Road construction lowers crime rate in Lamu

Lamu youth working on the site. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: The ongoing construction of the 15KM Mokowe road in Lamu has drastically reduced crime and general insecurity that had previously been rampant in the area.

In a new twist of events, the area is now calmer and safer after many of the local youth who posed a security threat due to unemployment were employed as casuals in the Sh.1.1 Billion road project which is undertaken by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority-KURA.

Locals attested that since the project started in May 2017, the area hasn’t witnessed any insecurity for the past ten months all thanks to the fact that majority of the criminals now have some gainful employment constructing the road having been absorbed by KURA.

Over 100 from Mokowe have been employed in the project and said to be making an earnest living.

Abbas Ali who is a Nyumba Kumi elder in Mokowe said Mokowe had been previously been renowned for being a crime hub but things have changed since much criminal youth were employed by KURA.

Ali, however, said many were worried that the trend could resume once the construction of the road is over.

Residents want the county government to find ways of keeping such youth busy with any form of employment so that they don’t get tempted to turn back to crime.

“Initially this area was gaining a very bad name and had become renowned for being a hub for all manner of criminals from muggers, robbers and burglars.But since a chunk of those who were committing the crimes were absorbed by KURA as casuals in the road construction, this place is safer than never before.We just hope there will be more opportunities to keep such youth busy so they don’t back to their criminal ways,” said Abbas.

Boda Boda operators said as opposed to initial times when many of the operators would be waylaid by gangs and their motorbikes stolen, the situation is much calmer now since the majority of the criminals now have some gainful employment with KURA.

Simon Musyoki who is the chairperson of the Boda Boda operators in Mokowe said the business has been doing better than ever before due to reduced crime.

“Initially we had been forced to only operate within certain timelines and in particular areas for fear of being robbed or even killed by these gangs.However since many of the gang members were absorbed by KURA, we have some breathing space.We now do business anytime.We hope this stays that way forever,” said Musyoki.

Community leader said Samuel Maina said there was a need for both the county and national governments to ensure the youth in Lamu are kept meaningfully busy so as to deter cases or radicalization.

He said the majority of those falling prey to marginalization and subsequent recruitment in terrorism normally are idle and have no ways of fending for themselves.

Commenting on the progress of the road,KURA acting general manager in charge of policy strategy and compliance Abdulrashid Mohamed said the road will be completed by November 2019.

He said the road which is the first of tarmac in Lamu since independence is expected to link all public facilities, improve security and access to the county headquarters in Mokowe town.

“The road project is scheduled to transform Mokowe into a modern urban town matching its upcoming status as the host to Kenya’s second port-the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor-LAPSSET.We are confident it shall be through by November 2019,” said Mohamed.

Apart from providing employment to hundreds of youth and improving security in Mokowe, the project is also said to have already begun attracting investments in the area with many business people in Lamu Old town shifting base from Lamu Island to Mokowe on the mainland.