Lamu residents call for enforcement of Kenya-Somalia border closure.

The national government is not effectively enforcing the ban on cross-border trade between Kenya and Somalia, a situation many fear will result in Covid-19 outbreak in Lamu county.

Lamu borders Somalia in the northern part of Kenya.

It has been established that miraa traders and fishermen from Kenya continue to engage in business with their counterparts in Somalia without undergoing the necessary checks for Covid-19. This is despite the obvious risk of contracting and spreading the disease.

Lamu is among counties that are yet to register a single case of Covid-19. Somalia, on the other hand, is among countries that are hard hit by the disease in Eastern Africa, with confirmed cases at over 1,000.

The most affected towns of Mogadishu, Puntland and Hirshabelle are greatly frequented by Kenyan traders.

These traders continue to take advantage of the porous nature of the Kenya-Somalia border in Lamu, putting the entire region at risk.

In June last year, the national government closed the Kenya-Somalia border as a measure to counter human trafficking, terror merchants and smuggling of contraband goods.

Local elders, community leaders and activists in Lamu have, however, expressed concern over that the situation could result in a full-blown Covid-19 outbreak if measures are not taken to ensure the ban on cross-border trade is strictly adhered to.

Lamu activist Ali Shebwana urged the government to look into the border areas of Kiunga, Ishakani, Mkokoni, Kiwayu and Madina as the major loopholes being used by traders going into and out of Somalia.

He also urged the government to ensure miraa exports to Somalia are stopped until the coronavirus situation is put under control.

“The border is closed yet people still do business with Somalia like everything is okay. Somalia is doing badly with coronavirus and we are worried these traders will carry the disease back here if they haven’t already. This needs to stop,” Shebwana said.

Community leader Mohamed Shukri said the government should pay more attention to long-distance shippers who pretend to be operating within the region only to end up crossing into Somalia and back.

“Just as it has been established that long-distance truck drivers in the country are becoming carriers of this disease, in Lamu, it’s the shippers and traders who are crossing in and out of Somalia daily,” he said.

Lamu fishermen are also said to be crossing into Somalia to sell their catch through Kiunga and Ishakani border points.

Lamu elders Omar Huria noted that Lamu fishermen continue to go as far as Kismayo and Mogadishu to sell fish.

“We need to see stricter measures stopping this movement. Telling us the border is closed isn’t enough,” Huria said.

In response, Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia said the Kenya-Somalia border remains closed and that those sneaking in and out are smuggling and will face the force of the law.

“We have done our best to secure the border. We are investigating the smuggling claims and we intend to arrest and charge all those found.”