The sleepy villages of the Coast normally lucrative destinations for investors and tourists have been turned to a somber ambiance, ram shackled houses, distraught windows and agonizing faces from kids too young to comprehend what is going on. The unprecedented wave of crime can only be compared to the Likoni clashes in 1997 where at least 104 people were killed, hundreds maimed and about 100,000 people displaced. It’s a fairly subtle insecurity situation banked on the controversial land issue as the underbelly, compounded by news of oil deposits in the region. Lamu to be specific has been the epicenter, witnessing close to a 100 deaths majority being males in a period of two months. The deaths have been barbaric, uncouth and most traumatizing for the families left behind when they watch their fathers, uncles and sons slit at the throat and butchered alive or being shot dead at their full glare.
In just under one month two tourists have been shot dead, coincidentally along the same area, a Russian and a German. The situation was so bad that a ‘boda boda’ lad was left with only two options, sleeping in the bush as long as this madness persists or leaving his 5 acres of land to ride all the way to Karatina 900 kilometers away to a 1 acre ancestral land. It was such a sentimental story. Many villages in Lamu county are a conglomerate of many tribes resettled during Mzee Kenyatta’s era. This has been the elephant in the room for a long time. Indigenous communities are perceived to be poorer and most likely landless or living as squatters. But amazingly, during the infamous 2007-08 post – election violence, this region was relatively calm.
Government was quick to lay blame on local political networks keen to eject a specific community. As expected, the statement was received with its fare share of criticism from the opposition terming the government as a reckless agitator, fueling tribal animosity. So did the government put the cart before the horse? Analysing how this attacks took place really puts into doubt how local networks could pose such heinous attacks without a hand from say Al shabaab and their local cells of indoctrinated youths who are exploiting an already volatile situation.
The attacks are seemingly perfect in execution, in what learned friends would term as modus operandi. They seem to be taking a cue from the Gambler song by Kenny Rodgers which goes,..”You’ve got to know when to hold, when to fold, know when to walk away, know when to run….” The attackers understand the terrain so well to an extent of choosing to lay ambush in an area with poor communication reception just to maximize on the number of casualties. The first time they attacked Mpeketoni, nobody thought they would come back the following day. These are the mind games this guys are playing. Just recently they hijacked a bus in the middle of a thick forest, and actually had reinforcements on the look, just in case push went to shove. The situation was saved by police on patrol. Even before the much hyped curfew was imposed by the government, three gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on Sunday night shooting dead three people in Soweto slum in Mombasa and escaped without a trace. Few weeks before, they would emerge from a thicket, pounce on a village, ransack farms and health centers and retreat back to the forest without any arrest being made.
We are indeed dealing with very smart fellows. KDF and the whole contingent of military and police force are making a mistake they have done many a times of ignoring the local communities in attempts to restore peace. Arresting every idle youth wont help, it’s a PR gimmick we are used to, remember the Eastleigh combing. I watched a witness speaking to a reporter lamenting how the police are ineffective, he could gaze at them speeding from one town to another ignoring the locals who at any given time have the single largest source of intelligence.
KDF managed to seize Kismaiyo Island in Somalia by persistently befriending the locals who would later entrust them as the custodians of peace. They eventually got the intelligence they needed to disarm Al shabaab. We simply need to copy paste this.