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Suspected Al-Shabaab militants cut off communication in Kenya’s border town

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WAJIR, Kenya, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Suspected Al-Shabaab militants early Sunday destroyed a communication mast in Kutulo in northeast’s Wajir County, paralyzing communication in the area.

Wajir County Police commander, Stephen Ngetich, confirmed that gunmen used a rocket propelled grenade to attack mobile service provider, Safaricom mast at 2 a.m. on Sunday before engaging in gunfight with four officers who were manning it.

“The militants wanted to cut off communications in the area between El Wak and Kutulo and prevent reinforcements by security officers to enable them carry out terrorist attacks in the area. But we thwarted this,” Ngetich said.

The police commander however confirmed that none of the security officers whom the insurgents engaged in the fight was injured and they had all been traced. He added the attackers escaped into a bush.

“All our officers are safe for now but the mast was completely burnt down in the incident,” Ngetich said.

He said a major manhunt had been launched in the area for the suspects who fled in the bush.

Wajir County had enjoyed relative calm for the past four years.

The police commander warned that they will not allow criminals to disrupt peace and tranquility which was returning to the remote town after attacks witnessed in 2013.

Northeastern Kenya has suffered grenade and gun attacks in recent years since Kenya took its troops to Somalia to fight the Al-Shabaab militia group in October 2011.

Several attacks believed to have been carried out by Al-Shabaab have occurred in Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa and Dadaab districts of northeastern Kenya even as the military reports gains against the Islamist group by capturing their military bases and killing scores of them.

KENYA

Miraa exporters to Mogadishu boycott trade over high prices

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Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.

According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season.

This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.

The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.

“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night.

Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.

TRADERS MEET

He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers.

“This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.

“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said.

Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.

“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.

BOYCOTT FUTILE

However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.

“Miraa trading is highly dependent on supply and demand. At no time do farmers or suppliers meet to fix the price. The exporters have tried this before in vain. Let those who have a market for miraa, at its prevailing prices, buy and sell without undue subjection to mob attempts to fix prices,” Mr Munjuri said.

He noted that farmers are also subjected to poor prices when there is a miraa glut during the rains.

“During the rains, miraa is in plenty and traders pick it for a dime. An attempt by farmers to boycott selling at poor prices have also failed,” the Nyamita chairman said.

ADDRESS CHALLENGES

Nyamita now wants the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to move in and address challenges facing the sector so as to stabilise prices.

Earlier, the lobby had faulted AFA for not operationalising an office in Maua, Meru County that was opened in November 2017.

“The fluctuations in supply [is one] of the urgent and critical issues we have been hoping the national government would address. Unfortunately AFA is yet to start operations despite opening their office in Maua,” he added.

Farmers have called on the county and national governments to allocate more funds towards irrigation projects to ensure consistent production of miraa.

In April 2017, traders boycotted selling miraa in Somalia for four days over a tax dispute with Mogadishu authorities.

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KENYA

Time ripe for Kenyan business people to venture into Somalia

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As the economy recovers, it will be wise for Kenyans companies to set eyes on Somalia.

DAILY NATION — Though associated with insecurity for years, recent developments there are making it an attractive investment option.

In fact, in the past year, Somalia was the only neighbouring trade partner that registered strong growth in export volumes with Kenya.

With exports worth over Sh10 billion, it is the third-largest destination for Kenyan goods.

GENDER

Among factors that make business sense to set up shop in Somalia is strong political leadership, headed by Federal President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed, who came into office in a peaceful transfer of power.

It’s also noteworthy that almost a quarter of the elected Members of Parliament are women — proof of gender parity, hence fairness.

The Mogadishu government is making strides towards sustainable stability. Besides joining anti-piracy efforts and holding security conferences, it now controls its airspace, which was under the United Nations since 1992.

The African Union is preparing to leave the country — a testament of an improved security situation.

There is not much competition in Somalia, more so due to decades of violence, and businesses would get much more returns there compared to other, more mature markets.

CARGO PLANES

There are business distribution lines throughout the country established via the miraa trade. Cargo planes ply the Kenya-Somalia route daily, so logistics should not be an issue.

Again, Kenyan traders enjoy goodwill as our country has hosted Somali refugees for more than two decades.

Since Kenya has a well-developed Islamic financial system, that would serve anyone wanting to do business in Somalia very well.

The communities along the common border have traded for centuries. Indeed, livestock trade has thrived for ages there.

A business can also set base in Garissa and other border counties and use that as a launching pad to Somalia. The presence of airports, government investments such as roads and the counties’ efforts to promote businesses in their localities would be a boon for businesses eyeing Somalia.

Further, the border posts, such as Liboi, ensure safe and efficient travel in and out of Somalia.

MOGADISHU

Though scarred by war, Somalia has many universities, whose graduates, together with Somalis returning from the diaspora, would provide skilled labour.

Public services are devolved and one doesn’t need to go to Mogadishu for every business need.

The UN and other international organisations and multinationals have been in Somali for a long time and a business would not be venturing into Somalia in isolation.

Rather, it would have abundance of knowledge and information to tap into. Besides, one can partner with locals in joint ventures.

As war ends ands and normalcy returns in Somalia, our youth can invest or seek jobs in Somalia.

That would also boost the fight against terror, both there and in Kenya.
Kariuki Gathuitu, Nairobi.

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Somali militants “lecture” frightened Kenyan villagers before escaping

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LAMU, Kenya, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — About 100 Somali Al-Shabaab militants on Sunday stormed a village in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region where they “lectured” frightened villagers.

The militants flushed out Ishakani villagers from their houses and preached to them radical teachings at the border village between Kenya and Somalia.

According to witnesses living in Ishakani, the militants joined other Muslim faithful for prayers in the mosque in which they lectured them before escaping into Somalia.

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo confirmed the incident on Sunday evening, saying that they got information and sent officers to pursue the militants.
Kitiyo confirmed that a group of between 60 to 100 suspected Al-Shabaab militants invaded Ishakani village on Sunday.

“However, within 30 minutes, we had already sent out a special team of KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) to pursue the terrorists. Our officers are pursuing the criminals who suspected that our security team must be following them,” Kitiyo said.

The government official reiterated that the national government is aware of the militants’ threats and are working towards weeding out the Al-Shabaab group from Boni forest which he said continues to be their base of operations.

He further said that KDF from the local camp together with the special squad are hunting down the militants in Boni forest.

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