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Leaders in Kenya want civilians armed for Al-Shabaab war

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Al-Shabaab militants can be vanquished should the state arm civilians, a section of northeastern leaders have said, adding that "we are steadily losing as a community".

In a high profile meeting convened in Garissa on Sunday, speakers urged the Kenyan government to incorporate locals in Al-Shabaab war by "arming them against the enemy".

Besides leaders, the unique security meeting brought together elders, businessmen, professionals, and students, Aden Duale said.

Yusuf Haji, a senior politician, and the current Garissa senator argued that the locals have a capacity to defeat Al-Shabaab if given arms.

Stakeholders consulted on arming locals

“We have talked to all stakeholders and we are ready to engage these criminals. We want the Government to arm communities to fight Al Shabaab,” said Haji.

Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir are the worst hit by Al-Shabaab menace, despite heavy deployment of Special Forces, police reports revealed.

For instance, Al-Shabaab militants attacked Soretho Police station a fortnight ago, killing four civilians during the raid, police said.

A week earlier, the militants had flagged down a Mandera-bound bus, killing eleven people among them police officers.

Uhuru's stern warning to terrorists

Sunday's meeting came just a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted security chiefs in Mombasa where insecurity in the region was discussed.

Among others, Uhuru said, "we shall demolish economic networks of these terrorists who are relentless in quest to destabilize the country."

The president also called for collaboration between locals and security forces in weeding out Al-Shabaab, State House said.

Garissa Governor Ali Korane said they would collaborate with the national government to know the number of youth who have been radicalized.

“We will also be working with the national government to ensure our youth are not radicalized,” he said.

Uhuru also called for frequent training of security forces, noting that "terrorists keep on reinventing themselves. We must up our game."

Teachers and doctors leave the region

The calls to arm locals come amid a mass exodus of teachers and doctors in the counties, following a series of deadly attacks.

During the attacks, the militants have often targeted security forces and non-locals, most of them practice their profession in the region.

A number of teachers whose transfers are yet to be affected have also called the government to arm the for self-defense, local media reported.

Besides the police and KDF, the government has only armed National Police Reservists, whose number has been drastically reduced.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang'i said: "we want to vet NPR before we issue them with firearms."

Locals facilitating attacks

US military on Thursday said the Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya are coordinated by locals, who facilitated them either directly or indirectly.

The sympathizers and returnees, AFRICOM said, "have often supported the network by facilitating their perilous attacks in Kenya."

Although the US military did not give further details, such claims have been established by the Kenyan security officers before.

A teacher in Wajir was linked to the bus attack which left eleven dead. He has since sneaked into Somalia through the porous border, police said.

NFD leaders ready to help the government

Aden Duale, the Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly said locals must defend themselves from the criminals for prosperity.

“Views of locals should be incorporated in the fight against terror; the people should not be victimized or isolated,” he said.

He added, "As a community, we have decided that we shall join forces with the security agencies in combatting Al Shabaab in all its forms including its cells."

Besides butchering non-locals, the militants have also targeted telecommunication masts to disrupt communication, police added.

Duale said the leaders from the region shall commit themselves to end the crimes adding that "when NEP is safe, Kenya will be safe from the enemy and evil forces."