The gloomy air is apparent as you approach the dusty road from Elwak, or the white sandy city, as they call it. This is on your way to Mandera, about three kilometres from Gari town in Lafey sub-county.
Beside the road, hundreds of onlookers show up to witness what is unarguably a brutal scene.
Anguish and despair written all over their faces, they are filled with anger as they identify the bodies of five ethnic Somalis lying in a shallow grave.
The bodies of four young men and an old woman tell the chilling story of a community faced with a tremendous dilemma.
The highlight is the death of the woman, aged 82. Hers is a death that has been described as a mere prelude to extra-judicial killings in the North-Eastern region.
A closer look at her freshly-buried body reveals signs of mistreatment and pain. Some of her teeth are missing.
“I’m asking the Kenyan government, who is Al-Shabaab? Is it they (the dead) or others?” Abdirazaq Ali Farah, the woman’s second child, asks in desperation.
While in Finno at about 10am on June 29, Mr Farah was informed that his elderly mother had been taken by police officers from their homestead.
The officer in charge later informed him that his mother had been taken in for questioning and would be returned safely.
That was not to be.
Four days later, her body was found by herders dumped in a shallow grave by the road.
“There is no doubt that the Kenyan security forces did it,” a bitter Farah says. “How can we stop this? The only way is to arm ourselves.”
According to Saad Sheikh Ahmed, the MCA for Finno, which is a settlement in Mandera, eight kilometres from the Somalia border, residents were allegedly rounded up on July 2, leading to the arrest of 11 people who would later be released after paying their way out. But three of them went missing.
“Finno is the only place in this country where residents are beaten and killed because of what Al-Shabaab has done,” he says.
“We can’t even go to the watering point near the border. If an 82-year-old mother who has never owned a phone and never left Finno is killed, who is worse – the Government or Al-Shabaab?” said the MCA.
In an area lying in the shadows of conflicting cross-border interests and entanglements, coupled with stories of confusion, stands a community trying to contextualise this dilemma as it unfolds.
“We condemn in the strongest words possible the heinous and barbaric acts that were carried out. As you can see, there were signs of torture,” says Mandera East MP Abduaziz Farah says.
“I spoke with the county commissioner and he assured me that they would be released in two hours. We found their bodies hours later. The world should know this, it is more than genocide,” Mandera Deputy Governor Omar Mohamed Maalim says.
Local leaders and residents have accused the Kenya Defence Forces and police officers for the killings.
“If the Government cannot protect its own people, we will defend ourselves,” says Hassan Osman, a nominated MP.
His brother, a chief, was recently killed in an attack involving an improvised explosive device.
The words “security and operation” have a completely different meaning for most of the residents in Mandera; terrible words in their eyes and ears.
Being on the border, they say, guarantees them ethnic trauma at the hands of the authorities.