Business normalising in Mandera as terror attacks reduce

Wednesday February 17 2016

Mr Benard Wafula at his workshop in Mandera town on February 16, 2016. Businesses in the town are normalising following reduced terror attacks. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mr Benard Wafula at his workshop in Mandera town on February 16, 2016. Businesses in the town are normalising following reduced terror attacks. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Business in Mandera County has started to normalise after months of terror attacks carried out by the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab group.

A spot check by the Nation in Mandera Town indicated that business operators had picked up and businesses were booming again.

“We are getting most of our supplies from Somalia through Mogadishu port at low prices but any time there is an attack the Kenyan government seals the border blocking our supplies leading to loses,” said Hussein Omar, a wholesaler in Mandera town.

Mr Omar said the El-Adde military camp attack in January affected those doing business in the southern parts of Mandera as all the loopholes used in smuggling goods remain sealed.

“The military have moved to the border line making it quite difficult to get goods into the country and any attempt means paying handsomely to be allowed in,” he said.

Generally, Mr Omar said the reduced attacks in Mandera is an advantage as goods supplied from Nairobi easily get to Mandera as roads are safe.

“We are only getting cement, iron sheets and fuel from Nairobi and at least trucks can get into Mandera without disturbances along the roads from the militants,” he said.

Ms Veronicah Wanjiru, a hotelier in the town said the little semblance of security has attracted more non locals to return to Mandera, boosting business.

“Most of my customers are non-locals working here as quarry miners or in the construction sector and as we speak I can’t complain what I am getting as profit,” she said.

Mrs Rahma Mahmad, a miraa (Khat) seller said her business is doing well since the attackers stopped targeting miraa transporting vehicles.

“In a day I sell all my stock of up to 50 kilograms although the county government plans to kick us out of our market place. I am not worried of anything else,” she said.

Mandera gets three Toyota Landcruisers full of miraa from Maua in Meru County daily and part of it is exported to Somalia and Ethiopia by the locals.

“Any time a miraa vehicle is attacked we sell nothing or very little is shared amongst us from the only vehicle that makes its way into Mandera safely,” said Mrs Mahmad.

A kilogram of miraa is sold at Sh800 in Mandera town and Mrs Mahmad says in a secure environment, good profits are felt.

“I buy a kilo at Sh500 and sell at Sh800 making good profits after paying taxes. My five children are in school because of this miraa business and every time our vehicles are attacked I feel disturbed,” she said.

She appealed to government to secure the region for business expansion.

Public transportation has also normalised according to Mohamed Shukri, a local bus company manager.

“We are charging Sh3000 to Nairobi and Sh3500 back and we are getting more customers back on road after air fare shot up,” he said.

At the height of terror attacks, local flight agents lowered air tickets to Sh8000 but shot back to Sh15000 from Mandera to Nairobi with a difference of Sh1000 flying back to Mandera as the county recorded improved security.

A private school teacher who requested anonymity said with security, their school registered high profits as many Somalia and Ethiopia learners cross into Kenya to seek education.

“Most of our learners are from Somalia and any time there are attacks on Kenyans, our governments threatens to lock students out leading to low turnout,” he said.

“Attacks are not good for they keep away teachers as they are targeted by Al-Shabaab for being non- Muslims and non-locals leading to loses in private schools,” he said.

He said currently school business has stabilized as the terror incidents reduced in the region.