By CYRUS OMBATI
Wednesday May 5, 2021
The security fence at the Kenya-Somalia border in Mandera Image: COURTESY
Kenya is on course with the construction of the 700km-long barrier along its border with Somalia.
The Sh3,4 billion project started in 2015 as part of efforts to create a buffer zone to tame rising cases of terrorism.
The barrier, known as the Kenya-Somalia border securitisation project, is among others meant to secure the country from attacks by Somalia-based al Shabaab militants.
The project plan includes designated immigration and custom entry points with a two-foot-tall concrete barrier fitted with CCTV cameras.Trenches are also being excavated. The exercise started on both Lamu and Mandera stretches and is continuing amid resistance from some quarters.
The barrier was expected to be modeled on the snaking structure that separates Israel from Palestine’s West Bank and would have seen bricks, mortar and barbed wire line the border.
According to officials, the barrier has helped reduce cases of attacks in places where it has been erected. They, for instance, say 90 per cent of Mandera county is peaceful apart from the Arabia-Kotulo stretch, which they termed volatile, unpredictable, challenging and ambiguous.
The project includes at least 22 border posts on the border with well-equipped personnel to respond to any form of aggression.
Officials say once complete, the teams will be spread 40km apart to enable quick response to attacks.
According to those aware of the project, development partners, including the UK and US governments, are helping Kenya to complete the initiative.
For instance, the British government recently donated seven fully equipped containers to be used as police posts. The containers are said to be fireproof and equipped with an armoury that may take up to 10 hours to break in.
The US government also donated 39 four-wheel drive cars to be used by the Administration Police’s Border Patrol Unit. President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the vehicles at the Kanyonyo BPU college in February.
A team of more than 200 special forces have been deployed to the area to help tame the growing terror threats.
The decision to scale up the activities at the border was arrived at after a research by government security agencies showed 30 per cent of the country’s security problems are traced to the porous Somalia border often penetrated by terrorists to attack Kenyan towns.
This was also informed by announcement by Amisom troops that they would withdraw from Somalia, where they are fighting Shabaab.
Officials said their plans to boost operations at the border were boosted by President Kenyatta’s order for changes in the operations of the units within the National Police Service.
For instance, Administration Police Service is now completely specialised on its core mandate that includes border patrols, guarding critical infrastructure and dealing with stock theft.
Under the new structure, the APS has formed units that include the Rapid Deployment Unit, Border Police Unit, APS Stock Theft Prevention Unit and Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit.
The BPU has established a training college in Kanyonyo in Mwingi, Kitui county, to train and deploy personnel to the border area. The college is constructing a 60-bed capacity hospital and an airport to boost its operations, especially in the targeted areas.
Sources aware of the heightened measures said police stations near the main border are being moved about 20km into Kenya to allow the BPU personnel to take charge after the areas were declared an operation zone. Those with complaints and in need of police are directed to the nearest stations.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre’s military regime. The coup ushered in more than two decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.
Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi on October 14, 2011, after gunmen seized tourists at the Coast. The government then declared al Shabaab a threat to Kenya’s sovereignty as it targeted the nation’s economic lifeline, which is tourism.
The militants have attacked Kenya many times, causing deaths and destruction.