Normalcy yet to return to Mandera after Somalia military clash

Wednesday March 18 2020
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A street in Mandera town on March 9, 2020. There is still tension a week after two Somalia military camps clashed in the neighbouring town of Bulahawa, the effects of which spilled over onto Kenyan soil. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MANASE OTSIALO

Tension still reigns in Mandera town a week after two Somalia military camps clashed in the neighbouring town of Bula Hawa, the effects of which spilled over into Kenyan soil.

The clash, which left at least one person dead and 11 others injured, paralysed operations at the county government offices, the county assembly, law courts and normal business in the town.

“Nobody is sure what could happen next because both camps have been regrouping and getting reinforcements and no group is likely to give up easily,” said Mr Adan Hussein, a local businessman.

TAXI DRIVERS CAUTIOUS

On the streets, some taxis have been operating cautiously while some have opted to keep off.

“We are back in business as we closely watch the situation. We are used to this kind of life due to the unstable situation in Somalia,” said Issak Daudi, a taxi driver.

Mandera County Assembly Minority Leader Jimale Abdi said normal House business is expected to resume on Tuesday.

“We have been around doing other things but plenary will resume tomorrow (Tuesday) as the situation calms down,” he said.

FOLLOWING SITUATION

A spot check by the Nation established that many shops were open with the owners keenly following the happenings in Somalia.

“I have a radio with me through which I am listening to the Somalia station. If they announce their plan to cross into Mandera, I will close my shop,” said Mr Yarrow Abdullahi.

Fugitive Jubbaland Security Minister Abdirashid Hassan Abdinur, who escaped from prison in Somalia, is reported to be in Mandera town.
His presence is said to have precipitated the clash between the Somalia forces.

During last week’s clash with Jubbaland forces, the Federal Government of Somalia army wanted the minister and his group forced to shift their base from Border Point 1 estate to Barwaqo.

They temporarily stayed at a local KDF camp with another group at Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) Kapedo Camp in Mandera East before moving towards Koromey on the outskirts of Mandera town.

Unconfirmed reports say that several fighters from the Jubbaland camp have since defected to join the Federal Government army, citing tough working conditions.

LOSING NUMBERS

“Abdirashid is losing members of his forces to the Somalia army and he might soon be captured,” said a local elder.

Politicians in Mandera have lauded President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to send a security delegation to Mogadishu.

The delegation, led by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, met President Mohamed Farmaajo over the weekend.

“News of engagement between our government and the Federal Government of Somalia is good. We are optimistic that positive results will come out of this engagement leading to de-escalation of tension for the sake of our population in Mandera and its neighbours,” said Governor Ali Roba.

Mandera County Assembly Speaker Mohamed Khalif said both governments should concentrate on fighting Al-Shabaab militants in the area.

PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE

“Our government has been good at cultivating peaceful co-existence in the region and we need to see the same done with the current issue of Somalia. We are a peace loving country and we only need to assist Somalia solve its problems,” he said.

Mandera North MP Bashir Abdullahi said the recent controversial trip to Somalia by 12 MPs from North-Eastern region had cleared the way for dialogue and diplomacy.

DIALOGUE

“We were there before and paved the way for such dialogue and diplomacy to happen. We have all been advocating that our government should engage the Federal Government of Somalia and not regional states,” he said.

Mr Noor Ahmed, a local activist, wants the national government to apologise to the people of Mandera for loss of lives, destruction of property, displacement and causing insecurity by hosting the fugitive Jubbaland minister.

“Our government has to come out clearly and explain why it made the decision of turning Mandera into a battleground contrary to the provisions of the Constitution,” he said.