KatsaKairu IDPs live in fear despite government assurances of security
Pastor Simon Mugumba cuts a forlorn figure as he narrates his plight that led him to the KatsaKairu IDP camp.
“I ran away from my three acre farm in Jima after sustained attacks four months ago. I settled with my family of four in Witu church,” he said, adding: “We left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing for fear of being attacked by Al Shabaab militants who had already killed three people in a nearby village in Pandanguo, and we feared we were going to be the next victims.”
Indeed, two days later, Jima village was attacked. Four people were killed and hundreds were forced to flee their homes for fear of losing their lives to the terror gang.
Four months later, Mugumba settled at KatsaKairu IDP camp, and lives among 2,600 internally displaced Lamu residents. Pastor Mugumba is still apprehensive of the terror group attacks.
He says life in the IDP camp has been poor and wretched due to the fact that he now has to share his one Red Cross issued tent with his family of four.
“These are not conditions a man my age should be living in. There is need for the government to implicitly assure us that there will be no further attacks,” Mugumba says.
His qualms resonate with hundreds within the camp whose time is slowly coming to an end at the KatsaKairu IDP camp, which the government wants to close down following assurances by the county’s top security brass that all is well in their respective villages.
Despite government assurances, the IDPs are skeptical over whether their security is guaranteed and fear of fresh attacks is palpable among most of the IDPs that KNA interviewed.
Security agents in Lamu have maintained the narrative that the attacks have allegedly been carried out by herders under the guise of Al Shabaab.
So far, there have been reports that eight suspected militants were killed in an Operation Linda Nchilast month but this has done little to quell the sense of despair that is still being expressed by many of the KatsaKairu IDPs.
One of the elders in the camp Amon Wanje, who also spoke to KNA states that the key issue behind the IDPs resistance to move back to their villages has been lack of assurance from the side of the herders guaranteeing no attacks.
He says that the farmers are ready to move back to their villages but asked the government to provide security by way of increasing the number of police reservists.
Joyce Wangechi, another IDP who is also a Pandanguo farmer said the recent push to have the IDPs move out has not been well thought out.
“When we were displaced from our farms, we lost everything and now the government just wants to swat us aside,”Wangechi said, adding that there is need to provide them with funds to start up their lives again.
However, Lamu County Commissioner, Gilbert Kitiyo told the IDPs that the government can no longer sustain the camp and that there is need to move on from the camp and back into their farmlands.
“The government has already assured the IDPs that security will be improved with many of those who were a threat to them already dealt with,” Kitiyo said, further reiterating government plans of closing down the camp in three weeks.
“The camp is no longer sustainable for the government and there is need for the IDPs to move back to their respective livelihoods,” the county commissioner stated.
“These assurances will count for nothing if the herders are not engaged and fully made aware that their actions will have consequences,” Pastor Mugumba said, adding that he has resigned to the fact that moving out of the camp is inevitable, despite lingering fears that the county may not have heard the last of its clashes over land.
By Amenya Ochieng