GARISSA, Kenya, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) — Residents living along the Kenya-Somalia border have been forced to walk a long distance in search of telecommunication network following the destruction of local mobile phone service providers’ masts by suspected al-Shabab militants.
The strange turn of events has seen people struggling to communicate with the outside world as well as missing out on the use of the Kenya’s vibrant mobile money transfer services, which has in the process grounded their economy and made life unbearable.
Police said the militants have ruined several communication masts in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties, which border Somalia, thereby making the militants’ movements easy and devoid of detection.
“It has been very difficult for us in the security sector because when an attack occurs, it is next to impossible to call for reinforcement from the Kenya Defense Forces personnel stationed in Dabacity,” a security officer in Mandera who declined to be identified told Xinhua on Wednesday.
He said their families back home are equally worried about their safety and not being able to keep in touch with them due to communication breakdown.
While some of the communication masts destroyed by the militants since 2017 have been restored with armed police providing round-the-clock guard, others are yet to be repaired and local residents have appealed for remedial interventions.
Locals interviewed told Xinhua that the militants’ actions to destroy the masts have set them 10 years back.
“This is economic sabotage. We can no longer communicate with the outside world or do business with other towns on top if not being able to know what is happening in the next village,” Mohamed Abdi, a resident of Welmarer in Garissa, where communication mast was destroyed two weeks ago, said.
Abdi said residents are forced to travel to nearby towns just to make a phone call, while others trek to distances to climb tall trees in search of mobile network, adding that their biggest problem is how to seek for help in case of an emergency.
“The government should intervene because we cannot even call for help in case we are attacked,” he pointed out.
Mohamed Birik, North Eastern regional commissioner, said the government has boosted security within and around the border areas and has also secured vital installations including telecommunication equipment.
The official said plans are underway to restore communication masts which were severed, adding that armed security officers have been posted to guard the vital installations.