The much publicised security fence on the Kenya-Somalia border has temporarily stopped to allow further negations between the two states.
This was revealed on Friday by Mandera Governor Ali Roba and his Gedo counterpart Mohamed A. Mohamed from Somalia.
While on a meet-the-people tour in the border towns of Mandera and Bulahawa, they said the two countries have agreed to temporarily stop the project that would separate the two towns.
According to the two, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will soon meet to agree on a few “thorny issues” before the project proceeds.
Governor Roba said the decision was reached to quell the rising tension among people who live near the border.
“There is a lot of negative propaganda particularly on the Somalia side with respect to border security programme but we are here to confirm that all that is false,” said Mr Roba.
He said locals on the Somalia side of the border have been made to believe that the fence would lead to their eviction and the demolition of their houses.
The Mandera governor said consultations have been ongoing for the past two-and-a-half years over the security programme initiated by the Kenyan government.
The construction has been slow since its inception in 2015 because the local community has to be involved at every stage.
“We are here as neighbouring governors to inform the public that the project has been halted so that a solution for the houses lying directly on the border can be found,” he said.
This, he said, was agreed on during a meeting last week attended by North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh in Mandera Town.
“I can confirm the contractor has been asked to demobilise temporarily pending engagement by the two national governments to discuss a solution in an amicable way,” he said.
Gedo Governor Mohamed said Presidents Kenyatta and Farmajo had already talked on the phone and agreed to meet soon.
“Our message here is that the construction stops until the two national governments come together to agree on some issues on the table,” he said.
According to Governor Mohamed, issues to be discussed include the reason for the project, its effects on daily activities and the fate of the homes that would be affected.
Mr Mohamed wants the Kenyan government to consider the social interaction of the communities along the border before separating them with a wall.
“The people living here have a long history of depending on one another and separating them needs negotiations to solve the problem,” he said.
Sixty-four homes have been marked for demolition along the border to allow the completion of the project, which is supervised by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) engineering department.
Kenya announced it would build a security wall to prevent Al-Shabaab militants from getting into the country, following the deadly April 2, 2015 attack at Garissa University College that left 148 people dead. Most of those killed were students.
The project was later changed to a wire fencing with a parallel trench. Eight kilometres have been completed.
However, the residents on the Somalia side of the border opposed the project and demanded to be compensated for their houses that are in the no man’s land. They have been marked for demolition.
They also asked the Kenyan Government to accept those who have Kenyan ID cards to settle in Mandera.
Some demands that the Kenyan Government is reluctant to implement include allowing students from Somalia to learn freely in Mandera.
Residents on both sides of the border have said the fence would disrupt business, social interactions and movement of livestock when herders search for pasture.