Hundreds stranded in Mandera as bus travel ban hits non-locals
Hundreds of non-locals living and working in Mandera are calling on the national government to enhance security to enable them travel out of the county.
Those who spoke to the Nation on Tuesday said banning of non-locals from using public transport out of Mandera has left them stranded for over month.
"Many of us from other parts of the country working or in business in Mandera are stranded because the government has refused to secure the roads,” said Mr Mark Mwolobi from Bungoma.
He said government had neglected them— treating them like non-citizens.
"It is Christmas season but we cannot join our families back at home to celebrate together simply because the government had denied as our right to security,” he said.
On November 13, Mandera County Commissioner Fredrick Shisia said the government could not guarantee the security of non-locals using the Mandera-Wajir road.
Mr Shisia cited a terror attack a week earlier at Dabacity area in Mandera South, where 12 police officers escorting a bus narrowly escaped death.
The officers’ two vehicles were blown up using rocket propelled grenades that were hurled by suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists.
"At the moment we cannot guarantee security of non-locals travelling by road until we get two new customised police vehicles to replace the burnt ones,” said Mr Shisia.
He advised travellers to use the Mandera-Moyale- Marsabit-Isiolo-Nairobi route.
"The road we were told to use is long and very expensive for most us yet there are military tanks that can secure (terror) hotspots for us to pass,” argued Mr Mwolobi.
Another option to get out of Mandera is by air, at Sh15,000 a ticket.
"Most of us are casual workers in the quarries, working as house helps or doing small-scale businesses here. We can’t afford those expensive rides,” said Dennis King’ang’i from Kitui.
Mr King’ang’i accused the government of isolating him from his family this Christmas season.
"This is the time families and friends meet after a long period but the way things look, I won’t join my people this December,” he said.
On Monday, non-locals in Mandera staged demos to push the government to provide armed police escort to buses plying Mandera-Nairobi route.
Currently, only passengers of Somali origin are allowed in the buses, with owners saying they are under strict instructions not to ferry non-locals.
"Miraa transporting vehicles have been charging Sh8,000 to drop passengers in Maua, Meru but they stopped after police started harassing them on the road,” said Mr James Baya from Mombasa County.
Some miraa transporters refuse carrying non-locals on grounds that if ambushed by Al-Shaabab, then their lives and the vehicles will be lost.
"I will rather run into Al-Shabaab alone because we can negotiate than carry non-locals and be caught,” Mr Omar Hassan, a driver told Nation on phone.
Mandera County Police Commander Bernard Nyakwaka said the decision to ban use of buses by non-locals was reached at by the county security committee.
"That was a decision of county security committee but we shall meet again and review the situation,” said Mr Nyakwaka without giving details.
He said the directive for non-locals to leave Mandera through Moyale still stands.
"We are helping them travel in any way possible and even security vehicles going to Nairobi transport many of them,” he said.
But Mr Mohamed Bardad, Chairman Mandera Bus Association, said they have been incurring losses since the ban was imposed.
Communities in Mwingi and Thika, he said, have also threatened to "deal” with buses from Mandera.
"We are making no profit and communities in Mwingi and Thika areas have issued threats to deal with our buses if we continue blocking their people stranded in Mandera,” said Mr Bardad.
Somalia-based Al-Shabaab fighters and their sympathisers have been targeting buses ferrying non-locals, believed to be Christians, and killing passengers.
On November 22, 2014, more than 28 passengers were killed.