The Boni minority community children in Basuba Ward of Lamu East Sub-County have not known peaceful childhood like their peers in the rest of Kenya.
Theirs has been a life of fear, tension and at worst, not being able to attend school at all.
The Boni children have not been able to attend school productively for the past three years due to constant insecurity in the area majorly caused by the Al-Shabaab menace.
With the introduction of the multi-agency security operation dubbed ‘Linda Boni’ on September 15, 2015, a new ray of hope, for the Boni child who now felt a bit of confidence and safety to walk to and from school knowing and believing that he was being protected while doing so, was ushered in.
However, the Tuesday afternoon tragic deaths of four young vibrant children full of dreams for their tomorrow has left many wondering whether education is really worth their lives in the area.
The 14 pupils who had hiked a lift from Mararani aboard a Rapid Border Patrol Unit (RBPU) lorry to Kiunga Primary School were looking forward to resuming their learning after Idd celebrations.
The young souls were confident that the future was bright and that nothing, not even the long distance from their homes to the school, could deter their pursuit for education.
As they boarded the security vehicle, little did the young ones know that that would be the biggest mistake ever, that would cost the lives of their colleagues and that of would have been future leaders.
On Wednesday afternoon as the four were being laid to rest at the Kiunga cemetery in Lamu East, a sombre mood engulfed Kiunga village with community leaders urging the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and other security agencies in the ongoing Operation Linda Boni to stick to their designated operation routes and avoid routes earmarked for civilian use.
Locals now believe they are becoming collateral damage wherever the security agencies opt to use civilian routes and roads.
It should be noted that the burial location which was initially supposed to happen at Mararani Village in Lamu East was changed at the last minute due to the inaccessibility of the area which is under heavy military operation.
When the Linda Boni Operation started in 2015, it was clearly marked and is publicly known which routes are to be used by civilians and which ones are to be used by security agencies conducting the operation.
During the burial on Wednesday, the Kiunga Community called upon the national government not to use the Kiunga-Mkokoni highway since the road is only for civilian use.
“So far the Basuba-Kiunga road is a no go zone for us and it’s only used by the forces undertaking the Linda Boni Operation.
“Many times, we have encountered security officers passing by the Mkokoni-Kiunga road and we feel this is not safe for us,” said Mr Mohamed Yusuf.
He added: “It should only be used by our businessmen to transport their goods, farmers to transport their produce; fishermen to transport their catch and county government officers to supervise projects and community development plans.”
Another resident, Suleiman Athman said: “When our security officers use civilian roads, the Al-Shabaab who are obviously targeting them follow them there and in such instance, civilians will die in any arising attack.
“We just want our security officers to stick to their routes because we don’t want more civilians dying because of that.”
Meanwhile, nine people including five administration police officers and four children that went missing shortly after the attack at Mararani on Tuesday afternoon were able to track their way to the Mararani RBPU camp by Wednesday morning.
According to a police statement, one administration police officer and two children were seriously injured and have already been airlifted to Manda by a KDF Chopper for further treatment.
The attack suspected to have been executed by Al-Shabaab militants claimed the death of four administration police officers and four pupils.
According to the statement, a joint security team comprising of KDF and NPS officers are combing the area in Boni forest.