Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The Kenyan government security forces have launched a major security operation in search of two Italian nuns who were kidnapped by Somali militiamen in common frontier on Monday. The government is also blaming the Al-Shabaab Wing of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) for the incident. The SCIC has been fighting the transitional government of Somalia for nearly two years.

Al Shabaab has previously threatened the Kenyan Government of various form of aggression and possible kidnapping.

Kenya's Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode said the government mounted a security operation when the clashes took an international dimension. He says the government has given Al-Shabaab a short notice to surrender the nuns or face an all out war. A senior police said on Tuesday that security forces who were tracking down the militiamen were holding one of the bandits who was arrested on Monday night when the security forces crossed over the border into Somalia.

"The suspect is cooperating well with our officers and we hope to get them (nuns) and the vehicles which were stolen," the officer said.

Kenya Police sources said the gunman had provided investigators with crucial information on the whereabouts of the hostages and their captives who were said to be hiding some seven kilometers from the border. The police officer said they had also received information that the hostages were being held at Garbahaarey, about 175 km northeast of El Wak town after being abducted in Elwak.

Mandera central District Commissioner (DC) Ole Tutui, said the over twenty armed bandits attacked a lodge in Elwak town Sunday night and threw a missile bomb at government quarters but no injuries or deaths were reported during the attack, adding that they took away mobiles phones, unknown value of money and one computer from the locals. He said the gunmen were using heavy machinegun together with a vehicle from where they sprayed the town with bullets. Confirming the attack, area OCPD Akello Odhiambo, said that a security personnel has been dispatched along the Kenya-Somalia border to control the attacks.

Where was the government? Is this why you elect people to go and sleep in Nairobi while their country is under foreign attack?

The Catholic Nuns Maria Teresa Oliviero and Catherina Giruado were seized in a pre-dawn raid on Monday by scores of attackers who stormed the small town of El Wak, firing wildly and launching a rocket at a Kenyan police post before escaping back across the border in hijacked vehicles.

"We are also in talks with elders from the other side (Somalia)and we have been told the hostages are in good health. We are doing everything to have them returned back," the police officer said.

Cross-border raids are common in the remote and arid region, but usually involve cattle rustlers or gangs of robbers preying on business people in both countries and on saturday, the government had indicated that it will deploy more security officers, including the army, along the porous borders of Somalia to prevent foreign militia from crossing into the country and inciting clashes among clans in North Eastern province.

Internal Security minister, Professor George Saitoti, said the security situation in Mandera, where 20 people had been killed due to clashes between two clans, was caused by individuals within the communities arming militia and then seeking support from the neighbouring war torn country.

Professor Saitoti, who was accompanied by Defence minister, Mr. Yussuf Haji, Northern Kenya minister, Mr. Mohamed Elmi, Deputy Speaker, Mr. Farah Maalim and area Members of Parliament, while speaking in a security meeting in Garissa, defended the use of army in the security operation saying no country would allow foreigners to cross into its soil without taking firm action.

He said the situation in Mandera was an old issue and was simmering after a peace agreement brokered in 2005 was ignored by the two clans. He particularly censured Garre(Gharri) clan for ignoring to adhere to the 2005 peace plan, signed in Mandera. He said the government would involve area leaders in seeking solutions to security challenges in the area and appealed to them to assist the government in mopping up small arms and light weapons that cross through the borders and cause strife in the region.

He announced that the government had purchased 300 land rovers for the provincial administration and the police and assured District Commissioners and police in the area that they would receive the vehicles to ease burden of travelling and coordinating security in their areas.

Defence minister, Yussuf Haji, vowed that any army officer implicated in brutality or misconduct during operation in Mandera would face the court martial. He defended use of army saying their work was to ensure foreign militias operating in the country were driven back to their countries. Professor Saitoti said the government would soon do away with radios for security operations and embrace modern tools such as email, fax and satellite phones.

He challenged local leaders to ensure every school going child enrolled for the free education, noting that education was one way of dealing with violence and communal strife. He added that underdevelopment and drought were other issues the government was addressing to deal with security situation in the province.
The Kenyan government has on several ocassions been unable to control the porous border from where several of it's citizens are terrorised. It is a high time the government focuses on these areas and set up security mechanism to maintain the country borders.