Kenya plans great wall to block terror
10 APR 2015 00:00 PAUL WAFULA
Some welcome the security move but Somalia's president says a barrier
can't stop an ideology.
Kenya may start building a wall on its border with Somalia, a week
after al-Shabab attacked Garissa University College, killing 147
The plan is to build a wall along various sections of the porous
eastern border that is a gateway for militants and thousands of
Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya’s interior Cabinet secretary, told journalists
that in a bid to reduce illegal border entries the wall would start in
the town of Mandera in the North near the borders of Somalia and
Ethiopia, and end in Wajir in the Northeast about 100km from Somalia.
“Mandera [in Kenya] and Bula Hawa [in Somalia] are almost merged and
you cannot tell which is which,” said Nkaissery.
The wall will be made of concrete and fencing. The governor of Lamu
county, Issa Timamy, told journalists that he had been briefed about
the initiative and said the wall was expected to be completed before
the end of this year.
Kenya is divided into 47 devolved governments, each headed by an
elected governor, but security remains the function of the national
“This is where immigrants have been arrested trying to cross into the
country or having already entered through the border in Lamu. This
[wall] is a good idea and we support it because we believe it will go
a long way to secure the region and, indeed, the country as a whole,”
Timamy told Kenya’s Daily Nation.
Another section identified to be protected is along the coast. The
area to be secured is also in Lamu county, with the wall running near
the towns of Kiunga and Ishakani in Lamu East to control traffic from
Ras Kamboni in Somalia.
It is not yet clear whether the wall will be continuous along the
border. A source indicated that the sections near the main border
posts would be concrete and the other sections fencing.
Kenya’s border with Somalia stretches for about 680km and policing it
is almost impossible because of the numerous entry points along it.
Though specific details of the wall such as the costs, the thickness,
the length, and other specifications are still scanty, the Kenyan
government has suggested that construction will start this week.
It could not be established where the funding is coming from and
whether the work has gone to tender. Kenya struggles with corruption,
particularly in government procurement systems. But the country’s
security system does not usually stick to government’s prescribed
procurement standards, citing security reasons.
Opinion on whether the wall is an effective plan in dealing with
terrorism is divided. Some analysts have said that the wall could be
ineffective because al-Shabab militants may bomb it and it will be
difficult to guard the entire length of the barrier.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has indicated his
government’s discomfort about the proposed wall, saying a physical
separation cannot stop an ideology.
Kenya has also threatened to deport thousands of Somali refugees.
The recent attacks have reignited debates about whether Kenya should
keep its troops in Somalia.
Building a wall on country borders is not new. Israel has a wall,
which is more than 800km long, to keep Palestinians out. A wall was
built in Cyprus along the Green Line that separates the Turkish North
from the Greek South. Other walls are in Saudi Arabia, to keep Yemen
at bay, the Mexican border and the Malaysian border.
Government faces criticism for ignoring warnings
Garissa was Kenya’s 135th terror attack since it sent its troops into
neighbouring Somalia in 2011.
The government is facing criticism over its laxity on security and for
ignoring intelligence and terror warnings from both its internal
intelligence gathering systems and from foreign governments.
Days before the Garissa attack, the British and Australian governments
issued warnings that were dismissed by Kenya as economic sabotage of
the country’s tourism industry.
Prior to the Garissa attack Nkaissery asked Kenyans to ignore reports
that said the country was unsafe. President Uhuru Kenyatta echoed
these sentiments just a day before Garissa was attacked.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest since
the 2008 bombing of the United States embassy in Nairobi, and said it
was in retaliation for Kenya’s continued military presence in Somalia.
Statistics from Kenya’s anti-terrorism police unit show that there
have been 133 attacks – one every 10 days – since the offensive began
in 2011. Last week’s attacks on Mandera and Garissa put the number at
The British government appears to have been vindicated – the latest
travel advisory was the second in recent months.
A similar advisory was issued in 2014 for Mombasa, and Britain closed
its consular office just before the Mpeketoni attacks in which 60
people were killed.
The incessant attacks have seen a cutback in foreign travellers. The
tourism industry shed more than 4?000 jobs last year and about 20
hotels along the Kenyan coast shut down. The Garissa attack is likely
to further hurt the tourism industry, which was starting to recover.
Other prominent attacks have been the Westgate mall siege in Nairobi,
in which 67 people were killed, and the Mandera bus and quarry attacks
where nonMuslims were forced to lie face down and then shot dead.
Though the terror has hit schools in the past, Garissa is the first
attack on a university.
Burials of the Garissa dead started early this week.
Received on Thu Apr 09 2015 - 22:37:27 EDT