We are all, by now, aware of the latest in a spate of attacks within our borders. Mandera bore witness to the shedding of innocent blood that scarred our history on Sunday. 59 passengers boarded an outbound bus headed to Nairobi, 28 of these poor souls would meet their demise at the hands of heavily armed mystery attackers in millitary uniforms. For the survivors, we wish them well as they work to rebuild their lives in the wake of witnessing such a horror. To the families of the deceased, there is not enough that can be said. We send our prayers and stand by their side in this trying time.
The attackers, said to be members of the Al Shabaab, have drawn criticism and condemnation from the international community at large. The United States has maintained their stance against all forms of terrorism, this horror included. The UN has similarly voiced their dismay, condolences to the affected and a pledge to support Kenya in our continued fight to secure our borders. Statements made by the United Kingdom and the EU have followed a similar vein: decrying this brutal act of terrorism, reaffirming their support for Kenyan endeavors to bring the culprits to justice. These efforts, recently chronicled in a government announcement that a number of those responsible had been found and killed, continue to ring hollow for the Kenyan citizen on the ground.
No where is this more evident than in Mandera itself. Given that majority of those tragically slain on the ill-fated bus were not local residents, instead comprising mostly of health workers and educators, those that remain in the area have expressed concern for their safety. Reports came to light during the week of such residents setting up camp at the KDF airstrip, which they deem safer than their own residences. Can you picture having to leave your home and station yourself at the nearest military outpost, fearing for your life. Come Monday, unions for teachers and civil servants in the area outrightly warned their members not to report to duty in Mandera and a short list of other counties where such attacks abound.
The non-local staff in Mandera also recorded pleas to the government for evacuation, essentially running for their lives. Buses and flights out of the area, both limited, were fully reserved and occupied following the attack, fuelled by an understandable need to get as far away from your would-be murderers’ base as quickly as possible. It was not long before the government issued a statement that they would not, in fact, be evacuating these rightly fearful citizens, on the grounds that their security would be guaranteed even in Mandera. To this we say, “Hogwash.” and the workers plainly agree. Many reported that informants providing police with intelligence on terrorist activities both homegrown and from across the border, were usually murdered for their efforts, asserting that some of the police force is aware of and in cahoots with the radical groups. Reports have similarly surfaced that the local governor, Ali Roba, has been the target of attempted assassinations for his role in pointing out the presence of armed mystery men who were not of Kenyan origin, further stating that soldiers deployed to guard the very route the bus attempted to use were removed from their posts under questionable circumstances, leaving travellers to the fate of whichever group of armed attackers got their first.
Amid calls to remove the top heads of security and revamp the structures put in place to protect the Kenyan citizens, the government response has been lackluster, and some might even say, dismissive. It is disheartening, not just for the non local workers awaiting evacuation, the local residents with nowhere to run, or you reading this wondering if you’ll be next. Do you believe the government is doing all that can be done to guarantee that your tomorrow is protected from forces that threaten our peace? Or is it becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to matters of security, dear reader, that you and I are completely on our own?