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State ups drive to stop illicit trade along Somalia border

Monday May 22, 2023

The national government has ramped up its efforts to control illicit trade along the Kenyan coastline following the reopening of the country’s border with Somalia.

Additional security officials have been deployed along the common border to curb smuggling. This comes barely a week after the government agreed to officially reopen border posts in Mandera, Lamu and Garissa counties within the next 90 days.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has sent its Customs and Border Control Department staff to Lamu and is working with the Kenya Coast Guards to patrol a section of the Indian Ocean.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh agreed to end a 12-year blockade launched in 2011 upon the launch of Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia in a bid to combat the al-Shabaab terrorist group under the auspices of Operation Linda Nchi.

Under the phased plan, Bula Hawa in Mandera County will be the first to reopen in 30 days followed by Liboi (Garissa) in 60 days and Ras Kamboni (Lamu) in 90 days.

Speaking during the launch of new speed boats in Lamu town yesterday, KRA’s Deputy Commissioner for Border Control and Enforcement, Mr Chege Macharia, said the vessels will boost the fight against smuggling, with Somalia being flagged as a major conduit for contraband goods such as illegal sugar..

“Today marks a major milestone for KRA in its effort to build capacity in maritime security enforcement and border control,” said Mr Macharia.

The boats, Mr Macharia added, will also help in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, human trafficking, drugs trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and transnational organised crime.

"The government has invested substantially in the promotion of the blue economy and KRA is committed to playing its role of harnessing emerging opportunities,’’ Mr Macharia said.

“The commissioning of these boats today will go a long way to support and complement the already existing multi-agency marine assets, to secure the maritime border along the Kenyan coast in general and Lamu specifically from the threat of illegal trade," he added.
Spate of attacks

The re-opening of the three border points is expected to boost the flow of people and goods between Kenya and Somalia.

The closure of the border between Kenya and Somalia was imposed in 2011 by the administration of President Mwai Kibaki following a spate of attacks staged by al-Shabaab militants in the country.

Mr Kibaki's successor, President Uhuru Kenyatta, would tighten the closure in 2019 by banning cross-border trade in areas such as Kiunga in Lamu County.


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