By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)
There’s a saying that goes ‘good fences make good neighbours’. If the saying is true what do goings on at Kenya’s borders and borderlands say about the quality of our fences and neighbours they make?
On Tuesday this week protestors marched to parliament after more than 40 people from the Turkana community were killed and another 100 injured in attacks by Ethiopian militia. The massacre as, people have referred to the attack, took place in the town of Todonyang in Northern Kenya border with Ethiopia on the 2nd of this month.
The protestors demanded urgent and expeditious deployment of the army to Turkana, to safeguard the security of local residents from recurring attacks by Ethiopian, Ugandan and South Sudanese militia. The incursion in Turkana is the latest what seems to be an increasing number of the incursions into Kenya by foreign troops, bandits or armed militia. In the last 20 months there have been no less then 10 incursions into Kenyan borders by foreign forces.
- The Ugandan Armed forces still occupy Migingo Island and last week they extended their occupation to Ugingo Island also on the Kenyan side of lake Victoria, the government is yet to respond to the latest incursion either diplomatically or otherwise.
- In the last two years there have also been repeated reports about attacks by Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) in parts of Pokot, particularly in Kacheliba and raids by Ugandan security forces in Sigulu in Budalang’i.In 2010 Somali militia linked to the terrorist group Al Shaabab made six incursions into Kenyan territory.
- This year there have been incursions by Somali militia in the North Eastern Towns of Liboi, Moyale and Mandera. Earlier in the year MPs from North Eastern Province Aden Adualle (Dijui’s), MP Mohamed Hussein Ali (Mandera East) and Mohamed Affey (nominated) demanded the government act on the growing incursions in the North Eastern Region.
This week the Ministries of Internal Security, Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of State of Defence came under fire for failure to protect the borders. Saboti Member of Parliament Eugene Wamalmwa moved a motion for the House to set aside regular business to discuss the attacks as an issue of national importance. Several parliamentarians made strong remarks in support of the motion.
In putting the motion Saboti member of parliament declared parliamentarians were reminding the Government of its cardinal duty to protect the citizens of the country stating ‘Kenyans are beginning to ask: Really, are we in Kenya? Are we citizens of this country? Are we entitled to the protection of the Constitution of Kenya or should we be subjects of Uganda or Ethiopia?’
MP Nicholas Gumbo also criticized the government over its indifference over state of security at the borders stating that the ‘political leadership in this country that does not seem to care about our territorial integrity. We have 40 million Kenyans to protect. We must decide whether we are going to continue to allow our country to be a play-ground for all forms of militias, ragtag armies and formal armies in the neighbourhood.’ MP Martha Karua raised the issue of the 5 billion shillings in the recently passed supplementary budget for enhanced security and whether or not the additional funds are being used effectively to prevent incursions.
No doubt the issue of security particularly for a country like Kenya, which is surrounded by unstable neighbours, is an issue more complex than just making better fences or guarding the fences that we have better. Would there be fewer incursions if the borders were better policed? No doubt the people at the borders would like to see.
*It is worth noting that Professor George Saitoti jointly heads the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Internal Security, after MP Moses Wetangula was suspended from his position as minister of Foreign Affairs. Questions should be asked whether it is possible for one minister to effectively run these two immensely huge and important dockets simultaneously, and what the implications of this are on both security and diplomacy?