LAMU, KENYA - Kenya has stepped up security on the road that connects northeast Lamu County to the rest of Kenya after al-Shabab terrorists killed three people on a public bus in January. The attack is the second on public transportation near the border with Somalia in as many months.
Raymond Juma has been a driver on the road between Lamu and the city of Momabasa for years.
On January 3 the insecurity of Kenya’s northeast caught up with him and 47 passengers.
“I saw some armed men waving at me to stop, and they shot three times in the air. I knew these were not policemen. I decided to speed off, then they fired at the back and front tires of the bus and one bullet hit the window. I drove up to 100 meters, then the bus stalled. I ordered the passengers to get off and everybody ran for safety,” he said.
Juma’s bus was not the only one on the road that day.
While he escaped, al-Shabab gunmen ambushed other buses, killing three people. Since then Kenyan authorities have beefed up the security along the road.
Leah Wangare said this is the first time she is traveling in more than a year.
“Our government has provided us with enough security to escort us on the road. Traveling on this road was not easy, to think about traveling on this road, it scares you. You don’t know what will happen on the way,” she said.
Pennina Yeri said the journey takes more hours and can be tiring at times.
“Police escort is making us take a long time on the road. At every station we are stopped, inspected, people are asked to produce IDs. Some don’t have them. It takes long before you get to your destination,” said Yeri.
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the roads are safe.
“Nobody is allowed to move without security escort because we don’t want incidents where people are asked to alight and are killed indiscriminately. So, at least that security is provided. So, we can reassure those who use our roads that they are secured,” said Macharia.
But al-Shabab has no qualms about attacking security forces in addition to the road traffic they are protecting.
In December, at the Somalia border, gunmen attacked a bus, killing 11 people -- eight of them police officers.