Nairobi — United States marines started a joint venture with the Kenya military along the border with Somalia under a cloud of suspicion.
The unexpected guests caused a stir in the erstwhile quiet Garissa in their convoy of trucks loaded with sophisticated military and engineering equipment.
North Eastern PC, Mr Kiritu Wamae, said that the troops were on a mission to rehabilitate and construct 10 bore holes in Garissa, fuelling speculations over their actual mission in the remote province. Coincidentally, the marines arrived just when the US Government had sounded alarm over possible terrorist attack in the country amid reports that a senior official of the increasingly powerful Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia was harbouring some of the masterminds of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
The return of the marines in the town has brewed controversy and panic among locals with some alleging that the Americans might be using the province as the launching pad for their war on terror. However, Wamae said the marines were purely there for humanitarian aid and not on a reconnaissance mission.
He was forced to hold an impromptu baraza to demystify the negative perception locals had over the presence of the soldiers, but was quick to reaffirm his much criticised remarks that some local youths were being recruited for mercenary activities in Somalia, at a fee.
The last time the marines visited Garissa, they hurriedly left after their presence irked the local religious leaders, who suspected that they were spying.