A Kenyan lawmaker is seeking explanation from the national government about the presence of a fugitive Somalia's Jubbaland minister in Mandera County, saying he is a security threat to residents.
Mandera East Member of Parliament Omar Maalim, in a private notice number 02/2020 presented on Wednesday at the National Assembly, sought a clarification from the Ministry of Defence why the Somali state minister Abdirashid Hassan Abdinur alias Abdirashid Janan was in his constituency.
The MP claimed the minister crossed into Kenya with over 100 armed soldiers and has been in the northern border Mandera town causing security tension since January.
He is said to have arrived on January 30 and was booked to stay at a local hotel by Kenyan security teams in Mandera.
He left the hotel on February 10 and rented a house within Mandera town where he has been operating from under the close watch of Jubbaland forces and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). Jubbaland state is in southern Somalia.
The Mandera East MP said the minister and his troops are now settled at Border Point 1 area within his constituency.
“The CS has to explain measures put in place by the State to mitigate security challenges posed by the presence of the fugitive minister,” he said.
Mr Maalim is also seeking an explanation from Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma on the role played by KDF in guarding the minister.
He wants the government to make public the legal framework under which the Jubbaland military forces were allowed in Kenya, fully armed.
“People of Mandera are under siege following the presence of this minister and his forces. Some have vacated their residences fearing bloodshed between the two factions,” he said.
Mr Abdinur, now a fugitive, escaped from a Mogadishu prison on January 28 where he had been held since August 31, 2019.
He is wanted for several crimes including international human rights violations, massacre of innocent civilians in Geddo Region, southern Somalia, and illegally escaping government custody.
Military troops from the Federal Government of Somalia that have been pursuing him and have camped near the border at the Somalia town of Bula Hawa scheming a raid on the minister’s residence.
Residents say a day cannot pass without gunshots from the direction of the fugitive minister’s residence.
He argued that Somali armed forces were causing unnecessary tension in the town.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Moses Cheboi directed the MP’s concerns to the Departmental Committee on Defence and Foreign relations.
The minister’s stay has strained the diplomatic relationship between Kenya and Somalia with Mogadishu accusing Nairobi of harbouring a fugitive.
Amnesty International has asked Kenya to arrest and handover the minister, saying he “must be returned to face justice.”
Mr Abdinur is the second high ranking government official from Jubbaland to seek refuge in Mandera.
In November last year, Jubbaland Vice-President Mohamud Sayyid Adan was forced to hide in the northern county for several weeks after he was blocked by Ethiopian troops from visiting Bula Hawa in Geddo.
Jubbaland President Ahmed Islam, commonly known as Sheikh Madobe, was re-elected in August 2019 against the wishes of both Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and Ethiopia.
Soon after the election, Mogadishu rejected the outcome and imposed restrictions on flights to and from Kismayu, requiring them to pass through Mogadishu.
The sanction hit business as air flight is the only guarantee of safe movement within the southern regions as the area between Kismayu and Mogadishu is controlled by Al Shabaab.
Mr Madobe had been supported by Kenya in his election bid as Nairobi sees Jubbaland as a buffer zone against Al Shabaab.
Jubbaland is made up three regions; Geddo, Middle Juba and Lower Juba, with some five districts, especially Middle Jubba, still in the hands of Al Shabaab.
Both Kenyan and Ethiopian troops are deployed in Jubbaland under the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to combat Al-Shabaab militants. Kenyan forces cover Lower and Middle Jubba, while Ethiopian soldiers are in Gedo and Bay and Bakool in South West State.
- Additional reporting by Fred Oluoch