Wajir County, Kenya –
The Governor of Kenya’s northeastern Mandera County, Mohamed Adan Khalif, has shockingly revealed that 60% of his county has al-Shabaab’s presence. He made the remarks when speaking to the media during a security conference on tackling al-Shabaab.
The event took place in Kenya’s Wajir County on Thursday. “I can confirm that in our counties, a huge chunk of the area is now being partially controlled by al-Shabaab. … Al-Shabaab presence and sightings are more than 60% of the Mandera County,” said Mr Mohamed, adding that the county administration is unable to provide services and is only confined at the county headquarters.
The Wajir security meeting gathered regional commissioners and county intelligence committee members from four counties situated along the Kenya-Somalia border: Wajir, Mandera, Garissa and Lamu. They discussed security issues in the region, especially those related to the al-Shabaab threat. The attendees emphasised the need to strengthen cooperation and intelligence sharing among security agencies to respond quickly to emerging threats.
One of the Members of Parliament attending the meeting suggested that residents should mobilise local forces, similar to the so-called Ma’awisley militia in Somalia, to enhance the fight against al-Shabaab.
Others called for “community sensitisation” to weed out elements that support the militants. “This meeting, among other issues, discussed how to sensitise the local community against helping those seeking to cause insecurity in our region,” Wajir County Governor Ahmed Abdullahi said, among other remarks.
The Wajir County Governor has repeatedly urged locals to actively assist security agencies in their efforts to defeat the militants. In the past, he stressed the importance of providing information and taking an active role in combating al-Shabaab. However, community involvement has been limited due to the community’s lack of trust in the security agencies, which have often been accused of harassing the locals rather than assisting and protecting them.
Increased al-Shabaab attacks along the border
The Wajir event has been convened in response to the increased activities of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has been targeting both civilians and security personnel in the affected counties. The heightened attacks pose a significant security threat in the region, prompting relevant authorities to gather and discuss potential strategies and responses.
Should Mandera’s Governor’s remarks be true, and al-Shabaab really controls 60% of the county’s territory, it is an alarming development. Kenya has been paralysed by nationwide opposition protests, which kept most of the nation’s security agencies busy. However, the country’s North East situation should not be underestimated either.
Al-Shabaab, recently pushed towards the Kenyan border by the Somali government’s offensive, will now seek to further expand its Kenyan operations. The recent takeover of the strategically-positioned Giriley military base, positioned only 15 kilometres from the Kenyan border, should serve as a most urgent warning sign.