Kenya: Al-Shabaab Ghosts Haunt the Once Vibrant Mararani Village in Lamu

14 November 2019

Once a lively village with over 80 households, Mararani is now a haunted and miserable place with just four households, thanks to Al-Shabaab raids that forced residents to flee.

It is one of the five villages -- others are Basuba, Milimani, Mangai and Kiangwe -- located inside the dense Boni forest in Lamu.

The villages have for the past five years been in the limelight following frequent terror attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab.

This prompted the national government to launch a multi-agency security operation dubbed Linda Boni, the key objective being to flush out the militants hiding inside the vast forest.

The operation was launched in September 2015 and since then, peace and stability has been restored in Boni forest villages and across Lamu County.

However, a Nation investigation has revealed that, unlike the other villages, Mararani is a pale shadow of its former self, with most of the residents having deserted their homes.

Speaking exclusively with the Nation, Mararani headman Hassan Mahadhi lauded the national government for its efforts to ensure the Al-Shabaab problem is addressed.

He, however, pleaded with the government to find ways of encouraging those who fled to return.

Mr Mahadhi expressed worry that as the government plans to reopen all the five primary schools in Boni forest in January next year, Mararani will be left without a pupil in class since many children fled with their families.

"It's unfortunate that during the frequent Al-Shabaab attacks in 2014 and 2015, many families fled to areas like Kiunga, Bar'goni, Hindi, Mokowe and Lamu towns fearing for their lives.

"We had about 80 households but currently, there are only four left. Those who left should be encouraged to come back," Mr Mahadhi said.

Elder Abdi Chengele urged the government to construct good roads and improve amenities such as hospitals in the remote villages to motivate those who fled to return.

DEPLORABLE STATE

"Security has been restored but the only challenge we have is poor roads. They are all in deplorable state and motorcycles can't even operate in this area. There are no shops and dispensaries.

"For one to access these services, you'll have to travel all the way to Kiunga, which is almost 40 kilometres away. The government should look into this," said Mr Chengele.

Ms Khadija Aden, who is from Mararani but currently living in Kiunga with her family, told the Nation she hopes to return home one day.

She said her only concern is the lack of crucial services in Mararani, including good hospitals and schools.

"Our children can now learn comfortably at Kiunga primary school. We also have a dispensary that can take care of our health. Going back to Mararani means subjecting ourselves to a miserable life again. The government should establish such facilities and construct good roads in Mararani. That's when we will think of going back," Ms Aden said.

Speaking at Kiangwe this week, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said security had generally been restored in Boni forest and across the county.

He said plans are underway to reconstruct the 250-kilometre Hindi-Boni forest-Kiunga road and the Kiunga-Mkokoni road to ease movement of goods, security agencies and civilians.

"The government has done all it takes to restore security in this region. We're in the process of improving the road network, especially in all the operation areas. In fact, our target is for us to travel from Hindi all the way to Kiunga by road. That must be achieved," Mr Macharia said.

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