Lamu conservationists opposed to bombing of Boni forest

Photos of Lamu county Wildlife conservation committee chair Ali Shebwana on July 22 PHOTO NATASHA NEMA

Lamu,KENYA:Lamu conservationist groups have opposed the bombing of the Boni forest by the KDF to flush out Alshabaab militants said to be hiding within.

Speaking in Lamu on Tuesday,Lamu County Wildlife Conservation Committee chair Ali Shebwana said the bombing of the Boni forest will not only destroy ancient flora and fauna which they have worked so hard to conserve for decades but will also render the host Aweer communities landless since many have already been displaced by the ongoing military operations in their areas.

The conservationists feel the government since has a lot of untapped ideas on how to deal with Alshabaab without having to bomb the forest including but not limited to setting up military,KWS and conservationist bases inside the forest.

They said bombing Boni forest will not permanently solve the kind of terrorism plaguing Lamu county which they termed domestic and asked the government to get more real in the war on terror.

They said many of the Alshabaab were from within and as such they don’t reside inside the Boni forest after conducting their attacks and therefore bombing the forest will not affect them in any way.

Shebwana said even if the forest is bombed such individuals will simply regroup from within and find more vicious ways of carrying on with their terror attacks.

He said the Boni forest has a lot of tradition and science attached and that destroying it will be similar to destroying thousands of lives of people who directly or indirectly depend on the forest including the Aweer who are among Kenya’s forest communities.

The Boni forest in known for its numerous fresh water streams,uncountable species of wildlife and trees.

Shebwana said most of the wildlife and trees inside the Boni forest aren’t found elsewhere in the country making it a mother of all manner of nature’s creations.

“If the bases are established inside the forest,it will definitely be hard for the terrorists to live inside there and as such they will definitely move out.Its all about strategy.I don’t think this issue requires too much militarization or weapons.Its just needs one practical strategy.I am not an expert in such matters but I believe bombing wont help,”said Shebwana.

The Save Lamu organization which has defended the rights of the locals for decades feels that bombing of the forest will directly and totally destroy the lives of the Aweer community who depend of the forest for survival.

The community who are traditionally hunters and gatherers depend of the forest for wild fruits,roots,honey and hunting fo wild animals for food.

The community also has its shrines located deep inside the forest.

“The government shouldn’t just tell people to move away to pave way for the military operations,they should show them where to go.When you bomb their homes and livelihoods,you have a steady plan ready to help them adapt to the next step in life.Bombing Boni is equal to killing this community,”said Ishak Khatib,the chair Save Lamu.