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Stone miners protest closure of quarries

Monday May 21 2018

Mandera quarry workers

Some of the stone miners who held protests on May 21, 2018 demanding reopening of quarries in Mandera. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MANASE OTSIALO
By MANASE OTSIALO
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Quarry workers in Mandera County took to streets on Monday to protest against government closure of stone mines.

More than 50 miners matched through Mandera town to the county commissioner’s office where they demanded reopening of quarries which have been closed for the past three weeks.

Their attempts to meet county commissioner Kutswa Olaka failed as Mr Olaka did not leave his office.

Led by Henry Ogoro, the miners accused the national government of denying them their right to earn a living.

REQUESTS

“This is now the third week since quarries were closed yet we have no other means to earn an income,” said Mr Ogoro.

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Mr Ogoro said the county commissioner has been ignoring their requests to address the matter.

“The county commissioner told us that we will resume our activities within a week but that has not happened,” he claimed.

The government announced closure of quarries on May 4, a week after four miners were killed by suspected Al-Shabaab militants at Shimbir-Fatuma quarry.

Mr Olaka told the Nation then that the closure was to allow for a security operation to curb rising terror activities in Mandera County.

MORE RISK

When reached for comment on Monday, Mr Olaka said nothing had changed and that the situation remained the same.

“I have no comment. The situations remain the same,” said Mr Olaka as he declined to share with the media the current plan to secure quarries.

The miners demanded to be allowed back in the quarries or be moved out of Mandera until the security situation improves.

“We are here for two things, either the government allows us back in quarries or it transports us back to our homes,” said Samuel Muchina.

He said idling in town was exposing them to more risk.

“Al-Shabaab agents are able to monitor our movements in town and we are at risk of being attacked during the day unlike when we are in the quarries,” he said.

CONSTRUCTION

Most miners expressed fear of being kicked out of their rental houses since they have run out of cash.

Last week, Mandera Governor Ali Roba donated foodstuff to the group but they claimed the little given has been cleared.

“What the governor gave us last week is over and we are wondering where to get food again,” said Mr Muchina.

Hussein Ali, a local mason who joined the miners in the demonstration, said construction industry has been affected greatly.

“I am a mason and I have not been able to work for the past two weeks because there are no stones for construction. Let the government open quarries so that work can go on,” he said.