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July 16, 2023


Clearly such a dramatic increase in al-Shabaab attacks inside Kenya is extremely worrying.

More by Kenya Forum Somalia Correspondent

Kenyan-Somali border security deteriorates

Kenyan-Somali border security deteriorates

Photo courtesy Somali Guardian

A spike in al-Shabaab attacks has prompted a pause in the planned opening of the Kenyan-Somali border

On July 4th the Interior Cabinet Secretary, Professor Kithure Kindiki, announced that the proposed staged re-opening of the Kenya-Somalia border would be postponed due to a spike in the number of terrorist attacks mounted in the border counties by the al-Qa’ida linked terrorist group, al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab attacks along the Kenya-Somalia border

The Al-Shabaab attacks which prompted the postponement included a roadside bomb attack on a Kenyan police vehicle on June 12th which killed eight officers, the beheading of five men in Juhudi and Salama villages in Lamu county on June 24th (which then prompted over two hundred people to flee the area), and an attack on a GSU patrol in Mlima wa Faru village on June 25th, also in Lamu.

A further five police officers were then killed in another IED strike, this time near El Wak in Mandera county on July 5th. The Kenyan police Special Operations Group claimed to have killed 20 al-Shabaab fighters in Ogorwen in Mandera county on July 7th but this has not been confirmed.

African Union base in Somalia has been overrun

Within the last 24 hours the recently handed over African Union Forward Operating Base or ‘FOB’ in Gariley in Gedo, just across the border from Mandera county, was overrun by terrorists who preached to the local population (at gunpoint) before withdrawing.

Across the border in Mandera al-Shabaab also attacked the police station in Wargadud, killing two police men and seizing a police van and four automatic rifles. The terrorists also destroyed the Safaricom tower in the town along with one in nearby Iresuki: it seems likely that the group wants to cloak its ongoing activities in cellphone signal silence.

Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya

Clearly such a dramatic increase in al-Shabaab attacks inside Kenya is extremely worrying. It may be that ongoing operations against the group deeper inside Somalia are forcing the relocation of some of their activities, effectively displacing the terrorists into Kenya northern. Or it may be part of the group’s longer term plan for the creation of ‘Greater Somalia’, an abstract concept that exists wherever there are ethnic Somalis (and which would, therefore, include the Ethiopian Ogaden, Djibouti, much of northern Kenya and, by logical extension, areas such as Eastleigh in Nairobi or even Minnesota and Minneapolis in the United States, for example).

Lamu security and ‘starvation’

On the other hand, the Awer community living in Boni Forest in Lamu county have complained that ongoing security operations have brought them to the point of starvation. What some see as a heavy-handed security response is also likely to further exacerbate tensions in the Border counties, an area that already feels neglected and often unfairly targeted.

Some may follow the lead of the unfortunate denizens of Juhudi and Samala, and flee, in turn stressing the places where they re-settle: others, however, may stay. One small encouraging sign was the standing up of a community protection force, known locally as the ‘Macawisely’ (‘ma-ha-wees-lee’), the Somali term for the local hunting kilt worn by men in the area.

Al-Shabaab, however, recognise that groups like the Macawisely are a major threat, possibly even greater than the security forces, since they are popular uprisings. As a result the group executed two macawisely members in Takaba in Mandera on Tuesday July 11th.

It may be some time before the border opens as planned.

Kenya Forum readers may also be interested in this article by our Somalia Correspondent:

Where is the border between Kenya and Somalia? (19/5/2023)


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