Leaders from Wajir County have called for collaboration between security agencies and residents in order to win the fight against Al-Shabaab terrorists.
Their sentiments come at a time when the Somalia-based militant group has intensified attacks in the region which have left several people dead and others injured.
Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties have been worst hit by the attacks which now threaten education and development in the once-marginalised region.
Following recent Al-Shabaab attacks, residents of northern Kenya have been accused of sympathising with terrorists and failing to report their activities to authorities on time.
The leaders have now attributed this to mistrust and poor relationship between the residents and security agencies, whom they have accused of intimidating and victimising those who report such acts.
They were speaking during a recent consultative meeting on countering violent extremism.
The meeting in Wajir town brought together political and religious leaders, elders, security teams and the residents.
30 PEOPLE DEAD
Wajir East MP Rashid Kassim said the frequent attacks in the region have resulted in loss of at least 30 lives in the last two years in Wajir alone. He said the war against terrorism needs to bring every individual, including religious leaders, on board.
"As leaders from the region, we want everyone to be involved in this fight. That is why we are holding these peace meetings to sensitise the residents and remind them of their crucial role in countering violent extremism," said Mr Kassim.
Mr Kassim said Wajir East and Tarbaj sub-counties are the worst affected by the terrorist attacks.
Mr Kassim said that as leaders, they decided to put their differences aside and concentrate on ways to kick out Al-Shabaab militants.
Wajir South MP Mohamud Omar said that the poor relationship between residents and the security agencies has made the war against terror a difficult affair.
"To win this war, we need inter-community relationships between the residents and security agencies but clearly that is missing," said Mr Omar.
Mr Omar said that as leaders, they will not allow intimidation of the residents by security agencies as this has contributed to mistrust between the two parties.
The MP called on security teams to let the law take its course by taking all terror suspects to court once arrested.
He called on the government to embrace community policing to take the war on terror to the grassroots.
Eldas MP Adan Keynan called on the residents and leaders to stop pointing accusing fingers but to focus on better ways to fight the terror menace.
"Do not attribute this menace to any community. This issue is like a disease and we should find ways of promoting positive ethnicity," he said.
The Eldas legislator further said that frequent attacks in the region have adversely affected the education sector as teachers have fled for fear of their lives.
In 2018, a mass exodus of teachers was witnessed after two were killed by Shabaab militants who stormed Qarsa Primary School.
Mr Keynan said due to the current situation, performance in national examinations has been adversely negatively, adding that it is a ticking time bomb.
"Close to 3,000 students in the region scored grade E in last year's exam and they are just at home. They don't know where to go," he said.
Wajir North MP Ahmed Abdisalan called on increased community awareness on the effects of Al-Shabaab attacks, saying most residents are unaware of the extent of damage the militants have caused.
Mr Abdisalan opposed the idea of arming locals as a strategy to fight terrorism, saying it will cause more problems including fanning inter-ethnic clashes which has been a big challenge in the county.
"We will support police reservists but we won't allow arming of the locals as this could act as a catalyst for inter-clan clashes," he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Wajir South MP Mohamud Omar who said the government has the capacity to deal with the menace.
"We won’t accept arming of local men and, if it comes to that, I will petition the government," he said.
A section of elders had proposed the arming of youths in the terror hotspots to complement efforts of security officers.
Nominated Senator Farhiya Haji said terrorism is a global menace and concerted efforts need to be put in place to end it.
Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi said his administration will work with the national government to provide the resources needed in the fight against terror.
The governor said that every resident has a role to play if security is to be achieved.
He also urged the residents to make use of the security hotline number which was launched recently to report any incidents of crime and terror in the county.
The two-day sensitisation campaign also saw religious leaders being tasked with preaching against terrorism in religious gatherings.
On Saturday, at least 150 clerics were sensitised on their crucial role in fighting terrorism.