SPECIAL REPORT: Will Kenya’s border wall help maintain security?

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The 700-kilometer-long security wall along the northeastern border with Somalia is part of a broader national security plan to curb cross-border terror attacks by Somali terrorist group al-Shabab.

By Njeri Kimani, Njeri.kimani@alleastafrica.com    

NAIROBI – With more than 600 people lost to alshabaab attacks in Kenya, the government has recently embarked on an overambitious plan to construct a perimeter wall separating the country from neighboring Somalia.

The construction of 435 mile perimeter wall   which commenced in December 2016 is expected to not only help control people entry to Kenya but also seeks to monitor persons entering in the country along its north eastern Border.

The building of the wall, a replica of the Great Wall of China, is fully funded by the Kenyan government with the National Youth Service (NYS) and the Ministry of transport providing labor whereas the Kenya defense forces provides security to the constructers.

The security barrier consists of concrete wall ringed with a barbed wire electric fence and a huge trench. It will also have several observation posts fitted with electronic surveillance cameras to monitor movements on both sides of the border.

The wall is being erected along the sections of boarder near the coast and it’s intended not only to keep away illegal immigrants from Somalia but also and the alshabaab militants.

Interior cabinet secretary Joseph Nkaiserry said the wall indicates a joint effort by both Kenya and Somalia to fight alshabaab militants.

He added that the wall will limit cross border terrorist movements and hence enable the country to prevent further attacks which have already claimed the lives of more than 400 Kenyans.

Residents of both countries have expressed mixed feelings regarding the construction of the wall.

Amina  Ibrahim  claims that they are being victimized for crimes they are not responsible for.

“We have lived on the Kenyan border for more than 30 years and have peacefully coexisted and carried out business deals with our brothers. It’s unfortunate that we are now being treated as an enemy because of a few rogue people,” she added

Ms Ibrahim pointed out that the cross border surveillance would not help if the government was not willing to net the people involved in the trafficking of arms into the country.

“They should be able to carry out proper scrutiny with the same attention given to the airports making it very hard to sneak any explosive device in both countries,” she added.

Esther Wangari termed the wall as a temporary solution to a bigger problem.

“There needs to be a thorough investigation of the government officials involved in alshabaab. As it is they have strong connections with people in power and hence the reason they can walk in and out of the country,” she added.

Joseph Obara claimed that the country needed to stem out corruption first since it gave leeway to the militants to enter the country.

“They are able to easily bribe their way into the country and sneak dangerous weapons since they have the finances to do so,” he added.

Analysts claim that the wall could breed more enmity between the two countries.

Peter Kinyanjui points out that it symbolizes lack of trust hence a separationist mentality.

“Clearly, two entry points are not enough considering that at least 10 000 people conduct business daily across the border. Baring them could not only have a huge economic impact and affect thousands of families who transact millions into the country daily,” he added.

Kinyanjui points out that the only way to address the menace was to come to a negotiating table with the militants.

“As long as their needs are not met they will continue killing innocent civilians. The government should listen to their needs and also table their demands to prevent further bloodshed,” he added

John Musyumi, an analyst, pointed out that the wall could easily be destroyed using the heavy machineries the vigilante had.

“It can easily be blown up and they still gain access to the country. Of great concern is the fact that this design of walls are the ones in our Kenyan Prison yet we have had frequent prison breaks  and inmates escaping,” he added.

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