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Kenyan Police Seek Civilian Help Against al-Shabab

FILE - Security officers and residents assess the damage at Arabia Boys Secondary School after suspected al-Shabaab militants threw an explosive device at a teacher's house in Mandera county, Kenya, Oct. 10, 2018.

Kenyan police are calling on residents of the country's northeast, along the border with Somalia, to do more to help them combat al-Shabab militants. The danger of attacks in the region has grown to the point that the agency which recruits Kenyan teachers is vowing not to put them in counties along the border.

The debate on the future of education in northeastern Kenya has entered the corridors of parliament, as teachers seek transfers to areas outside the region.

The Teachers Service Commission, an agency tasked with training, hiring and placing instructors across the country, said 42 teachers have been killed since 2014 at the hands of Somali militant group al-Shabab.

The head of the commission, Nancy Macharia, defended the withdrawal of teachers from the terror-hit areas in the northeast.

“It's true the children need education. But also the teachers are entitled to life. Life is sacrosanct,” she said.

In 2018 five teachers were killed in Wajir and Mandera counties.

Children look at a damaged telecommunications mast after an attack by al-Shabab extremists in the settlement of Kamuthe in Garissa county, Kenya, Jan. 13, 2020.
Children look at a damaged telecommunications mast after an attack by al-Shabab extremists in the settlement of Kamuthe in Garissa county, Kenya, Jan. 13, 2020.

In January, three teachers were killed when al-Shabab attacked Kamuthe primary school in Garissa county.

Responding to questions from parliament members, the inspector general of police, Hillary Mutyambai, said residents of Kamuthe village were aware of the attack in advance.

“Even the attack of those teachers, it is only the non-local teachers who were not aware about that attack. The students themselves and the other teachers during the material time of the attack they were absent. We have argued the local component is very important to compliment a security operation,” she said.

Mutyambai called on the local leaders to talk to their people and to encourage them to work with security forces to fight al-Shabab.

George Musamali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, blames security agencies for some of the problems in the area.

“The locals are looking at who is the lesser evil, because if you see the way we operate when we are in that area, especially the government security agencies, they go in that area and use brutal force against the locals. As much as we are saying they are cooperating with al-Shabab, there is a high possibility they are not cooperating, what they are doing is turning a blind eye to the al-Shabab activities, not reporting them, not sharing intelligence with the national government,” he said.

Mohamed Dahiye is a lawmaker from northeastern Kenya. He said authorities must find a way to keep the schools open.

“When you give up to them, to their demands and you close schools basically or when you end deploying teachers out from that area you have left those children and those people to whims al-Shabab and we feel this is extremely unfortunate and totally unacceptable,” he said.

The education of some 10,000 school children in the northeast hangs in the balance as the local and national leaders search for solutions.