Shame in Tana Delta; Can the government address security challenges

The Tana River County is a front runner in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Pokomo and the Orma, the indigenous group resident of Tana Delta are at the center of criminal behavior, having resorted in an all drawn out war, of attack and counter attacks skirmishes leading to deaths and injuries to scores of people including police officers in its wake.

Preliminary reports indicate that ethnic rivalry may have been catapulted to new heights by competing political and vested interest. Tana river is a neighbor to Ijara County and is one of the many jurisdiction that forms part of the network of what was originally called Northern frontier districts that have suffered a great deal of historical injustices, the vicious effects of marginalization. The region is at best anarchic lying within close proximity to the war torn Somalia with the flow of illicit small arms and black market for numerous commodities remaining largely unchecked.

The role of political leaders has come under sharp scrutiny. Interest groups are said to be taking positions in order to leverage the powerful politics, to ultimately clinch the highly lucrative post of governor at the apex of the devolved government and who is expected to control massive resources. But the strange character about the Tana clashes that calls for deeper scrutiny is the audacity of raiders to assault police stations. It is not unlikely that there could be other external forces taking advantage of the current situation. The role of Alshabaab and MRC cells must therefore be interrogated.

To deal with the current trend of rising insecurity in this area, all the stakeholders – government, political leaders, religious leaders, cultural institutions, and the civil society need to forge a common front, to map out an effective plan to provide security and protection for the people of kenya as a service, to enforce law and order, to cultivate peaceful coexistence, and guarantee tranquility in the troubled zone.

To achieve a degree of success, the government must play a lead role in the implementation of a conflict prevention and security management program in Tana Delta. Disarmament exercise is not an end in itself; it is just another component within a broader framework of security arrangement that could be tailored to provide meaningful remedies to resolve conflict. Without forgetting the remote disposition, zip code of places such as Tana River County as inaccessible location and inundated with economic, social hardship, and endemic poverty, it is possible with modern technology to operate and oversee active security program in such far flung and highly ethicized hotspots with an effective monitoring, surveillance and control system backed up with a proactive, quick response, and intervention mechanism.

With a little bit of creative and positive mindset, it is not difficult to curb the runaway security violation in Tana River. In my view, the long hours of curfew ordered by the government are not a good prescription even for a start. The curfew is unproductive, a total disruption to people’s lifestyle and an impediment to the basic freedoms and rights as enshrined in the constitution.

It is going to be cost effective and beneficial for all Kenyans if the government resolve to deal with these security challenges completely, once and for all. In any case the government has fiduciary responsibility to secure and protect its citizens anywhere and at all times.

Mohamed Wato is a Retired Kenya Army Major, Aspiring Senate candidate for Marsabit County and Author; Walking a Tight Rope amidst Kenya Post election violence

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