A court in Mandera has set free 35 quarry workers on a personal bond of Sh50,000 each and further warned them to keep peace while they are in the county.
While ruling against an application by police seeking to banish the miners from Mandera on Monday, Principal Magistrate Peter Areri, however, directed that anyone among the 35 who violates the bond terms will be kicked out of Mandera.
“I have considered both the application and the responses and therefore I release each respondent on a personal bond of Sh50,000 on condition that they keep peace and anybody who violates the bond terms shall be returned to his home county,” ruled Mr Areri.
On Friday, police in Mandera had applied to be allowed to send back crime suspects to their counties of origin.
In a sworn affidavit, Mandera East Sub-County Police Commander Eric Ngetich said the listed 35 miners were a risk to the local community.
“The respondents are so desperate and so dangerous as to render their being at large without security hazardous to the community,” said Mr Ngetich.
He said the Mandera East Sub-County security committee chaired by Deputy County Commissioner Solomon Cheboton is handling a case of organised crime and in the process arrested the miners.
In their response, the miners argued that they are law abiding citizens and breadwinners for their families back at home.
Mr Simon Wambua said the group is only in Mandera in order to earn a living and provide for their families in different parts of the country.
“We are from different parts of the country and we have families that depend on our working in the quarries. Taking us back home is like denying those depending on us their only survival means,” he said.
Mr Simon Wachira wondered why the police wanted them returned back home on security grounds when it is their (police) responsibility to ensure every citizen’s security.
“I am surprised that the police cannot ensure our security when that is their job. We have plans on how to go back home for Christmas but not being kicked out of Mandera,” he said.
Another miner, Mr John Gitau, challenged the government to find a lasting solution to the insecurity in Mandera instead of prohibiting those seeking to eke out a living there.
“There are more people who will still come to find jobs here even after we have left. The government should find a solution to the situation instead of sending people out of Mandera,” he said.
Mr Fredrick Ndege wondered what will happen to other professionals working in Mandera after the casual labourers have been kicked out on security grounds.
“What will happen to the teachers, health workers and other professional in Mandera after we have left?” he posed.
While applying to “deport” the respondents, Mr Ngetich said their continued stay in Mandera will jeopardise people’s security and lives.
The quarry owners association in Mandera had opposed the application, terming it a plan by the police to continue hurting their business.
“It is very surprising how the police are interested in paralysing quarrying in Mandera when it is the only economic activity we know,” said Mr Ali Madey, the association’s chairman.
The quarry owners, miners and the security agencies in Mandera have been at loggerheads since 2014 after suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed 36 miners in a night raid.
Police have since sought to restrict quarrying but owners and miners allegedly still sneak back to continue with their business, ignoring security advisories.
In 2015, a Mandera court sentenced 20 miners to pay a fine of Sh60,000 or serve five months imprisonment for disobeying a police order.
The ruling was a few days later overturned by Garissa High Court that termed it excessive and unwarranted.