Why Kenya-Somalia border wall is not the answer

My first reaction to the news that the government intends to construct a wall between Kenya and Somalia was only excitement. I had personally contemplated this as a possible solution to the menace of illegal immigrants crossing from the war-torn nation. And indeed, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy is reported to be in full support of the proposed wall. Of course the wall, whose construction is expected to be complete before the end of the year, is hoped to curb the infiltration of the Somalia based terrorists – a welcome thought indeed.

My first reaction to the news that the government intends to construct a wall between Kenya and Somalia was only excitement. I had personally contemplated this as a possible solution to the menace of illegal immigrants crossing from the war-torn nation. And indeed, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy is reported to be in full support of the proposed wall. Of course the wall, whose construction is expected to be complete before the end of the year, is hoped to curb the infiltration of the Somalia based terrorists – a welcome thought indeed.

My first reaction to the news that the government intends to construct a wall between Kenya and Somalia was only excitement. I had personally contemplated this as a possible solution to the menace of illegal immigrants crossing from the war-torn nation. And indeed, Lamu Governor Issa Timamy is reported to be in full support of the proposed wall. Of course the wall, whose construction is expected to be complete before the end of the year, is hoped to curb the infiltration of the Somalia based terrorists – a welcome thought indeed.

But on second thoughts, the idea is not that attractive, especially in the long term. When the government of East Germany was faced with mass defections into West Germany, it resorted to building a barbed wire and concrete wall between East and West Berlin. And so the construction began on 13 August, 1961, ostensibly to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state. Unfortunately, the Berlin Wall did not stem the flow of refugees from East to West as expected. Consequently, the makeshift wall was replaced with a 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide reinforced concrete wall. With twelve checkpoints atop, the wall was designed to make climbing over nearly impossible. Furthermore, on the East German side was created a highly sophisticated buffer zone of soft sand, floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns, and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.

But even this did not make escape from East Germany impossible. By the time the wall came down in 1989, it is estimated that more than 5,000 East Germans had managed to cross the border by jumping out of windows adjacent to the wall, climbing over the barbed wire, flying in hot air balloons, crawling through sewers, or driving through unfortified parts of the wall at high speeds. It is this reality that makes me wonder whether our own version of the “Berlin Wall” will succeed, unless of course we are ready to invest in greater sophistication than employed in East Germany. For to be sure, human determination to break through barriers is amazing…and especially when the said human beings are intent on evil. The wall can therefore be only a temporary measure while we pursue a more permanent solution. In the seventies when Uganda was totally ravaged by the brutal rule of Dictator Idi Amin, many Ugandans fled into Kenya. While most Ugandans simply came to seek refuge, several readily took up jobs that many educated Kenyans then frowned upon. But as the job market tightened, it became clear that Ugandans had outlived their welcome. A quiet xenophobia fomented that was variously expressed, albeit unobtrusively. The same was the story with South Sudan. Caught in a drawn out war with the North, many Southerners fled into Kenyan refugee camps while the elite found jobs and businesses in our towns and cities. With the resulting economic strain on the economy, Kenyans soon became quietly weary of the Sudanese. What is instructive about the Uganda and South Sudan cases is that we did not resort to building a wall around our borders. Instead, the solution was found in investing resources and energies in the restoration of peace and order in the two nations.

In the case of Uganda, as soon as the combined forces of Museveni and President Julius Nyerere drove out Idi Amin, the rebuilding of the nation took off in earnest. With this very positive prospect, Ugandans packed up and went back to help rebuild their nation. We hardly hear of Ugandans competing for our jobs in Kenya. To the contrary, it is Kenyans that are trooping into Uganda for education, jobs, and business. Likewise, with the declaration of independence in South Sudan, the exodus of South Sudanese did not have to be enforced.

A vast majority joyfully took off to resettle in their homeland. Again, it is Kenyans who have trooped into this fledgling nation to reap where, in a sense, we sowed. It is my considered opinion therefore that the ultimate solution to the Somalia problem is in helping restore order in this great nation. Though some have been opposed to the continued presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia, as long as the soldiers restrict themselves to fulfilling their mandate of helping the Somali government restore peace, they have my full support. To be sure, once Somalia attains peace and life returns to normalcy, Eastleigh will be emptied of its traders and Lamu will sleep in peaceful breeze. It is a fact that in the heart of every human being there is a sense of dignity that is never satisfied as long as one is a sojourner. That is why our focus must be on praying for and working towards peace in Somalia. It is in their internal amity that we will find our peace.

Source:Standard Digital

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