A week after the government stepped up efforts to resolve the perennial Isiolo-Garissa border row, leaders and elders from both counties have started politicking over the issue, spreading fear among area residents.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, after meeting elected leaders from Isiolo, Wajir and Garissa in Nairobi, assured them that the government would work on administrative boundaries in consultation with the local leaders and directed that chiefs from Garissa who are working in Isiolo be withdrawn.
The CS then said that the “painful corrective action” required a lot of understanding and asked leaders from the three counties to lead the way in observing the agreement.
The meeting was attended by governors Mohamed Kuti (Isiolo), Mohammed Abdi Mohamud (Wajir) and Ali Korane (Garissa). Also in attendance were MPs, county commissioners, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
It was agreed during the meeting held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development that migrant herders seeking pasture and water should seek the permission of the host community before moving in.
Northern Regional Commissioner Nick Ndalana said, three chiefs (Kambi Samaki, Eldera and Burquqe) and four assistant chiefs (Bullo, Garse, Chachu and Sarti) — had been recalled.
The administrators’ offices had allegedly been established more than 50 kilometres in Isiolo from the border point.
But a few days later, Lagdera and Dadaab MCAs and elders protested the directive to have the chiefs who had extended their administrative boundaries into Isiolo be withdrawn, saying the CS had overstepped his mandate as only the electoral agency could handle boundary issues.
The issue has since created differences between Garissa MCAs and MPs and Governor Korane, with the former accusing the latter of not consulting widely before reaching a consensus with his Wajir and Isiolo counterparts.
Isiolo leaders and elders, while lauding Dr Matiang’i for the bold move, said the resolution will bring the row to a reasonable conclusion if conclusively implemented.
Led by Borana Council of Elders chairman Abdullahi Gojobe, Isiolo South MP Abdi Koropu and local MCAs, the leaders said it was ill-motivated for a section of Garissa leaders and elders to oppose the decision that had the blessings of leaders from the three counties.
The Isiolo leaders termed the border dispute an expansionist agenda and demanded that the provincial boundary that has existed since independence be respected.
Modogashe residents held demonstrations along the Garissa-Wajir road protesting Dr Matiang’i’s order, terming it a “roadside declaration” which will only serve to fan the conflict.
Addressing journalists in Isiolo town, MP Koropu said the Nairobi meeting directed government officers serving in Isiolo South but reporting to Garissa be redeployed to resolve the administrative dispute but residents are free to live and graze their animals as long as they follow the required rules including first seeking permission from local elders.
Former Isiolo County Assembly speaker Mohammed Tupi claimed the expansionist agenda is being pushed by entities from as far as Liboi on the Kenya-Somalia border.
The leaders said Isiolo has provided a security buffer zone to prevent the penetration of Al-Shabaab militants.
They claimed that the spate of attacks on the Isiolo-Garissa border are aimed at giving terrorists easy passage.
Mr Tupi said the country’s security would be at stake if Isiolo South is extended for unspecified reasons.
“The government must probe some leaders, especially from Garissa, whose allegiance seems to be to Somalia’s Jubaland,” said Mr Tupi.
Mr Hussein Ali Abduba, the former Councillors Association Isiolo branch chairman, said no amount of intimidation, threats and legal action will scare the community into withdrawing the decision.
Public facilities put up by Garissa County in Garbatulla include six primary schools and dispensaries in Sarti, Garse, Burquqe, Kambi Samaki, Bullo and Chachu, large shallow water dam at Kambi Samaki, a technical training institute in Lagdera and four markets in Eldere, Burquqe, Tokocho and Kambi Samaki.