Lamu, KENYA: The Boni minority community in Lamu who also happen to be among Kenya’s forest community have told Coast regional coordinator Nelson Marwa to keep off of their forest,the Boni forest.
Last week Marwa threatened to have the forest bombed in order to flush out Alshabaab terrorists said to be hiding and even staying inside the forest, with reports even indicating that some of the militants are running their families right from within the forest.
The militants normally conduct attacks on various parts of Lamu after which they are known to retreat back into the expansive Boni forest, which is widely known to have become a safe hideout for the militants.
Reports indicate that security forces conducting an operation inside the forest have been unable to reach spots inhabited by the militants deep inside the forest,with locals saying that areas occupied by the terrorists are deeper into the forest and denser.
Marwa had expressed his displeasure over the trend by the militants whom he said have been killing innocent civilians and security officers at will and later fleeing back into the forest and that he would rather bomb the forest to completely expose the militants.
However, following Marwa’s announcement,the Boni community have asked the coordinator stay away from their forest if he cannot think of any other way to flush out the militants instead of bombing it.
The Boni forest is revered by the Aweer Community commonly as the Boni forest since it’s the main source of food for the community who mainly do hunting and gathering.
The community has also set up shrines deep inside the forest which they use as worship places where they also offer sacrifices to the gods whenever there is a crisis.
The shrines have been in existence for decades and the community feels bombing the forest will not only leave them without a place of worship but will also anger the gods who are said to also be against the bombing.
Currently,due to the ongoing Linda Boni security operation,the community which are traditionally hunters and gatherers has been forced to embark on subsistence farming in order to sustain themselves after the forest was declared a no-go zone by the KDF since 2015.
Elders of the community led by Doza Dizo said bombing the forest wasn’t the best bet in dealing with Alshabaab militants hiding within and asked Marwa to think of another way.
The elders said the community has not known peace ever since the security operation was launched compared to other places in the country.
They called on the government to instead think of incorporating the local Boni youth into their operation in order to make the exercise a success.
“He shouldn’t even think about it.They cant bomb the forest and shouldn’t. They should think about us first.And even then,is that the only way.As a community we believe there are many other ways to tackle this,for instance the KDF should work with the local youth here who know the forest really well,but they don’t want to.We have our shrines and graves of our forefathers inside that forest.Thats where we get our food from.Bsically ,that’s our lifeline,” said Diza.
The elders said the community was willing to willing to give out some of its best men to be recruited at Kenya Police Reservists-KPRs to work with the other security units in dealing Alshabaab.