Mpeketoni struggles to find footing after series of deadly Shabaab raids

Monday November 5 2018

Mpeketoni

A man rides a motorcycle past a burnt petrol station and a charred building in Mpeketoni, Lamu County, on June 20, 2014. The attack in 2014 has left scars that have affected the towns’ growth. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KALUME KAZUNGU
By KALUME KAZUNGU
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The Mpeketoni terror attack and subsequent raids in Kibaoni, Witu, Hindi and other villages in Boni forest and on the border of Lamu and Somalia left scars that have affected the towns’ growth.

Al-Shabaab killed more than 90 men and destroyed property worth millions of shillings in the worst terror attack in the region.

Hundreds of women were plunged into widowhood and children left fatherless.

DRASTIC TURN

The attack has stalled growth and expansion of these towns, making them lose investment.

Mpeketoni Town was previously a beehive of activity both during the day and at night and was headed to become Lamu’s major trade, business and investment hub, until the night of June 15, 2014 when all this took a drastic turn for the worse.

SORRY SITUATION

The town would be littered with people going about their business until late into the night or even till dawn. However, if you take a stroll on the streets of Mpeketoni town now, few people will be in sight as early as 8pm.

People rush to their homes before nightfall. It’s a sorry situation.

Many sectors have also been dealt a blow and the growth of Mpeketoni, Kibaoni, Witu and Hindi has remained stunted for the longest time.

BETTER PROSPECTS

Before the 2014 Mpeketoni massacre, the real estate business was fast picking up what with mega projects like the Sh2.5 trillion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor Project, the proposed Sh200 billion coal fired power plant as well as the intended Sh21 billion wind power projects that were promising bigger and better prospects for the region.

During the terror attack on the night of June 15, 2014, more than 40 buildings were torched, among them Equity Bank, the Breeze View and Deep Sea hotels.

DIG DEEPER

Despite the government promise to rebuild the structures, nothing has been done.

To make matters worse, insurance companies have refused to sponsor the rebuilding, forcing the few who still have the financial will to dig deeper into their pockets to get back on their feet.

That was the beginning of the end for the real estate sector as many shied away from it and focused on other ventures.

TERRORISM TAG

A spot check by the Nation showed residents were struggling to shed off the terrorism tag now associated with the towns. Those who talked to Nation said had it not been for the attacks, the towns could have made more development milestones.

“We are trying to forget the attacks and strive for a better future. However, we can’t hide the fact that we are afraid of investing too much and blindly the way we had done before hell broke loose,” said Mr Joseph Kimani, a businessman in Mpeketoni.

INTENSIFY CRACKDOWN

Mr Suleiman Yakub, a resident, said the recent attacks in Boni Forest are also making things harder since they are scaring away investors.

“The government should intensify the crackdown on Al-Shabaab so that Lamu remains peaceful to attract more growth and industrialisation,” he said.

In an earlier interview with the Nation, Lamu Trade minister Dismas Mwasambu said that five years down the line, the county was still trying to recover from the attacks. However, he was quick to add that currently all the affected sectors are finally going back to normal.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE

“I can confidently say that tourism is on the path to total healing. It has grown by almost 70 per cent and we are looking forward to even better times,” he said.

Business owners, whose property was torched have unsuccessfully tried to pursue all avenues for compensation over the years until they gave up.

“We are now focused on rebuilding the premises ourselves,” a business owner, Mr Francis Ndung’u, said.

For many residents of Mpeketoni, Hindi, Witu, Kibaoni and all the affected areas, the dust seems to have settled, with a majority of them determined to move on with their lives despite the heavy emotional baggage they will carry forever.