EDITORIAL: In Kindiki’s announcement, Al-Shabab gained an upper at the expense of the local’s high hopes
In a surprise move on Wednesday, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior Prof Kithure Kindiki announced indefinite suspension of plans to reopen the Somalia-Kenya border following spike in insurgency activities in Northeastern counties and Lamu. He made the remarks at Daadab, Garissa County.
The timing of the decision to reconsider the operationalisation of the border entry points couldn’t be worse: it dimmed the hope of the locals amid rising strong anti-Shabab sentiments, and could potentially bolster the group’s plan to further wreck havoc in the region.
The border was closed a decade ago following Kenya’s incursion into Somalia. Severally, President Ruto reitarated that by reopening the border: “We are going to send a compelling message to AI-Shabaab that they are not going to reverse the gains we have made.”
Kindiki’s assertions that the decision was informed by bid “to facilitate comprehensive and conclusive handling of the recent wave of terror attacks and cross-border crime” defeats the purpose and concerted intent of the unprecedented wave of collaboration between the security apparatus and the locals, and evokes the deep-seated fear of possible relapse to the pre-Ruto era when institutionised discrimination in service delivery was the norm.
Since it took the reigns of power, the Kenya Kwanza administration has been revoking one retrogressove policy after the other. It started with abolishing the mandatory vetting of residents when acquiring national IDs, announced partial reopening of the border with Somalia and eased the process of obtaining passports for Kenyans of Somali origin. Others are the planned reopening of the immigration offices in Garissa and a relative increase in the number of teachers posted to the region. All these reversed policies were initially imposed by Kibaki and Uhuru administrations due to sustained Shabab attacks in retaliation for the presence of Kenyan forces in Somalia.
Al-Shabab leaders have brazenly declared to take Kenya heads-on, and from the look of things, they weren’t bluffing. However, what happened to the daring approach announced by the presidency and loudly echoed by top security officials to safeguard the people and the integrity of it’s territorial border?
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The indiscriminatory spate of attacks on residents and the security officers is not something so foreign that it conclusively informed the Government’s decision to reconsider one of it’s major people-centric policy. What other sudden changes could possibly follow if the attacks morph into a runaway anarchy? Is it feasible that we may soon be slapped with a gradual revocation of the now abolished policies? What’s next: suspension of the planned reopening of Garissa immigration offices?
Before CS Kindiki made the flimsy controversial announcement, he should have conscientiously revisited the decade-long trend that got us where we are. It’s foolhardy to retreat at the heat of an armed conflict for it will send the impression that with a slight challenge, you’re bound to bow to the pressure of the opponent.
At this juncture, it’s prudent that the government stops it’s whimsical volatile approach to securing its border and acts in a way that fortifies its authority.