How Al-Shabaab insurgency is fueling seat-belt fear in Lamu


Lamu, KENYA: A section of commuters plying to and fro Lamu have expressed fear of fastening their seatbelts over the frequent ambushes on vehicles blamed on Al-Shabaab militants. 

The travelers say fastening their seatbelts is a direct threat to their lives in case of an attack as they will easily be caught and killed while trying to unfasten the belts when they are actually supposed to react and escape in a span of seconds.

The commuters now want to be exempted from the seatbelt fastening rule.

Isaac Gachukia, a trader in Lamu makes weekly trips shuttling between Lamu and Mombasa at least twice every week termed the new Michuki rules as life-threatening.

“The police don’t understand. All we are saying is that if there is an attack, by the time you are done unfastening your seat belt, someone will have already caught up with you and probably killed you. But if you don’t have a belt on, all you have to do is jump out of the window and flee, at least you will die trying as opposed to dying because you have a seatbelt on. We understand traffic rules but they must know Lamu is different; this is a security area, “said Gachukia.

Since commencement of the reinforcement of the Michuki rules on the road two weeks ago,travelers have been pleading to be allowed to travel in vehicles without seat belts on grounds that it will enable them to easily jump out and escape in case they are waylaid and attacked by Al Shabaab militants as has been the norm on numerous occasions

However, the security administration in Lamu county has rejected the plea terming as ‘outrageous.’

Reacting to the pleas, however, Lamu County Police Commander Muchangi Kioi stated that no single traffic rule shall be flouted by any vehicle that wishes to stay on the road.

Speaking in his office on Thursday, Kioi said such a request was not only outrageous but also risky and dangerous in case such a vehicle was to be involved in an accident.

Kioi insists that just like all Kenyans elsewhere, those traveling by road in Lamu must equally adhere to all the road safety regulations without having to bring in unfounded excuses.

“People want to be allowed not to fasten seat belts when traveling on grounds that it will help them escape in case there is an attack. Well, we have news for them. The security office has and continues to work around the clock to ensure security here is guaranteed and as it is now, no one should worry about security on this road because that’s our job. Traffic rules must be observed to the latter or else we arrest you,” said Kioi.

Lamu is known for its security concerns, especially for road travelers.

Hordes of security personnel and civilians have lost their lives on the Lamu-Garsen road following ambushes and attacks by Al shabaab militants who preyed on security and transport vehicles plying the road.

Renowned notorious hotspots that are normally used by terrorists along the road include areas around Nyongoro, Gamba, Mambo Sasa and Milihoi.

All these hotspots are characterized by a poor road and phone network, making it hard neither for vehicles to move past faster nor for travelers to call for help.