Amid the impending reopening of Kenya’s border with Somalia, the national government is doubling down on measures to suppress illicit trade along the shared coastal strip.
The government’s response comes shortly after last week’s decision to formally reopen border posts in Mandera, Lamu, and Garissa counties within the next quarter. As part of this renewed vigilance, additional law enforcement officers have been stationed at strategic points along the border to deter smuggling operations.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is intensifying its own involvement by deploying the Customs and Border Control Department staff to Lamu, working in collaboration with the Kenya Coast Guards to monitor a segment of the Indian Ocean.
Twelve years after its closure, the Kenya-Somalia border is set to reopen following an agreement between Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh. The closure in 2011 was part of Kenya’s military response to the threat posed by the al-Shabaab terrorist group, under Operation Linda Nchi.
As per the agreed upon staged plan, Bula Hawa in Mandera County will reopen first within the next month. Subsequently, Liboi (Garissa) and Ras Kamboni (Lamu) will follow suit in 60 and 90 days respectively.
KRA’s Deputy Commissioner for Border Control and Enforcement, Mr Chege Macharia, marked this escalation of anti-smuggling efforts at the launch of new speed boats in Lamu town yesterday.
“Today’s event represents a significant stride for KRA in strengthening our maritime security enforcement and border control capacities,” Mr Macharia announced.
These boats, according to Mr Macharia, will bolster the fight against not just smuggling, but also illegal fishing, human trafficking, narcotics and arms trafficking, terrorism, and transnational organised crime.
Mr Macharia further stressed KRA’s commitment towards leveraging emerging opportunities in the blue economy, a sector in which the government has invested heavily. “The induction of these boats today will significantly enhance our existing multi-agency marine assets, helping safeguard our maritime border along the Kenyan coast, particularly Lamu, against the threat of illegal trade,” he added.
The revival of the three border points is likely to rejuvenate the transboundary movement of goods and people between Kenya and Somalia. The original closure was enacted by President Mwai Kibaki’s administration in 2011 following a wave of al-Shabaab-led attacks. The policy was later hardened under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rule in 2019, leading to a ban on cross-border trade in regions like Kiunga in Lamu Count