By ZUBEIR ATHMAN
Lamu fishermen and ice block dealers are pleading with the state to open up the Kenya-Somalia border.
In June, 2019, the Kenyan Government announced to have shut down its border with Somalia, including the Kiunga Cross-Border Point in Lamu as a way of blocking routes for smuggling, terror merchants and human trafficking.
The closure still exists to date.
In a joint press briefing in Lamu Old Town on Thursday, the fishermen and ice blocks dealers complained that the closure of the border has weighed heavily on their businesses and hence the need for it to be lifted.
They accused the national government of favouritism, arguing that miraa traders in the region have on many occasions been allowed to conduct their trade despite the ban.
Mohamed Mwenye who is the spokesperson of the Lamu Dealers in Ice blocks told journalists that the ban on Lamu-Somalia border and the Covid-19 outbreak in the country have completely killed their business.
Mr Mwenye said since the closure of the Lamu-Somalia cross-border trade, most of them have opted to sell their ice blocks to the local market with slimmer profits.
He pleaded with the government to consider lifting the ban on the Kenya-Somalia border to enable them revive the sector which has employed many local youth in the region.
“We’re really suffering because we’re denied access to the Somali market to sell our ice blocks to fishermen in that country. In addition, the Coronavirus pandemic has made things even worse. Miraa traders have continued with their trade undisturbed. The government should also consider us,” said Mr Mwenye.
Lamu Fishermen and Dealers Association Chairman Abubakar Twalib reiterated that the closure of the Kenya-Somalia border had also weighed heavily on their trade.
Mr Twalib said many fishermen have been forced to quit the trade as it has been performing dismally ever since the ban was imposed.
“We’re appealing to the government to consider us by lifting the ban on Kenya-Somalia border trade. We’re ready to adhere to all set rules provided we’re allowed to go to Somalia to buy both dried and fresh fish so as to supply to our local market,” said Mr Twalib.
In response, Lamu County Commissioner, Irungu Macharia categorically stated that the ban on the Kenya-Somalia border is still active and that those alleged to be sneaking into Somalia through the Kiunga border point are smugglers.
“If there is miraa or any kind of business being conducted between Kenya and Somalia, I confidently say that is smuggling and we will come for you,” warned Macharia.