Mandera has recently been on the limelight but for all the wrong reasons and now its residents find themselves between a hard place and a rock following sustained terror activities in the far-flung county.
Somalia based insurgents, Alshabaab have continued to wreak havoc in the county and continued to carry out attacks targeting security agencies, civil servants and telecommunication masts.
The diplomatic tiff between Kenya and Somalia has also not also helped the situation as the two control continue to blame each other for recent skirmishes between FGS forces and Jubaland State forces that clashed at Bula-Hawa near Mandera county.
Jubbaland forces clashed with the Somalia National Army on Monday, bringing business to a standstill in Mandera town that neighbours Bula Hawa, the battleground.
On Wednesday afternoon, a senior Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) officer was killed and two of his colleagues injured when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device at Omar Jillo along Mandera- Lafey- Elwak road.
Early in 2015, the national government declared the road closed to public use after a Nairobi-bound bus was hijacked and at least 28 people killed.
Within Mandera County, the militants have operated in Mandera East, Lafey, Elwak and Kutolo and recently spread their criminal activities to the interior parts of Banisa, Rhamu and Takaba.
“Al-Shabaab gained access to the interior parts of Mandera because of corruption among security officers and laxity,” said Mr Ali Gabow, a resident of Mandera.
Mr Gabow claimed senior security officers in the county have been collecting bribes through their juniors and letting the terrorists move into new areas.
“Quarrying was stopped by the national government but in parts such as Bur Abor and Jirma, miners are at work. How come they are working? Government officers who are fully aware of the closure?”
Mr Gabow claims the government officers have struck a deal with quarry owners on how to share the resources, letting Al-Shabaab also get their share in terms of Zakat (offering).
“Al-Shabaab collects taxes at will from quarry operations. Government officers are part of this arrangement. They are also benefiting ,” he said.
Senior government officers in Mandera denied the allegation.
Early this month, Mandera Governor Ali Roba warned that a serious security crisis is unfolding in the county due to undeterred operations by Alshabaab.
He claimed the militants control more than a half of the county and man the county’s roads.
Mr Roba maintained that residents share actionable intelligence with security authorities but County Commissioner Onesmus Kyatha denied this and accused them of collaborating with the enemy.
“The claims by the governor are untrue. Some elements are collaborating with Al-Shabaab by harbouring them and even providing them with food,” he said.
The State dismissed the claims but the spat between Governor Roba and State agencies in Mandera was followed by a series of attacks including an ambush at Banisa on January 11, on a bus heading to Nairobi.
Three people were kidnapped on the same day after their vehicle was hit by an explosive along Banisa Takaba road. The three were found alive after a week.
On January 13, a telecommunication mast at Darkale was vandalised and on the following day, the same group attempted to vandalise another mast at Didkuro in Mandera West, but their attempts were thwarted by security agencies
On January 15, police on patrol in Banisa battled militants at a water point in Wako Dadacha village, a confrontation which left a civilian dead and another injured.
A security brief indicated the militants used herders as shields and managed to escaped.
On January 19, suspected militants bombed a telecommunication mast at Sarman in Mandera North Constituency.
The goal between these attacks remains unclear but a local said they could be planning more serious attacks.
“They want to ensure no communication before carrying out more serious attacks, including butchering people,” Mr Ali Hassan said, adding the worry is that with the communication network cut off, the terrorists will operate in Mandera at will.
On January 20, police officers in the Elramu Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), supported by the military, foiled an attempted attack on their camp.
On January 24, a special group from the military gunned down a militant at Ali Wol dam in Ashabito. Three militants were injured in the incident.
Following the frequent attacks in Mandera, the education sector has suffered the most.
At least 126 schools have a local teacher in charge as the majority of non-local teachers abandoned the county over insecurity.