Kiunga residents demand exit of ‘imported’ labourers

Monday March 30 2020
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A street in Kiunga village which is at the border of Lamu County and Somalia. Locals are demanding the location of workers who have been brought from other counties to build the border wall, saying they fear the risk of the spread of Covid-19. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KALUME KAZUNGU

There is panic in Kiunga village which is at the border of Lamu County and Somalia after the national government shipped in over 40 labourers from Kilifi and other counties hit by Covid-19.

The workers have been brought to build the border security wall.

The 700-kilometre wall, dubbed the Kenya-Somalia Border Securitisation Project, was mooted in 2015 to secure the country from attacks by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terrorists.

The entire project plan includes having designated immigration and custom entry points with a two-foot tall concrete wall fitted with CCTV cameras.

CONSTRUCTION SITE

The contractor in charge of the project had initially established a construction site, dubbed Usalama camp, at Karaweni between Kiunga and Ishakani near the border of Lamu and Somalia.

For several weeks, the camp had been closed down temporarily after the contractor ran out of building materials but the labourers were recalled back over the weekend to proceed with the work.

But instead of being stationed at the Usalama Camp, labourers were transferred to Kiunga Primary School as the camp is located too close to the Lamu-Somalia border which Al-Shabaab militants use to cross in and out of Kenya to conduct attacks.

FORCEFUL QUARANTINE

The move has angered locals who are now demanding for the immediate evacuation or forceful quarantine of the 40 labourers to avert a possible outbreak of Covid-19 in the area.

Kiunga town has a population of about 4,000 people.

Led by Kiunga MCA Abdalla Baabad, the residents questioned why the building of the border wall cannot be postponed, considering that the workers have to be ferried from other counties at a time when Kenya is battling the coronavirus.

“We’re not opposing visits by people from other counties to Lamu or our village in Kiunga but we want to see serious health measures being taken, especially at this time when Covid-19 is frustrating Kenya and the world in general.

COVID-19

“It’s unfortunate that the government has brought in tens of labourers from other counties, including Kilifi, which is hit by Covi-19. Our concern is that some of those labourers might have contracted the disease, which can result to its spread in the entire Kiunga village,” said Mr Baabad.

Kiunga Community Leader Aboud Hussein accused the government and the contractor of carelessness following the move to bring in the workers at a time when everyone is worried about coronavirus.

Mr Aboud demanded for the immediate relocation of the workers’ camp from Kiunga Primary School which is within Kiunga town centre back to their Usalama camp which is far from the village.

“What they’re doing is risking our lives. They want us to contract coronavirus and we will not allow it. The labourers should be transferred with immediate effect from Kiunga Primary to Usalama camp. They should also be quarantined there,” said Mr Hussein.

STAYING INDOORS

Mrs Fatma Abdallah said they have been forced to stay indoors after they were told that workers from Kilifi had arrived in Kiunga.

Mrs Abdallah pleaded with the government to have them moved to Kiunga Secondary School which is about half a kilometre from the town.

“We’re worried of coronavirus and that’s why we’ve been forced to stay indoors after learning that labourers from Covid-19 hit counties, including Kilifi, have been brought to our town,” said Mrs Abdallah.

NO CAUSE FOR ALARM

Contacted, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the government took all the required measures before bringing in the workers to Kiunga.

Mr Macharia noted that there is no existing rule in the country which prohibits citizens from working in any county.

But he said they have considered the plea from the residents and that plans are underway to move the workers to Usalama camp.

“I have received the complaints from various people, including the area MCA Abdalla Baabad. The stand of the government is to temporarily quarantine the labourers at Kiunga Primary School as the contractor makes arrangements to ferry them to their construction site at Usalama camp. In the meantime, the labourers will be going to work at the security border wall during the day and reporting back to Kiunga Primary in the evening. There’s no cause for alarm,” said Mr Macharia.