

"I am aware that the schools have opened and most of them want to go back so that their children can attend school.

"It is, however, not safe for them to move out of the camp and secretly go back to the villages. Going back secretly [can be] fatal ,” said Mr Kitiyo.

SECURITY STABILISED

He said security has been stabilised but urged villagers to wait since the government's objective is to have them go back to their homes and lead normal lives as soon as possible.

However, the IDPs want the government to act fast since they feel the camps are hindering their freedom to pursue their independent lives.

“We are tired of the life at the camp. It’s unbearable. We just want to go back to our homes," said Kaimgu Kadzomba, an IDP at Katsaka Kairu.

Mr Kadzomba said their farms and crops are being destroyed by wild animals and herders and their school-going children are missing out on learning.

But Mr Kitiyo insisted that the IDPs should remain in the camps until the government is confident enough that their villages are safe enough for them to go back to and also after the security agents are sure that the Al-Shabaab threat has been eradicated.