Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri and Governor Issa Timamy at Mukunguni square on December 12, 2016 during Jamhuri Day celebrations. [File, Standard]
The head of an operation aimed at wiping out Al-Shabaab militants from Boni forest has been replaced.
James Ole Serian has been moved to Harambee House in Nairobi for redeployment while his place has been taken over by County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri.
It is not clear what prompted the changes.
The operation was launched in 2015 to stop Al-Shabaab attacks in which dozens of locals were killed.
Thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes while businesses, public transport and farming grounded to a halt.
The deadliest attack happened in Mpeketoni and Pandaguo in 2014 where over 90 people were killed.
The operation is being carried out by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), the National Police Service, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and other State security agencies.
As KDF soldiers engage the militants in direct combat that involves aerial bombardments and infantry soldiers combing every inch of the forest, NIS detectives infiltrate neighbouring villages to pick out those collaborating with terrorists. The police arrest suspects with the aim of charging them in court.
But attacks have resumed and over 18 people have been killed in the past one month.
Governor Issa Timamy has dared Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa to arrest him if he has proof the county boss is linked to Al Shabaab.
Timamy was responding to Sunday’s speech by Marwa that local leaders were facilitating Al Shabaab by supplying them with intelligence to evict Jubilee supporters from parts of the county.
In the wake of the June 2014 massacre at Mpeketoni, Timamy was arrested and freed after the State failed to link him to the mass murder.
“I am not afraid of being arrested or being jailed if at all Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa finds me guilty of financing Al Shabaab,” Timamy declared.
Speaking in Juhudi, Timamy accused Marwa of manufacturing misleading reports about the nature and scope of the insurgency in Lamu and giving the same information to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
On Thursday, Marwa told a meeting in Mpeketoni that Timamy was promoting divisions in ‘night meetings’.
Timamy was was represented by his deputy Eric Mugo to whom a furious Marwa turned and declared: “You the deputy governor could be preaching peace but is your boss doing the same? We are monitoring him because we know there are many night meetings taking place to divide the people.”
Tension has risen in Lamu in recent months after the insurgents launched attacks on a police station, killing three officers. They also beheaded nine civilians and kidnapped Public Works PS Mariamu El Maawy. The PS was later rescued by soldiers.
On Monday, while on a tour of the area, President Kenyatta vowed vengeance for the lives lost and declared no one would be evicted from the county.
At the weekend, Marwa claimed leaders in the county government had something to do with recent violence.
Wednesday, Timamy denounced Marwa’s claims, saying the administrator was spreading lies about leaders and finding excuses for not stamping out terrorism.
“I am telling Marwa to get out of his comfort zone and arrest me and any other politician the Government has found guilty of financing the militants as he said when he held a security meeting last Thursday. I am not afraid of being jailed,” said Timamy.
Timamy accused Marwa of dividing residents and diverting attention from his inability to end insecurity.
“Those killed were not affiliated to any party, unless the killers had the time to ask them before they killed them,” Timamy said.
The governor said his administration condoled with the bereaved and gave them Sh50,000 each to help with funeral expenses.