MANDERA, KENYA – Scores of teachers and civil servants were stranded at a remote Kenyan airstrip on Thursday, demanding evacuation and protection five days after Islamist gunmen killed 28 non-Muslim bus passengers in the surrounding border region near Somalia.
Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack in the Mandera area, where gunmen commandeered the Nairobi-bound bus, then killed anyone who could not recite verses from the Koran.
Many people fled, and unions representing teachers and health workers in the area advised members to leave for their own safety.
More than 100 children and pregnant women were evacuated on Tuesday. But more than 100 people were still waiting at the airstrip, including state school teachers and others who had moved to the area to work in government posts.
“I have decided never to return to Mandera,” said 27-year-old teacher Cates Mugo, adding that she might leave by road as the chance of being flown out now seemed remote.
Around her, families laid out cloths on the red earth, saying they were afraid of being targeted in another attack.
Many Kenyans blame the government for not doing enough to protect its citizens from al-Shabaab, which has carried out a string of assaults in the country.
“The feeling of the general public is that it may not have received the level of attention that it ought to have received, considering 28 Kenyans have been butchered,” Mandera County Governor Ali Roba told Reuters.
He said security had been boosted and military helicopters were patrolling the area, which had been hit by seven attacks using improvised bombs in the past two months, including one targeting his own convoy.
Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab says it wants to punish Nairobi for contributing troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia.
The exodus of teachers and other civil servants would increase the isolation of Mandera, one of Kenya’s poorest areas, Roba said.
“Mandera generally has not been able to attract enough personnel, and we have really serious concerns that this will really hamper service delivery,” he added.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday the security forces would do more but added “there will never be one policeman for every citizen,” so Kenyans had to help too.
Critics on social media said the comments were “callous” and showed the government’s inability to secure the nation.
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